Thursday, November 6, 2014

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.1 §28.2 "The Being of God as the One Who Loves" pp. 272-297

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §28 states: "God is who He is in the act of His revelation. God seeks and creates fellowship between Himself and us, and therefore He loves us. But He is this loving God without us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in the freedom of the Lord, who has His life from Himself."

In paragraph §28 ("The Being of God as the One Who Loves in Freedom") and in subsection §28.2 ("The Being of God as the One Who Loves"), Barth reviews where he was in the first section: God is
Following the considerations of the first section this much is established, that God is what He is absolutely by Himself, and not by anything else that would confer divinity upon Him. Therefore the act that becomes visible to us in God’s revelation, in which He is who He is, and from which we must conclude what and how He is, can only make manifest in fact that He is who He is (273).
Who is God? He is the One revealed in his act. His act is of the One who loves:
We shall have to learn ever and again what it really means to say that God seeks and creates fellowship between Himself and us. In itself, first and last, it will always be this and no other relationship. God wills and does nothing different, but only one thing—this one thing. And this one thing that He wills and does is the blessing of God, that which distinguishes His act as divine, and therefore also His person as divine. This one thing is therefore the divine, the θεῖον, the essence of God in the revelation of His name, which is the subject of our enquiry. That is to say, we shall find in God Himself, in His eternal being, nothing other than this one thing. As and before God seeks and creates fellowship with us, He wills and completes this fellowship in Himself. In Himself He does not will to exist for Himself, to exist alone. On the contrary, He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and therefore alive in His unique being with and for and in another. The unbroken unity of His being, knowledge and will is at the same time an act of deliberation, decision and intercourse. He does not exist in solitude but in fellowship. Therefore what He seeks and creates between Himself and us is in fact nothing else but what He wills and completes and therefore is in Himself. It therefore follows that as He receives us through His Son into His fellowship with Himself, this is the one necessity, salvation, and blessing for us, than which there is no greater blessing—no greater, because God has nothing higher than this to give, namely Himself; because in giving us Himself, He has given us every blessing. We recognise and appreciate this blessing when we describe God’s being more specifically in the statement that He is the One who loves. That He is God—the Godhead of God—consists in the fact that He loves, and it is the expression of His loving that He seeks and creates fellowship with us. It is correct and important in this connexion to say emphatically His loving, i.e., His act as that of the One who loves (274-275).
Of course, His act of love is seen most clearly as He loves us in Jesus Christ. Barth now moves to show and elucidate the love which is associated with God. He offers four main thoughts:

1) First, "God’s loving is concerned with a seeking and creation of fellowship for its own sake. It is the fellowship of the One who loves with the loved himself, and therefore that which the One who loves has to impart to the loved and the loved has to receive from the One who loves. God is not, therefore, the Good first, and then the One who loves, because He does not keep this Good to Himself but communicates it to others. God is the One who loves, and as such the Good and the sum of all good things. God is good in the fact that He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that as such He is our Creator, Mediator and Redeemer, and that as such He takes us up into His fellowship, i.e., the fellowship which He has and is in Himself, and beyond which as such there is no greater Good which has still to be communicated to us through His fellowship with us. Loving us, God does not give us something, but Himself; and giving us Himself, giving us His only Son, He gives us everything. The love of God has only to be His love to be everything for us" (276).

2) Second, "God’s loving is concerned with a seeking and creation of fellowship without any reference to an existing aptitude or worthiness on the part of the loved. God’s love is not merely not conditioned by any reciprocity of love. It is also not conditioned by any worthiness to be loved on the part of the loved, by any existing capacity for union or fellowship on his side. If he has such a thing, it is itself the prior creation of the love of God. It is not and does not become the condition of that love. It is the object of the divine pleasure which follows the preceding love. The object of the love of God as such is another which in itself is not, or is not yet, worthy of this His pleasure. The love of God always throws a bridge over a crevasse. It is always the light shining out of darkness. In His revelation it seeks and creates fellowship where there is no fellowship and no capacity for it, where the situation concerns a being which is quite different from God, a creature and therefore alien, a sinful creature and therefore hostile. It is this alien and hostile other that God loves. Fellowship with him as such is the fellowship which He seeks and creates. This does not mean that we can call the love of God a blind love. But what He sees when He loves is that which is altogether distinct from Himself, and as such lost in itself, and without Him abandoned to death. That He throws a bridge out from Himself to this abandoned one, that He is light in the darkness, is the miracle of the almighty love of God" (278).

3) Third, "God’s loving is an end in itself. All the purposes that are willed and achieved in Him are contained and explained in this end, and therefore in this loving in itself and as such. For this loving is itself the blessing that it communicates to the loved, and it is its own ground as against the loved. Certainly in loving us God wills His own glory and our salvation. But He does not love us because He wills this. He wills it for the sake of His love. God loves in realising these purposes. But God loves because He loves; because this act is His being, His essence and His nature. He loves without and before realising these purposes. He loves to eternity. Even in realising them, He loves because He loves. And the point of this realisation is not grounded in itself, but in His love as such, in the love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And as we believe in God, and return His love, it is not to be understood from itself, but only from His loving as such" (279).

4) Fourth, "God’s loving is necessary, for it is the being, the essence and the nature of God. But for this very reason it is also free from every necessity in respect of its object. God loves us, and loves the world, in accordance with His revelation. But He loves us and the world as He who would still be One who loves without us and without the world; as He, therefore, who needs no other to form the prior ground of His existence as the One who loves and as God. Certainly He is who He is wholly in His revelation, in His loving-kindness, and therefore in His love for us. He has not withheld Himself from us, but given us Himself. Therefore His love for us is His eternal love, and our being loved by Him is our being taken up into the fellowship of His eternal love, in which He is Himself for ever and ever" (280).

Barth then gives us a basic definition of the divine being...
This, then, is the particular actuality of the being of God, the content of that which we have previously described in its form as God’s acting and living. This is the nature of God disclosed in the revelation of His name. God loves. He loves as only He can love. His loving is itself the blessing which as the One who loves He communicates to the loved. His loving is itself the ground of His loving. His loving has its aim and its purpose in itself. His loving in the turning of the One who loves to a loved different from Himself is an overflowing of the loving with which God is blessed in Himself. This is how God loves. And genuinely and properly this is how only God loves. And this loving is God’s being in time and eternity. “God is” means “God loves.” Whatever else we may have to understand and acknowledge in relation to the divine being, it will always have to be a definition of this being of His as the One who loves. All our further insights about who and what God is must revolve round this mystery—the mystery of His loving. In a certain sense they can only be repetitions and amplifications of the one statement that “God loves.” Even in the question of the mystery of God to be raised in the third sub-section, we cannot for a moment lose sight of the fact that we have to speak of God’s loving, of the mystery of that loving, and of its difference and particularity as God’s loving. The consideration of the mystery of His freedom cannot lead us in any other direction. It cannot lead us to another god who is not the One who loves. We must also focus on this same centre when we come to discuss the doctrine of the attributes of God, and we try to find a common explanation of the divine loving as such and the divine freedom as such. Everything will depend on our not losing the basic definition that we have now found, that God is the One who loves. What follows must all be in fact a development of this basic definition (283-284).
As Barth fleshes out more fully in the final part of the subsection exploring more modern concepts of divine "personality," the one triune God, who is self-revealed in Jesus Christ as the living and loving God, is the personal God (296-297).
The important and true thing intended by the concept of personality in the modern sense as a description of God is, of course, connected not merely closely, but indissolubly, with the doctrine of the Trinity. Being in Himself Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God is in Himself the One who lives and loves, and therefore One, and therefore the One; and as we know Him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we know Him always as the One who loves, and therefore as the One who meets us, and addresses us and deals with us as Thou. What we can describe as personality is indeed the whole divine Trinity as such, in the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in God Himself and in His work—not the individual aspects by themselves in which God is and which He has. Not threefold, but thrice—and thrice not in any self-sufficiency of one of the aspects, but in their being with each other and for each other and in each other, in their succession one to another—the one triune God is the One who lives and loves, and therefore One, the One, and therefore, if we want to call it so, personality. There are not three faces of God, but one face; not three wills, but one will; not three rights, but one right; not three Words and works, but one Word and work. The one God is revealed to us absolutely in Jesus Christ. He is absolutely the same God in Himself. This one God as the Triune is—let us say it then—the personal God (297).