Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.1 §30.1 "The Grace and Holiness of God" pp. 351-368

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §30 states: "The divinity of the love of God consists and confirms itself in the fact that in Himself and in all His works God is gracious, merciful and patient, and at the same time holy, righteous and wise."

In paragraph §30 ("The Perfections of the Divine Loving") and subsection §30.1 ("The Grace and Holiness of God"), Barth turns to perfections of divine loving (remember the categorization of loving and freedom? See last post). Barth begins this way:
God is He who in His Son Jesus Christ loves all His children, in His children all men, and in men His whole creation. God’s being is His loving. He is all that He is as the One who loves. All His perfections are the perfections of His love. Since our knowledge of God is grounded in His revelation in Jesus Christ and remains bound up with it, we cannot begin elsewhere—if we are now to consider and state in detail and in order who and what God is—than with the consideration of His love (351).
Barth suggests that we will wonder why we don't begin with perfections in the category of God's freedom. But he suggests that answer: loves precedes freedom but is included within it as well.
Therefore we begin with the perfections of the divine love: with the intention and in the confidence that in this way, even if indirectly, we are beginning also with the divine freedom. God is gracious, merciful and patient both in Himself and in all His works. This is His loving. But He is gracious, merciful and patient in such a way—because He loves in His freedom—that He is also holy, righteous and wise—again both in Himself and in all His works. For this is the freedom in which He loves. Thus the divinity of His love consists and confirms itself in the fact that it is grace, mercy and patience and in that way and for that reason it is also holiness, righteousness and wisdom. These are the perfections of His love. In this its divinity consists and is confirmed (352).
So Barth will explore God's love as grace, mercy, and patience, and God's freedom as holiness, righteousness, and wisdom. In this section he will pair grace and holiness. He begins with grace.
We begin our consideration of divine love with a study of the concept of divine grace as it stands directly confronted with and controlled and purified by the concept of divine holiness. When God loves, revealing His inmost being in the fact that He loves and therefore seeks and creates fellowship, this being and doing is divine and distinct from all other loving to the extent that the love of God is grace. Grace is the distinctive mode of God’s being in so far as it seeks and creates fellowship by its own free inclination and favour, unconditioned by any merit or claim in the beloved, but also unhindered by any unworthiness or opposition in the latter—able, on the contrary, to overcome all unworthiness and opposition. It is in this distinctive characteristic that we recognise the divinity of God’s love (353).
Grace is an inner mode of being in God Himself (353). Grace is also the distinctive mode of God's being wherein he seeks unmerited fellowship with others (353). Furthermore, God's grace means that he condescends in this fellowship:
But grace means a turning, not in equality, but in condescension. The fact that God is gracious means that He condescends, He, the only One who is really in a position to condescend, because He alone is truly transcendent, and stands on an equality with nothing outside Himself (354). 
His condescension means that we who receive His grace as unmerited fellowship realize that we are unworthy sinners, and God is gracious to us in His fellowship.
The biblical conception of grace involves further that the counterpart which receives it from God is not only not worthy of it but utterly unworthy, that God is gracious to sinners, that His being gracious is an inclination, goodwill and favour which remains unimpeded even by sin, by the resistance with which the creature faces Him. Again, the positive element to be discussed here will fall for special consideration under the heading of God’s mercy. Grace in itself means primarily that the sin of the creature, the resistance which it opposes to God, cannot check, weaken or render impossible the operation of divine grace. On the contrary, grace shows its power over and against sin. Grace, in fact, presupposes the existence of this opposition. It reckons with it, but does not fear it. It is not limited by it. It overcomes it, triumphing in this opposition and the overcoming of it (355).
Barth reminds us of the importance that grace is the very essence of the being of God (356) not merely a gift from God.
Where grace is revealed and operative, God Himself is always revealed and operative. It is not necessary for us to strive after a higher, better, more helpful revelation. God’s promise and also His command, God’s truth and also His power, God’s judgment and also His restoration cannot fail where God is gracious (356). 
This is how God loves. This is how He seeks and creates fellowship between Himself and us. By this distinctive mark we recognise the divinity of His love. For it is in this way, graciously, that God not only acts outwardly towards His creature, but is in Himself from eternity to eternity (357).
Barth now turns to God's holiness (grace and loving):
We now place this concept of the grace of God alongside that of His holiness. This cannot mean that we imply a need either to qualify or to expand what is denoted by the concept of grace. In grace we have characterised God Himself, the one God in all His fulness. We are not wrong, we do not overlook or neglect anything, if we affirm that His love and therefore His whole being, in all the heights and depths of the Godhead, is simply grace. But in our heart and on our lips, in our mode of knowledge, this thing grace is in no sense so fully and unambiguously clear, or above all so rich and deep, as it is in the truth of God which by this concept we apprehend—yet apprehend as we men apprehend God by faith, i.e., in such a way that our knowledge must needs expand and grow and increase (358).  
God’s loving is a divine being and action distinct from every other loving in the fact that it is holy. As holy, it is characterised by the fact that God, as He seeks and creates fellowship, is always the Lord. He therefore distinguishes and maintains His own will as against every other will. He condemns, excludes and annihilates all contradiction and resistance to it. He gives it validity and actuality in this fellowship as His own and therefore as good. In this distinctiveness alone is the love of God truly His own divine love (359).
God's freedom is what constitutes the common factor between the grace and holiness of God (360).
The common factor linking the biblical concepts of the grace and the holiness of God is seen in the fact that they both in characteristic though differing fashion point to the transcendence of God over all that is not Himself. When we speak of grace, we think of the freedom in which God turns His inclination, good will and favour towards another. When we speak of holiness, we think of this same freedom which God proves by the fact that in this turning towards the other He remains true to Himself and makes His own will prevail (360). 
In His grace, God affirms His victorious good will (361). But he does not surrender to the creature in His graciousness (361). The revelation of God's love is a revelation of God's opposition to human opposition to God, and the holiness of God consists in the unity of God's judgment with His grace:
That God is gracious does not mean that He surrenders Himself to the one to whom He is gracious. He neither compromises with his resistance, nor ignores it, still less calls it good. But as the gracious God He affirms Himself over against the one to whom He is gracious by opposing and breaking down his resistance, and in some way causing His own good will to exert its effect upon him. Therefore the one to whom He is gracious comes to experience God’s opposition to him (361).
Only in this opposition is God known in His being as love and grace. For only in this relationship of opposition does He actually create and maintain fellowship between Himself and us, and turn towards us. Only in this tension, as we experience and recognise it as such, and subject ourselves to it, do we truly believe in Him and yield to Him the right which He has against us and over us: the right in which we can then place our confidence. If He is not present to us in this tension, He is not present to us at all. If we refuse to recognise and, as is right, to suffer this His opposition to us, we are also repudiating His grace. To believe in God means that we bow to this His opposition to us, accepting, and—despairing of ourselves but not of Him—allowing His good will towards us to be our ground of confidence and hope (362).
The holiness of God consists in the unity of His judgment with His grace. God is holy because His grace judges and His judgment is gracious (363).
Barth concludes with a reflection on God's holy love:
We may now say again, with richer insight, that in this way God loves. By this mark, that it is holy love, we recognise the divinity of His action and being. For again we must add that God not only acts as the Holy One, but that as He acts He is, from everlasting to everlasting. In Him, of course, there is no sin which He has first to resist. But in Him there is more. There is the purity, indeed He is Himself the purity, which as such contradicts and will resist everything which is unlike itself, yet which does not evade this opposing factor, but, because it is the purity of the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, eternally reacts against it, resisting and judging it in its encounter with it, but in so doing receiving and adopting it, and thus entering into the fellowship with it which redeems it (368).