Thursday, September 4, 2014

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.1 §26.2 "The Readiness of Man" pp. 128-178 (Part 2)

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §26 states: "The possibility of the knowledge of God springs from God, in that He is Himself the truth and He gives Himself to man in His Word by the Holy Spirit to be known as the truth. It springs from man, in that, in the Son of God by the Holy Spirit, he becomes an object of the divine good-pleasure and therefore participates in the truth of God."

In paragraph §26 ("The Knowability of God") and in subsection §26.2 ("The Readiness of Man"), we continue now with the second post on this second subsection of paragraph 26 (see first post on this section here). In the first part of the paragraph, Barth has been talking about the great problem of natural theology - it purports to open up a second possibility for knowledge of God apart from revelation. Barth now moves on to explore how it is that there is any readiness at all for God. Is there a readiness in humanity for God?
We now return to our line of thought; to the question of the knowability of God understood as the readiness of man. Our deliberations so far have ended with a negative result. Making a postulate, we tried to see how the readiness of man must be constituted as included in the readiness of God. We described it as the openness and therefore the neediness, knowledge, and willingness of man in relationship to grace. Making a further postulate, we also gave to it reality; i.e., we understood this open man expressly as man in the Church, as man placed by the Word of God under judgment, but also under grace. But we saw that even in this man we cannot really discern the man who is opened for the grace of God and therefore the knowability of God. It is not in his reality as such that we find the human readiness enclosed in the readiness of God, about which we ask. His reality as such is the conflict against grace, his attempt to preserve himself and hold his own. Our only positive gain from these considerations is unhappily that they enable us to understand only too well the existence and vitality of natural theology in the Church.
Does this conclusion mean that our main question is to be answered negatively? Is there simply no readiness of man for the knowledge of God? Is the enmity of man against grace, and therefore his closedness against God, the last thing to be said of him? (142).
Problematically, humanity is the enemy of grace:
In spite of all the postulates about what his openness could and must mean, and in spite of all the definitions—however right—of his real determination by the judgment and grace of God, the fact is that finally and in the last resort man is always to be understood as the enemy of grace. And this fact emerges as the annoying indivisible remainder in a division, which does ultimately indicate a certain rule of its divisibility, but for this very reason shews itself not actually to be divided. 
It is to be recommended, not only in dogmatics but also for preaching, for teaching and for the pastoral work of the Church, that this state of affairs be kept quite clearly in mind. In this matter we can come to no conclusion even on the most correct of roads. We cannot reinterpret the man who is an enemy of grace into a friend of grace. Therefore we cannot ascribe to man as such any readiness corresponding to the readiness of God (145).
Is there a readiness in humanity for God, if humanity is left to its own devices? Nein! But to find the answer, we cannot look to what Barth calls, "anthropological postulates" (144). We will need something else to account for the possibility of the knowability of God in humanity. Barth gives us a hint:
It is certainly true that the man who is ready for God is truth and life; but he is not identical with man as such. As truth and life, he needs to be sought, known and found—for the salvation of man as such—beyond man as such, and especially beyond the Christian man as such. It is certainly true that the whole (and wholly dubious) realm of the Christian man has as its true meaning and intention this transcendent man who is ready for God in life and truth (147-148).
Then Barth reveals it...
The only aspect of man under which the picture we have already drawn is actually altered, and the decision investigated (i.e., the readiness of man included in the readiness of God and therefore God’s real knowability) is actually disclosed, is the christological. Anthropological and ecclesiological assertions arise only as they are borrowed from Christology. That is to say, no anthropological or ecclesiological assertion is true in itself and as such. Its truth subsists in the assertions of Christology, or rather in the reality of Jesus Christ alone (148-149).
If we look past Jesus Christ, if we speak of anyone else but Him, if our praise of man is not at once praise of Jesus Christ, the romance and the illusions begin again, and we fall back again into the aspect under which it is impossible to see, or with a good conscience to speak about, the man who is ready for God in life and truth. In Christian doctrine, and therefore in the doctrine of the knowledge and knowability of God, we have always to take in blind seriousness the basic Pauline perception of Colossians 3:3 which is that of all Scripture—that our life is our life hid with Christ in God (149). 
We can, therefore, anticipate the positive answer to our question by stating simply that the readiness of man included in the readiness of God is Jesus Christ. And therefore Jesus Christ is the knowability of God on our side, as He is the grace of God itself, and therefore also the knowability of God on God’s side (150).
Christ is the knowability of God for us. How is this possible?
He is God who is man. This is Jesus Christ. In Him we do not stand outside but inside; we participate in this first and last. In Him the fact that God is knowable is true not only for God Himself, not only between the Father and Son, but for man, for us. For in Him man is ready for God. But what does this mean? What can it mean in view of the fact that man as such is never actually ready for God but closed to Him, because he is not a friend but an enemy of grace, and so turns his back on God’s revelation? Now, we have already heard what it means concretely that Jesus Christ is man. It means that the only begotten Son of God and therefore God Himself, who is knowable to Himself from eternity to eternity, has come in our flesh, has taken our flesh, has become the bearer of our flesh, and does not exist as God’s Son from eternity to eternity except in our flesh. Our flesh is therefore present when He knows God as the Son the Father, when God knows Himself. In our flesh God knows Himself. Therefore in Him it is a fact that our flesh knows God Himself (151).
Barth then asks an important question: How do we come to participate in what Jesus Christ is? (155). It happens by faith and by the Holy Spirit:
It is easy to reply at once with the fact that at this point we are referred to the possibility, necessity and reality of faith. And we shall again be saying something which in itself is no doubt correct. For, indeed, how can the victory of grace, won in Jesus Christ over human enmity against grace, be relevant, valid and saving for us except as we believe in Jesus Christ? (155).
It must be understood wholly from this height of the occurrence in God Himself, when Holy Scripture as a rule expressly describes our participation in the person and work of Jesus Christ as a work of the Holy Spirit (157).
What is faith?
Basically, faith is more than all the transformation which follows it. As the work of the Holy Spirit it is man’s new birth from God, on the basis of which man can already live here by what he is there in Jesus Christ and therefore in truth. Faith is the temporal form of his eternal being in Jesus Christ, his being which is grounded on the fact that Jesus Christ intercedes for us before the Father; that in Jesus Christ we are ready for God in the height of God and therefore also in our depth. Faith extinguishes our enmity against God by seeing that this enmity is made a lie, a lie confessed by ourselves as such, expiated and overcome by Jesus Christ, trodden underfoot and destroyed (158). 
Barth then asks: How far are we ourselves, in Jesus Christ, not outside but inside with God?
1) We are within on the strength of the fact that Jesus Christ is for us in eternity. (2) We are within in the Holy Spirit. (3) We are within in faith (160). 
So, how then can we speak faithfully about the readiness of man for God?
There is for man, included in the readiness of God, a readiness of man for God and therefore for the knowledge of God. The enmity of man against grace and therefore his closedness against God is not the final and proper thing to be said of man. The final and proper thing to be said of him is rather that we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1), and in this peace we stand in such a relationship to God that the knowability of God which He has bestowed upon us in His grace is received and accepted as such by us. In this our peace with God the circle is closed. In view of it the assertion that God is knowable to us becomes meaningful to us on the human side as well. Now we know where we have to seek this peace and shall find it, and where not. When we speak of this peace, and therefore of the man ready for God to whom God is knowable, we are speaking of Jesus Christ, of the reconciliation of man with God that took place and is eternal in Him the Son of God. It is in this way, and only in this way, that we speak genuinely and really about ourselves, because in the reality of Jesus Christ everything is also accomplished for us that must and can be accomplished; because in eternity He intercedes for us; and because in the Holy Spirit the unity of the Father and the Son becomes effectual among and in us too in the twofold form of faith and the Church. We have only to accept the witness about Jesus Christ, and we have then only to look to Jesus Christ—and it is indeed the work of the Holy Spirit, it is indeed the nature of true faith and of the true Church that this happens—to see the man to whom God is knowable, to see and understand ourselves as those to whom God is knowable. And then we can go on to speak in truth of man in His relationship to God, and there can and will actually be a Christian anthropology and ecclesiology. We must not, of course, look in any other direction than to Jesus Christ (161-162). 
Barth closes the discussion of this paragraph with more reflection upon the problem of natural theology (163-172) and with a historical look at the problems of natural theology writ upon history - the German Christian struggle during the rise of Nazism and World War II. He quotes from the Barmen Declaration, a document he wrote, and the statements in it which opposed the so-called "German Christians" and the ways they embraced natural theology's great trap - its illusory autonomy.