Saturday, April 4, 2015

Blogging with Barth: CD 2.1 §31.3 "The Eternity and Glory of God" pp. 608-677 (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 §31.3 ("The Eternity and Glory of God"), Barth now turns his attention to the final pair of perfections - the eternity and glory of God. I looked at the eternity of God in my previous post on these perfections. Thus, we turn our attention now to God's glory.
The point we have reached makes it both possible and necessary to take our last step and say that God has and is glory. For God is glorious in the fact that He is eternal, as He is omnipresent in the fact that He is One and omnipotent in the fact that He is constant. It would be a poor conception of eternity which barred us from a view of God’s glory or did not require us to contemplate it, just as God’s freedom in general would be poorly understood if by our understanding of it we were not compelled to recognise the love which is mighty in it. God endures; He is before, above and after time, and therefore its Creator and Lord, and therefore the free and sovereign God. We have established this to be the meaning of His eternity. But we must now interpret and expound this meaning and say that God endures in glory. It is not His being as such, mere abstract being, which is eternal. God has no such being. His being is eternal in glory. For the specific nature of God’s eternity, the distinction and unity in which He is eternal, is also and as such the specific nature of God as the God of glory. Thus a consideration of His freedom has led us again and for the last time to a consideration of His love. For while the glory of God describes especially His freedom, majesty and pre-eminence, and therefore definitely belongs to the second series of divine perfections dealt with in this section, yet this final and supreme predicate of the divine freedom can be understood as such only if the divine freedom itself and as such is seen to be God’s freedom to love (640-641).
Adopting at once the biblical usage, we can say that God’s glory is His dignity and right not only to maintain, but to prove and declare, to denote and almost as it were to make Himself conspicuous and everywhere apparent as the One He is. He does this negatively by distinguishing Himself from what He is not, and positively by naming Himself, pointing to Himself, manifesting Himself in various ways (641).
It is now perhaps legitimate and even requisite to ask in what sense the glory of God is to be understood as the truth and power and act of His self-demonstration and therefore of His love. What is the more precise meaning of the honour and the glory of God, of the gloria Dei, of God as the source and radiance of light? The most obvious answer, which is also correct and important in itself, is as follows. It is the self-revealing sum of all divine perfections. It is the fulness of God’s deity, the emerging, self-expressing and self-manifesting reality of all that God is. It is God’s being in so far as this is in itself a being which declares itself (643).
Barth wants to unpack God's glory as bit more specifically, which is why he more narrowly draws our attention to four aspects of God's glory (and understanding which he attributes to Mastricht). First, God's glory consists in the fact that His being is His fulness and self-sufficiency (646). Second, God's glory consists in His light (He is Light Himself) that reaches out to us and illuminates all things (646). Third, God's glory consists in that the fact that His presence reaches us in this illumination, that He reaches us in this way, and that He comes to us to be known by us (647). Fourth, God's glory consists in His presence reaching us in such a way that it evokes gratitude as He is recognized as the glorious One.
The creature has no voice of its own. It does not point to its own picture. It echoes and reflects the glory of the Lord. It does this in its heights and its depths, its happiness and its misery. The angels do it (and unfortunately we have almost completely forgotten that we are surrounded by the angels as crown witnesses to the divine glory). But even the smallest creatures do it too. They do it along with us or without us. They do it also against us to shame us and instruct us. They do it because they cannot help doing it. They would not and could not exist unless first and last and properly they did this and only this. And when man accepts again his destiny in Jesus Christ in the promise and faith of the future revelation of his participation in God’s glory as it is already given Him here and now, he is only like a late-comer slipping shamefacedly into creation’s choir in heaven and earth, which has never ceased its praise, but merely suffered and sighed, as it still does, that in inconceivable folly and ingratitude its living centre man does not hear its voice, its response, its echoing of the divine glory, or rather hears it in a completely perverted way, and refuses to co-operate in the jubilation which surrounds him. This is the sin of man which is judged and forgiven in Jesus Christ, which God Himself has made good and cast behind man’s back. It is this which in Jesus Christ has once for all become his past. In the eternal glory before us it will not exist at all even as the past. In the eternity before us the groaning of creation will cease, and man too will live in his determination to be the reflection and echo of God and therefore the witness to the divine glory that reaches over to him, rejoicing with the God who Himself has eternal joy and Himself is eternal joy (648-649).
Barth now turns to a deeper discussion of this light of God. He asks, "to what extent is God's light in His self-declaration really light and therefore enlightening?" And continuing in his questions and thinking he concludes something very important - that when we speak of God's glory we justifiably speak of God's beauty:
To what extent, when God is present to Himself and others, does He really convince and persuade? In what way does He move Himself to glorify Himself, and move others, that which is outside Himself, to join in His self-glorification? Or we might simply ask: What is the thing revealed in the divine revelation and what is the nature and form of its revealing? (649).
We have seen that when we speak of God’s glory we do emphatically mean God’s “power.” Yet the idea of “glory” contains something which is not covered by that of “power.” For the idea of “kingdom” which precedes the other two concepts in the doxology of the Lord’s Prayer seems to say something of wider range than can be described by “power” alone. Light, too, has power and is power, but it is not this that makes it light. Has not and is not God more than is covered by the idea of power when He has and is light and is glorious?
The concept which lies ready to our hand here, and which may serve legitimately to describe the element in the idea of glory that we still lack, is that of beauty. If we can and must say that God is beautiful, to say this is to say how He enlightens and convinces and persuades us. It is to describe not merely the naked fact of His revelation or its power, but the shape and form in which it is a fact and is power. It is to say that God has this superior force, this power of attraction, which speaks for itself, which wins and conquers, in the fact that He is beautiful, divinely beautiful, beautiful in His own way, in a way that is His alone, beautiful as the unattainable primal beauty, yet really beautiful. He does not have it, therefore, merely as a fact or a power. Or rather, He has it as a fact and a power in such a way that He acts as the One who gives pleasure, creates desire and rewards with enjoyment. And He does it because He is pleasant, desirable, full of enjoyment, because He is the One who is pleasant, desirable, full of enjoyment, because first and last He alone is that which is pleasant, desirable and full of enjoyment. God loves us as the One who is worthy of love as God. This is what we mean when we say that God is beautiful (650-651).
As Barth notes, God is "the basis and the standard of everything that is beautiful and of all the ideas of the beautiful" (656). Also, God's glory is his joy.
We have already said that God’s glory is His overflowing self-communicating joy. By its very nature it is that which gives joy. This is not contradicted by the fact that it can unleash fear and terror. It works by contraries on the man who cannot have it, just as bright light can only blind eyes unaccustomed to it. But the cause in this case is subjective. The objective meaning of God’s glory is His active grace and mercy and patience, His love. In itself and as such it is worthy of love. In and with this quality it speaks and conquers, persuades and convinces. It does not merely assume this quality. It is proper to it. And where it is really recognised, it is recognised in this quality, with its peculiar power and characteristic of giving pleasure, awaking desire, and creating enjoyment (653).
But the question remains: Why also joy, why specifically joy, according to the witness of Holy Scripture? Why not simply awe, gratitude, wonder, submission and obedience? Joy, desire, pleasure, the yearning for God and the enjoyment of having Him in the fellowship with Him which He Himself gives us, is all along something which is obviously special and distinctive in all this. The special element to be noted and considered is that the glory of God is not only great and sublime or holy and gracious, the overflowing of the sovereignty in which God is love. In all this it is a glory that awakens joy, and is itself joyful. It is not merely a glory which is solemn and good and true, and which, in its perfection and sublimity, might be gloomy or at least joyless. Joy in and before God—in its particular nature, distinct from what we mean by awe, gratitude and the rest—has an objective basis. It is something in God, the God of all the perfections, which justifies us in having joy, desire and pleasure towards Him, which indeed obliges, summons and attracts us to do this (655).
That God is beautiful means that theology is beautiful, and the theologian, more than many, knows what it is to experience joy!
At this point we may refer to the fact that if its task is correctly seen and grasped, theology as a whole, in its parts and in their interconnexion, in its content and method, is, apart from anything else, a peculiarly beautiful science. Indeed, we can confidently say that it is the most beautiful of all the sciences. To find the sciences distasteful is the mark of the Philistine. It is an extreme form of Philistinism to find, or to be able to find, theology distasteful. The theologian who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this science. May God deliver us from what the Catholic Church reckons one of the seven sins of the monk—taedium—in respect of the great spiritual truths with which theology has to do. But we must know, of course, that it is only God who can keep us from it (656).
God's being Himself speaks for His beauty (656) and His beauty is spoken by His triunity (659-661). The third example of God's beauty is the incarnation (661).
We should not know anything about that which attracts us as the beauty of God’s being and of the triunity of His being, nor should we have any conception or idea of the unity in God of identity and non-identity, simplicity and multiplicity, movement and peace, nor should we have found delight in the vision of His inner life, if this life had not been presented to us in the distinction in which it arouses joy, in the self-representation of God which consists in the fact that He becomes flesh in His eternal Word, that He becomes One with us men in Jesus Christ, that He adopts us into unity with Himself, by Himself, very God, becoming and being very man in Jesus Christ (662).
For the beautiful in God’s being, that which stirs up joy, is the fact that so inexhaustibly and necessarily (although the necessity is not one of outward compulsion, but the inward movement of His own being) He is One and yet another, but One again even as this other, without confusion or alteration, yet also without separation or division. What is reflected in this determination of the relationship between the divine and the human nature in Jesus Christ is the form, the beautiful form of the divine being. In this way, in this rest and movement, God is the triune, and He has and is the divine being in the unity and fulness of all its determinations. Because He is this in this way, He is not only the source of all truth and all goodness, but also the source of all beauty. And because we know that He is this in this way in Jesus Christ, we must therefore recognise the beauty of God in Jesus Christ (664).
The beauty of Jesus Christ is not just any beauty. It is the beauty of God. Or, more concretely, it is the beauty of what God is and does in Him. We must not fail at this point to see the substance or model of the unity of God’s majesty and condescendence; His utter sublimity and holiness, and the complete mercy and patience in which this high and holy One not only turns towards man but stoops down to him; the unity of faithfulness to Himself and faithfulness to the creature with which He acts. Nor must we fail to see the love in which God is free here or the freedom in which He loves. If we do not see this, if we do not believe it, if it has not happened to us, how can we see the form of this event, the likeness of the essence of God in Jesus Christ, and how can we see that this likeness is beautiful? In this respect, too, God cannot be known except by God (665).
Barth notes that the created being can only glorify God as that person is regenerated as a work of the Holy Spirit (669). Glorifying God is made permissible in us by Jesus Christ (671). The outworking of our glorifying God looks like us following Jesus in obedience (673). Often, the glory we give will take the form of proclamation, confession, and prayer (670). Thus, the Church is the sphere of God's glory, and others might hear of His glory by the Church glorification of God:
The Word of God may come to those who have not yet heard it, and again and again among those who have already heard it. In all this the fundamental law of our existence is confirmed which signifies both the limit and the promise. This is that we must just as certainly miss the glory of God in ourselves as we may find it in Jesus Christ, and that we may find it just as certainly in Jesus Christ as we must miss it in ourselves. For the confirmation of this fundamental law, for the sake of this limit and promise, the Church may be in all the significance and range of its activity, and the being of the Church is both the indispensable blessing and at the same time the most urgent task in human existence and history. We do not confine God’s glory when we call the Church its provisional sphere. This does not mean that only the Church is its sphere. Rather, we shall be both comforted and shamed by the fact that there is no sphere in heaven or on earth which even here and now is not secretly full of the glory of God. It is in the Church that this is known and more and more of this secret reality is seen in faith. But it cannot be seen and known outside the Church. Nowhere else can either the truth or the secret nature of this content be known, or the certainty of its future revelation. It is only the faith of the Church which can see what can already be seen here. Remembering that this knowledge and perception is not only the Church’s grace but also its judgment, and that all its missed opportunities and errors cannot be more severely punished than by the fact that in God’s grace it has this particular perception and knowledge, not trying to avoid either the unsettlement which this chastisement involves or the peace which is given us by the fact that this chastisement is also grace, we can sum up in the confession Credo ecclesiam everything that is to be said about God’s glory, and doctrinally about His being. He is the God who is glorious in His community, and for that reason and in that way in all the world (677).