Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.1 §31.2 "The Constancy and Omnipotence of God" pp. 490-607 (Part 2)

Check here for previous posts in the "Blogging with Barth" series or check here for a detailed reading schedule for the Church Dogmatics with links to the respective posts I've written to accompany each day's reading.

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 §31.2 ("The Constancy and Omnipotence of God"), we continue with the discussion began last time. Barth now turns his attention to God's omnipotence.
Against the perfection in which God is constantly the One He is we have now to set the perfection in which He is able to do what He wills, the perfection of His omnipotence. This will show us how necessary it was to mark off and safeguard the right understanding of God’s constancy from the conception which directly or indirectly means that death is God and that consequently God is dead. God loves as the One who is free. In our first sub-section we have taken this to mean that as the One He is omnipresent. We now add the further meaning that as the constant One He is omnipotent (522).
For Barth, God's constancy means omnipotence. God is powerful, and He has power over everything He wills or could will (522). As this omnipotent God, He is constant. Omnipotent suggests power, and this is a power that is unique to God.
It is best to begin here too with the decisive statement that we are not dealing with any kind of power, or power in itself, or even omnipotence in itself and in general. On the contrary, we have to do with the power of God, and in this way and to this extent with omnipotence, with real power (524). 
God's power is not the same as neutral power (524) and it is not the same as physical power (526). God's power must be distinguished from these two types of power. God's power is moral power, exerted in God's acts.
The first statement leads us on at once to a second. To let this subject give content and definition to the concept of power means concretely that the power of God is never to be understood as simply a physical possibility, a potentia. It must be understood at the same time as a moral and legal possibility, a potestas. God’s might never at any place precedes right, but is always and everywhere associated with it. Like all true might, it is in itself and from the beginning legitimate power, the power of the holiness, righteousness, and wisdom which is grounded in itself, in the love and freedom of the divine person (526). 
Also, God's power is not a kind of omnicausality, a universal causality (contrary to the thinking of some Protestant Scholastics and Neo-Scholastics); God's power is manifest in His activity and He has revealed Himself within it (527). Of course, God's power is not defined by that outside Himself, even His acts, but is defined by His essence (527).
His omnipotence, then, is naturally the power manifest in His activity, the power in the activity of the One who has fulfilled and does and will fulfil this work, and who reveals Himself as the One He is within this work. We have neither to fear nor to hope nor in any sense to expect that He will be utterly different, and not the Shepherd of Israel and Lord of the Church, in other work not known to us or in His divine essence. Nevertheless we must reject the idea that God’s omnipotence and therefore His essence resolves itself in a sense into what God actually does, into His activity, and that it is to be identified with it. It is not the case that God is God and His omnipotence omnipotence only as He actually does what He does. Creation, reconciliation and redemption are the work, really the work of His omnipotence. He is omnipotent in this work. Loyally binding Himself to this work He does not cease to be omnipotent in Himself as well as in this work (527).
Also, God's power is not empty but has real content, and it is wholly and utterly concrete (532). Most importantly, the concreteness and content of this power is Himself.
God has the power, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to be Himself and to live of and by Himself. This is His omnipotence. Everything else which He has the power to do, He has the power to do in virtue of this power. And further, everything else which He has the power to do is simply a manifestation, revelation and application of this power. For if God is not only omnipotent, but effects everything as such, i.e., if in His omnipotence He is active outwards, in relation to another, all His activity consists simply in a recapitulation of His own being (532).
Also, God's power is power over all powers; it is power over everything.
Our fifth step is to maintain that as His own power, and therefore as concrete power, determined in relation both to Himself and to the world, God’s power is power over everything. This means the power of all powers, the power in and over them all. It does not mean the sum or the substance of all powers—this is excluded by what we have said already. Created powers, and above all the powers of opposition and therefore of powerlessness, are always distinct from God’s power. He permits them to exist as powers apart from and beside His power. He gives them a place, and this applies not only to the powers created through His work but also to the powers of opposition and powerlessness, to the possibility of the impossible, of that which has been excluded by His own act. Yet this does not mean that He abandons even part of His lordship over them, that He is even partially powerless over against them, or that they have even partially an independent position and function in relation to Him. On the contrary, it is by His power that He creates or at any rate tolerates other powers. In this His power is always power in and over them, and He is always first and last the only one who is full of power. He is not at any point limited or determined by them, but at every point He limits and determines them. He is the “King of kings” as their true Creator and Preserver or as their righteous Judge. Thus none of them can escape Him, but all must serve Him and will definitely serve Him in one way or another. God in Himself is power of this kind over all things to the extent He is able as Father, Son and Holy Spirit to be Himself and to live of and by Himself. This ability of His is His omnipotence, true power, the power of lordship, not blind power, but the power of eternal wisdom. It is also not a power that cannot endure another beside it. On the contrary, it is the power of the eternal love in which before all worlds God is not only full of power in Himself but as Father and Son always has power in another. It is not finally an imperfect power, nor on the other hand an unlimited. It is the perfect and for that reason the perfectly definite power of His divinity. As real power this is power over all things, the divine omnipotence (538–539).
Barth summarizes it all this way:
God is omnipotent in the fact that as such all real power is His power, all actual capacity His capacity, every genuine possibility His possibility. His being, essence and life are constantly the being, essence and life of real power, actual capacity and genuine possibility as such. God not only has these things, but is these things. Everything outside Him, on the other hand, is not these things but only has them, and has them only by Him and from Him, so that without Him it could not have them, but would be powerless. But again, His power is not real and actual and genuine and divine because it is power. On the contrary, it is all these because it is His power, because He has it and is it. Again,   p 543  His power is not exhausted in the fact that He allows what is outside Himself to have power. For this can and does come about only as He Himself has and is power in superabundance over against everything that may have power by Him and from Him, But again, His power is not neutral. It is conditioned by His deity. It is His own power, the power of His right, the power Himself to be true and true to Himself. As this it is, again, the measure and limit of all power even outside Himself. But again, this power is free power over all, the power over all powers (542-543).