Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.1 §31.1 "The Unity and Omnipresence of God" pp. 440-490 (Part 2)

Barth, near Bubendorf church, where his son Markus was pastor, with his grandchildren Anna and Peter Barth, 1946. Image courtesy of kbarth.org

The Leitsatz (thesis statement) for §31 states: "The divinity of the freedom of God consists and confirms itself in the fact that in Himself and in all His works God is One, constant and eternal, and therewith also omnipresent, omnipotent and glorious."

In paragraph §31 ("The Perfections of the Divine Freedom") and subsection §31.1 ("The Unity and Omnipresence of God"), we continue with a section which I began in my last post. In the last post, Barth covered his thoughts on Barth's unity (subdivided as uniqueness and simplicity). Now he turns his mind to God's omnipresence. God's omnipresence is a determination of His freedom. He is everywhere present as Lord, both proximally and distally, though his presence both in the former and latter places are in unity.
Because and as God is one, unique and simple, He is for this reason omnipresent. Omnipresence is certainly a determination of the freedom of God. It is the sovereignty in which, as the One He is, existing and acting in the way that corresponds to His essence, He is present to everything else, to everything that is not Himself but is distinct from Himself. It is the sovereignty on the basis of which everything that exists cannot exist without Him, but only with Him, possessing its own presence only on the presupposition of His presence.
God’s presence includes His lordship. How can He be present without being Lord? And His lordship includes His glory. How can He be Lord-without glorifying Himself, without being glorious in Himself? And if nothing exists without Him, this means that everything is subject to Him. And that it is subject to Him means that it can and must serve His glory. 
The presupposition of all divine sovereignty is that of the divine omnipresence. The whole divine sovereignty is based on the fact that for God nothing exists which is only remote, i.e., which is not near even as it is remote, so that there is no remoteness beside and outside Him which is remoteness without His proximity. There is remoteness as there is proximity. Otherwise there would be no creation. And because creation is God’s creation, there is also a divine remoteness and proximity. But in God Himself remoteness and proximity are one (461).
And God's omnipresence implies His love (462), because He is present to a universe He has created in freedom (always, everything in freedom!). Such is God's nature that He can be both Lord of a world He is present to, and Creator of a world He is differentiated from (463). Without the divine love, there could be no universe, and no presence to it from the One God. Unlike the older theology, Barth does not equate God's omnipresence with His eternity (time) and infinity (space) (464-468). Rather, Barth suggests that God's omnipresence is the perfection in which He is present and distinct by virtue of the fact that He possesses His own place:
God’s omnipresence, to speak in general terms, is the perfection in which He is present, and in which He, the One, who is distinct from and pre-eminent over everything else, possesses a place, His own place, which is distinct from all other places and also pre-eminent over them all. God is the One in such a way that He is present: present to Himself in the triunity of His one essence; present to everything else as the Lord of everything else. In the one case as in the other, inwards as well as outwards, presence does not mean identity, but togetherness at a distance. In the one case, inwards, it is the togetherness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit at the distance posited by the distinction that exists in the one essence of God. In the other case, outwards, it is the togetherness at a distance of the Creator and the creature. It is in this way, as the One who is present to Himself and to everything else, that God is the One. Presence as togetherness (as distinct from identity) includes distance. But where there is distance, there is necessarily one place and another place. To this extent God’s presence necessarily means that He possesses a place, His own place, or, we may say safely, His own space. The absolute non-spatiality of God, deduced from the false presupposition of an abstract infinity, is a more than dangerous idea. If God does not possess space, He can certainly be conceived as that which is one in itself and in all. But He cannot be conceived as the One who is triune, as the One who as such is the Lord of everything else. He cannot be conceived in His togetherness with Himself and everything else, but only in His identity with Himself and therefore with everything else as well. But in this case, is He really conceived as God? The Christian conception of God at least is shattered and dissolved if God is described as absolute non-spatiality. Non-spatiality means existence without distance, which means identity. God’s omnipresence in the Christian sense of the concept has the very opposite meaning that God possesses space, His own space, and that just because of His spatiality, He is able to be the Triune, the Lord of everything else, and therefore the One in and over all things (468-469).
"Presence doesn't mean identity, but togetherness at a distance." So nice, so dialectical. Quintessential Barth. But God's space, His spatiality, is divine space, His own space. Nonetheless, He is present everywhere as fully God whose space is Himself and who creates space (470). But also, He can be present in distinct ways (472ff.).

Barth now turns his attention to explaining this differentiation of God, even as He is everywhere.
We shall now try to describe some of the most important differences or differentiations of the divine omnipresence, in which it is first revealed as a divine perfection. And we shall have to begin from the position that it is not His, God’s omnipresence, if it does not include first and above all the presence in which God is present to Himself and to Himself exclusively, and therefore the space which is exclusively His own space. If it does not include this space, if it is reduced to being His presence in and with all kinds of other things, and if no space exists that belongs only to God and to nothing else, God Himself is again spaceless, and therefore lifeless and loveless. The truth is rather this, that God is present to other things, and is able to create and give them space, because He Himself possesses space apart from everything else. The space everything else possesses is the space which is given it out of the fulness of God. The fact is that first of all God has space for Himself and that subsequently, because He is God and is able to create, He has it for everything else as well; just as He is life and love ad extra (outside Himself) because He is it first in Himself with primal power and fulness (473-474).
Barth concludes with a discussion of how God is present. God is present to Himself, is present generally in creation - and more specially or particularly as He interacts with it in His work of revelation and for reconciliation (476-483), and is present at the core of things as the Word, in His presence in the Word, in Jesus Christ.
There is a proper presence of God in His creation which is the basis and constituent centre of His special presence, and therefore the meaning and presupposition of His general presence. This is His presence in His Word, in the Word of His revelation and reconciliation as such, in Jesus Christ. He is therefore the place to which every examination of the Old and New Testament witness to God’s special presence must necessarily and unequivocally point in the last instance. If the dwelling of God in Jesus Christ is the fulfilment, the constant factor, to which every other dwelling of God attested in the Old and New Testaments can stand only in the relationship of an impermanent expectation or recollection, this dwelling of God stands out again above every other, and therefore above the totality which we have known as God’s special presence (483-484).
Rightly understood, it might well be said that with the establishment of this third and proper form of God’s presence in His creation, His presence in Jesus Christ, we have in a sense come back to the point from which we began, the affirmation of the presence in which God is present to Himself as the Triune, the occupier of His supraheavenly throne. The God who is present in Jesus Christ is the One who is enthroned over heaven and earth and therefore the God who is present specially in His work of revelation and reconciliation and generally in the world at large. He does not merely give this creature, as He gives all other creatures, his space, created space, from the fulness of His own uncreated and creative space. But He also gives him His own space itself. He is one with this man. He takes him up to sit at His right hand, to occupy His supra-heavenly throne. And it is in doing this that God is, and reveals Himself to be, the One He is, omnipresent in Himself and as such outside Himself, in His special work (whose centre is His action in this creature, the man Jesus Christ), and in His general work which is subservient to this special work, finding its goal and completion and therefore having its meaning and origin in it, and therefore in Jesus Christ Himself (487).