Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Miracle

Something written in Barth's Church Dogmatics that I understand! Two things of note for me:

1) I now see how Brueggemann was so heavily influenced by Barth. I imagine reading Barth to be like listening to some old Bob Dylan records. They may be a little obscure at first, but as you become familiar with the language of Dylan you realise just how influential he was on all the artists that you like today.

2) With all this talk of "conversation", was Karl Barth the original Emergent Theologian? Look at the picture to the right, imagine him wearing square lenses, and you know it makes sense.

Here's the passage from Church Dogmatics, which I think is astounding:

“What is man, that thou art mindful of him?” Only one answer can be given, namely, that it was and is the good-pleasure of God to be mindful of him, and to act towards him in this way. In other words, it is not accidentally, nor arbitrarily, nor under any constraint or compulsion of a reality distinct from Himself, but in His own freedom that He is this God, that He is God in this way and not another. It is in virtue of this free and basic kindness that He is the God who makes Himself the Partner of man, and man His partner, in this covenant and conversation, even though He does not owe him this, even though man has no right or claim, even though man deserves the very opposite of His address and self-giving. He is mindful of man because to Him as the God He is, His own glory and man’s salvation, man’s salvation and His own glory, are not two things but one.


  1. Not sure I agree with the last line and a half of Barth. Surely God's glory is a seperate and distinct item? Why link it so 50/50 to man's salvation. It would certainly seem to the glory of God, and 'add' to the glory of God that he is mindful of man and bestows on him salvation. But further than, em?

  2. I think you're missing the thrust of the first seven and a half lines. The kind of God we have is One who's glory would be diminished should human beings not be saved. He has so "partnered" Himself with us that He must save us for the sake of His glory. This is why Barth says that our salvation and God's glory are not two things but one.

  3. Thank for that. But I don't see that God's glory would be diminished.

  4. A further comment. The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter II, No.II says, "God has all life, glory, goodness blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He has made, NOR DERIVING ANY GLORY FROM THEM, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them". What do you think?

  5. I think that this doesn't take the God of the Bible seriously enough. God covenanted Himself with Israel in such a way that Israel's disobedience was intrinsically linked with God's Holy name. The OT talks of God's name being blasphemed amongst the nations because of Israel's unfaithfulness. In Ezekiel God then speaks of rescuing Israel from exile for the sake of His Holy name...for the sake of his glory, we could reasonably say.

    As for God nor standing in need of any creatures, here's a (possibly heretical) thought that just popped into my head - did God need humanity in order to become fully human. Would it have been possible for the Word to become flesh without us?

    There I go again - questioning everything