Monday, November 17, 2014

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.1 §30.3 "The Patience and Wisdom of God" pp. 406-440

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 §30.3 ("The Patience and Wisdom of God"), Barth explores the next two divine perfections: patience and wisdom.
We now emphasise two further biblical attributes of God, both individually and in their interconnexion. We must try to understand them as expressions of the perfection of His love. As we do so, we are again reminded of the fact that all further consideration of the divine attributes can but move in a circle around the one but infinitely rich being of God whose simplicity is abundance itself and whose abundance is simplicity itself. We are not speaking of a new object but allowing the one object, God, to speak further of Himself. We are continuing to contemplate the love of God and therefore God Himself as the One who loves in freedom. What end can there be to this development? We are drawing upon the ocean. We are therefore faced by a task to which there is no end. But a third affirmation must now be added to the first two if we are to gain at least the authorised and commanded view of this inexhaustible ocean. We first said that God is gracious and holy. We then continued that God is merciful and righteous. Now that we have developed these two affirmations along the lines indicated by the biblical revelation, a third affirmation necessarily follows which expresses the same truth again, but again differently, that God is patient and wise (406).
Barth begins with God's patience, citing a number of OT passages in which God's grace, mercy, and then patience are extolled (407). He reminds us (as he did with grace and mercy) that we are not inferring God's patience from a general idea or sense of God's love. He means, as previously, the perfection which is revealed in Jesus Christ. Grace, mercy, and the patience of God are revealed in Jesus Christ. God's patience exists in space and time.
Patience exists where space and time are given with a definite intention, where freedom is allowed in expectation of a response. God acts in this way. He makes this purposeful concession of space and time. He allows this freedom of expectancy. That He does so lies in His very being. Indeed, it is His being. Everything that God is, is implied and included in the statement that He is patient (408).
We define God’s patience as His will, deep-rooted in His essence and constituting His divine being and action, to allow to another—for the sake of His own grace and mercy and in the affirmation of His holiness and justice—space and time for the development of its own existence, thus conceding to this existence a reality side by side with His own, and fulfilling His will towards this other in such a way that He does not suspend and destroy it as this other but accompanies and sustains it and allows it to develop in freedom (409-410).
And God deals with us patiently - He is fundamentally for us, so that we are not consumed, but rather, God suffers and bears with us - God deals with His creature in such a way that he shares his wretchedness (411). Barth considers that "patience is the divine being in power and not in weakness" as he considers the OT stories about Cain, Noah, and Jonah (411-414). The consideration of the biblical figures and God's patience provokes several questions. First, what is the real aim and intention of God when He exercises patience? (415)? Do people really repent? Where is the patience of God located? Is it really possible for God to be patient? Is He actually so? The answer gives to these many questions is that is all depends on the way in which God is patient. And how is God patient? He upholds all things by His Word, Jesus Christ:
The decisive moment of the biblical testimony to God’s patience is that according to Heb. 1:3 God upholds all things by the Word of His power. By His Word! which means in any event that they are not occasioned by, and dependent on, what becomes manifest and actual from our side as penitence and conversion. What is manifest and actual here is in point of fact the alternation of penitence and impenitence which is sufficiently clear in Israel’s example and the final outcome of which will be Israel’s impenitence. To this outcome in our experience there could correspond on God’s part only the judgment of wrath, and this is actually the case. God cannot sustain all things or the sinful creature in his wretchedness by means of our final word. This word is definitely not effective to uphold all things. But God upholds them by His Word. And this Word as such is powerful. According to Heb. 1:2 it is the Word of the Son by whom He has spoken to us in these last days, i.e., at the end of the days of the fathers and the prophets, whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom also He created the worlds, who is the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person. By this His Word in His Son Jesus Christ, He upholds all things and upholds them with power (416-417). 
Furthermore, God does not sit inactively in His patience, He acts in Jesus Christ to bring about our penitence and obedience - in light of the One, there is patience for the many:
The position is now clear that God’s patience does not leave man to his own devices. His jealous zeal in and for the creature cannot be more powerfully manifested than in the incarnation of His Word. He has espoused the cause of the creature to the final depths. From this point of view the divine patience certainly cannot consist in an indifferent self-withdrawal of God in relation to its being, action and destiny. If He allows the many to go their own ways, if He leaves them their freedom, if He gives continual time (and food for it), if through it all He constantly waits for them, He does so for the simple reason that He has already overtaken them in the One, His only Son, that in Him He has already walked with them in His own way and at His own time, and to the very end. He does so because, in the One in whom He has given Himself utterly to all, they have already fallen into His hand. He does so because this One stands in place of them all and for them all has accomplished the genuine penitence which was expected from all. For the sake of this One, God has patience with the many (418).
We must accept the fact that God can be patient because He is patient in His Word. While we can still hear it, He keeps time and space for us who have forfeited our existence in His sight and are unable to justify ourselves. We must also learn that God is patient from the fact that He can be patient in His Word which is Himself, that is to say, He can have time and space for us, i.e., for faith. If we believe in His Word, we can no longer doubt either the reality or the possibility of His patience (421).
Barth now turns to a reflection on the wisdom of God. God's wisdom is related to God's patience, and like the other perfections, express and translate the love of God. And Barth makes a quick note:
All these ideas express and translate the love of God. But the second set of ideas—holiness, righteousness and wisdom—express with greater distinctness than the first (grace, mercy and patience) the fact that it is His free and therefore distinctively divine love. That God in Himself and in all His works is gracious and therefore holy, merciful and therefore righteous, patient and therefore wise, is the proof and essence of the divinity of His love according to the main theme of the section and the explanations already adduced (422).
God's patience (through the Word) reveals God's wisdom:
God is not guilty of impulsiveness or irrationality when He is gracious and merciful, any more than He is of a surrender of His holiness and righteousness. He is not, then, overcome by a whim or a chance inspiration. He is not capricious. But in this as in every other respect He is the God of order. And His order, the order of His wisdom, is that in Himself and in all His works He is gracious and merciful. He would not be gracious, but ungracious; He would not be merciful, but unmerciful ; or He would be gracious and merciful only weakly and ineffectively, like a creature, if He were not wise. But He is gracious and merciful just because and as He is wise (425).
...God is wise in so far as His whole activity, as willed by Him, is also thought out by Him, and thought out by Him from the very outset with correctness and completeness, so that it is an intelligent and to that extent a reliable and liberating activity. We have to say of His activity in His works and also of His inner activity, of the essential actuality of His divine being, that God is wise, that in Him is wisdom. God Himself is wisdom (425-426).
Barth further defines and describes God's wisdom - it is inner truth and clarity:
The wisdom of God is the inner truth and clarity with which the divine life in its self-fulfilment and its works justifies and confirms itself and in which it is the source and sum and criterion of all that is clear and true. It is in this inner truth and clarity that God loves, and this is the source of the dignity with which He is free in His love. In it He also demonstrates the legitimacy, necessity and the sufficiency of His divine existence and action. God is glorious in His wisdom. He attests Himself as God by attesting His wisdom (426).
And God, because of His wisdom, is not a slave to His patience (432).
The new truth imparted by the concept of wisdom as compared with those of grace and holiness, mercy and righteousness, or rather its special contribution to the clarifying of these other ideas, is that God is not the slave of His patience when in the dealings of which these other ideas speak He gives Himself time, and also gives us time, and therefore allows space and ground as the Creator, Sustainer and Lord of the world. What moves Him to exercise patience is His holy and righteous, gracious and merciful meaning, His will to unfold to us this meaning, to lead us to penitence, and therefore to make our own lives meaningful. This meaning behind His patience is His wisdom. It is the wisdom of His being and His works. And as the wisdom of His works it is world-wisdom properly understood. It is the philosophy of the created universe and the philosophy of human life. This “philosophy” is certainly not to be derived from reflection upon the universe or upon the being of man. It can be appreciated only by the bearing of God’s own Word which as such gives us the right philosophy of the universe and of our own human life. In this connexion it should be clear at once that the testimony to God’s wisdom in the Old and New Testaments is not a divided but a united testimony (432).