Friday, November 7, 2014

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.1 §28.3 "The Being of God in Freedom" pp. 297-321

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 §28.3 ("The Being of God in Freedom"), Barth starts in this way:
The being of God is His own. His act is His own. His love is His own. In this His being and act God is who He is. After all our previous considerations, we cannot lay too strong an emphasis on this fact in characterising the divine being (297).
He is the God who acts and loves in freedom. We're not dealing with just any being here (or an abstraction) - this is the life, act, and love of God. Barth wants to explore the depth of this divine being. Of course, this exploration must occur within the revelation of God in Jesus Christ! The being of God is life-giving from His own center (300). His loving is loving for its own sake (300-301). And He manifests these in freedom (as the title of the section would indicate):
God’s being as He who lives and loves is being in freedom. In this way, freely, He lives and loves. And in this way, and in the fact that He lives and loves in freedom, He is God, and distinguishes Himself from everything else that lives and loves. In this way, as the free person, He is distinguished from other persons. He is the one, original and authentic person through whose creative power and will alone all other persons are and are sustained. With the idea of freedom we simply affirm what we would be affirming if we were to characterise God as the Lord. But His lordship is in all circumstances the lordship of His living and loving (301). 
If we enquire how, according to His revelation in Jesus Christ, God’s lordship differs in its divinity from other types of rule, then we must answer that it is lordship in freedom (301).
Barth characterizes God's freedom in this way:
Freedom is, of course, more than the absence of limits, restrictions, or conditions. This is only its negative and to that extent improper aspect—improper to the extent that from this point of view it requires another, at least in so far as its freedom lies in its independence of this other. But freedom in its positive and proper qualities means to be grounded in one’s own being, to be determined and moved by oneself. This is the freedom of the divine life and love. In this positive freedom of His, God is also unlimited, unrestricted and unconditioned from without. He is the free Creator, the free Reconciler, the free Redeemer. But His divinity is not exhausted in the fact that in His revelation it consists throughout in this freedom from external compulsion: in free utterance and action, free beginning and ending, free judgment and blessing, free power and spirit. On the contrary, it is only manifest in all this. For He has it in Himself quite apart from His relation to another from whom He is free. He in Himself is power, truth and right. Within the sphere of His own being He can live and love in absolute plenitude and power, as we see Him live and love in His revelation (301).
Barth then discusses the theological idea of God's aseity, rooting it in a biblical doctrine of freedom. God's freedom embraces the freedom to reveal Himself in creation - and the freedom in which He proves His existence is the freedom of God in His revelation:
According to the biblical testimony, God has the prerogative to be free without being limited by His freedom from external conditioning, free also with regard to His freedom, free not to surrender Himself to it, but to use it to give Himself to this communion and to practise this faithfulness in it, in this way being really free, free in Himself. God must not only be unconditioned but, in the absoluteness in which He sets up this fellowship, He can and will also be conditioned. He who can and does do this is the God of Holy Scripture, the triune God known to us in His revelation. This ability, proved and manifested to us in His action, constitutes His freedom (303).
The freedom in which God exists means that He does not need His own being in order to be who He is: because He already has His own being and is Himself; because nothing can accrue to Him from Himself which He had not or was not already; because, therefore, His being in its self-realisation or the actuality of His being answers to no external pressure but is only the affirmation of His own plenitude and a self-realisation in freedom. If, therefore, we say that God is a se, we do not say that God creates, produces or originates Himself. On the contrary, we say that (as manifest and eternally actual in the relationship of Father, Son and Holy Ghost) He is the One who already has and is in Himself everything which would have to be the object of His creation and causation if He were not He, God (306).
God's freedom is true freedom to be - free from all external conditioning and free from all origination (307-309). Also, God's freedom has two implications:
The fact that God is free in His relationship to all that is not God means noetically that God cannot be classified or included in the same category with anything that He is not. There exists no synthesis in which the same attribute, whether being, spirit, life or love, can be predicated in the same sense both of God and of something else; in which, therefore, God is to be an element embraced with other elements in the one synthesis. Whenever God is placed side by side with another factor (with the explicit or implicit copula “and” or in some other way), we must clearly realise that there can be no question of a synthesis; that any conceivable synthesis is precluded in advance by the inclusion of the element God along with others; that the element God stands in such a relation to all other elements that the latter, in spite of individual variations, are all characterised as one group; that by their intrinsic difference they are all separated from the divine in such a way that no higher unity is possible between them and God which can be expressed by a higher comprehensive term (310).
Reflecting on this implication, Barth rejects the RC doctrine of the analogy of being and Kant's "intolerable doctrine" - that God's freedom and immortality are lumped together in subordination to reason. And now the second implication:
But behind this noetic absoluteness of God there stands decisively His ontic. This is decisive because in God’s revelation it is really a question of His ontic absoluteness, from which His noetic absoluteness inevitably follows. God’s freedom in relation to all that is not God signifies that He is distinct from everything, that He is self-sufficient and independent in relation to it, and that He is so in a peculiar and pre-eminent fashion—as no created being confronts any other (311).
Every relationship into which God enters with that which is not Himself must be interpreted—however much this may disturb or correct our preconceived ideas of connexion and relationship—as eventuating between two utterly unequal partners, the sheer inequality consisting in the fact that no self-determination of the second partner can influence the first, whereas the self-determination of the first, while not cancelling the self-determination of the second, is the sovereign predetermination which precedes it absolutely (312).
On the basis of this implication, Barth rejects pantheism. God's freedom has implications for his immanence and His transcendence:
Now the absoluteness of God strictly understood in this sense means that God has the freedom to be present with that which is not God, to communicate Himself and unite Himself with the other and the other with Himself, in a way which utterly surpasses all that can be effected in regard to reciprocal presence, communion and fellowship between other beings (313).
Therefore God can indeed (and this is His transcendence) be sufficiently beyond the creature to be his Creator out of nothing and at the same time be free enough partially or completely to transform its being or to take it from it again as first He gave it (313).
God is sufficiently free to indwell the creature in the most varied ways according to its varying characteristics. The fulness of the movement in which, according to the witness of the Bible, we find God relating Himself to the creature must not therefore be interpreted as inessential and analogical, but as in the strictest sense a reality, because it is in this movement that He shows Himself to be God and not an idol, and therefore free—in contradistinction to the limitedness of a being which, even though it bears the highest attributes, betrays its creatureliness in the fact that its mode of approach and relation to the creature is, from the latter’s point of view, inflexible (314).
God in His freedom can be with us in His presence in whatever way He chooses to be - and yet His presence and divine action centers unquestionably on a very definite center, Jesus Christ (316-317).
In the first place, the fulfilled union of the divine and the human in Jesus Christ is, to be sure, one among others of these various possibilities of divine immanence, but over and beyond that, it must be defined, in its once-for-all and unique aspect, as the possibility of all other possibilities. For the Son of God who became flesh in Jesus Christ is, as an eternal mode of the divine being, nothing more nor less than the principle and basis of all divine immanence, and therefore the principle of what we have called the secondary absoluteness of God (317).
Thus in spite of the almost confusing richness of the forms of divine immanence we are led to recognise a hierarchy, a sacred order, in which God is present to the world. We have only to grasp the fact that Jesus Christ is the focus and crown, and not merely the focus and the crown of all relationship and fellowship between God and the world, but also their basic principle, their possibility and presupposition in the life of the Godhead, and we shall see God’s freedom disclose and develop itself (317-318).
A freedom of divine immanence which is detached from Jesus Christ will exist only in heresy or idolatry (319).
If the freedom of divine immanence is sought and supposedly found apart from Jesus Christ, it can signify in practice only our enslavement to a false god. For this reason Jesus Christ alone must be preached to the heathen as the immanent God, and the Church must be severely vigilant to see that it expects everything from Jesus Christ, and from Jesus Christ everything; that He is unceasingly recognised as the way, the truth, and the life (Jn. 14:6). This attitude does not imply Christian absolutism or ecclesiastical narrow mindedness, because it is precisely in Jesus Christ, but also exclusively in Him, that the abundance and plenitude of divine immanence is included and revealed. If we do not have Christ, we do not have at all, but utterly lack, the fulness of God’s presence. If we separate ourselves from Him, we are not even on the way to this richness, but are slipping back into an impoverishment in which the omnipresent God is not known. The freedom of God must be recognised as His own freedom and this means—as it consists in God and as God has exercised it. But in God it consists in His Son Jesus Christ, and it is in Him that God has exercised it. In all its possibilities and shapes it remains the freedom which consists and is exercised in Jesus Christ. If we recognise and magnify it, we cannot come from any other starting point but Him or move to any other goal (319-320).