Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Karl Barth on Christ-ian Forgiveness

I have only just begun my deep foray into Barth's theology of forgiveness, but the following extracts seem to me to be fairly indicative of his direction. He can certainly be found within his Reformed tradition, but with unique emphases and critiques. What I notice first off is his a resistance to talk of forgiveness as a static religious principle to be accepted or applied and a preference toward apprehending forgiveness as the free, dynamic, life-giving act of the God-man Jesus Christ. Here is an excerpt from The Doctrine of Reconciliation:

"We can and should, therefore, rise up and rejoice thankfully in the incomprehensible comfort and forgiveness of God, in all the assistance which we are given, in all the great and little lights which shine on our way, in all the strengthenings and encouragements, in short in all the unmerited favours addressed to us by the love of God.

Yet we should also be prepared sooner or later to be recalled in some way to his limits by this love, to find ourselves forcefully redirected to the humility which we so easily forget and loses when we bask in the divine sunshine.

For it is God Himself, and not just a lucky fate, which is favourable to us.

And so, when that which we have deserved overtakes us, the same can and should bow before it, humbling ourselves to the dust, finding ourselves absolutely directed to accept the awful things which he does not like, allowing ourselves to be led where we do not want to go, yet clinging to the fact-for it is in the same love of God that these things come to us-that we will not fall into the abyss but will still be upheld.

Even in these circumstances, there are always lights in the darkness, forgiveness in guilt, new life in death, breaks in the engulfing clouds, encouragements in despair. There is always reason for thankfulness even in the anguish in which we think to perish.

For it is God Himself and not a sinister and hostile force who judges us.

In both respects we have to do with the presence and action of God in its dynamic opposition to our perversion and corruption. In both cases the aim is our purification. God utters a Nevertheless, a merciful Therefore, both when He gives what is undeserved with goodness and what is deserved with severity. It is always His fatherly hand which is active both morning and evening, by day and by night, to our purification and therefore our liberation. In both cases God really gives Himself to us and for us. In both cases He comes into our life."
- Church Dogmatics IV.2, p. 774
(altered from 3rd person singular to 1st person plural)


Anonymous said...

I think the problem is that principles are so much easier to convey than dynamic realities. Diagrams and equations - people choose them because they're quick, simple, to the point... but at the same time, don't they lack the punch? The truth that's puts us in awe? That takes our breath away? That converts us?

I think of how "the atonement" wasn't just some metaphysical transaction - instead it was accompanied by all these physical manifestations (including zombies!).

"At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people." (Matthew 27:51-53)

God wraps us in forgiveness. We breathe it (him) in. We exhale it (him) out to those around us.

Man, I'm excited for your studies!

Also, did you figure out what a Spittal is yet?

Jon Coutts said...

Yes! Zombies. Sheesh. I am not sure what you can do with that story except tell it.

Of course, I'm all for theological discussion, plumbing the depths of an occurence, even describing it in everyday and philosophical language, but when this is a reduction or a controlling encapuslization, well, then that's what it is. Theology must seek to be faithful to that which it responds.

Thanks for your excitement. Yes, "Spital" (a street near our house) and "Spittal" (commonly seen on a map of Scotland in the rural areas) seem to have derived from or led to the word "Hospital", and simply shows that the place at one time or another was a refuge or place for the sick at one time or another.

So it isn't referring to drool of some kind, thankfully.

I never saw any hospital or anything at the Spittal of Glenshee, but there is a town named Glenshee up the road and this valley was probably a refuge or place of healing at some time, I imagine. It was a beautiful valley, that's for sure.

Stewart said...

Interesting 2 sided peek at forgiveness...i love the sense of God's sovereignty in both. Oh that i would grow in all facets of His grace.

Daniel Edd Bland III said...

I was raised on Dr. Dobson, and have just sent him a letter requesting his assistance to help me stop loosing faith in the Christian Church. My Mom respects Dr. Dobson as much or more than any other Christian leader, and she is interested to see his response. I only started learning the truth about the 9/11 attacks last fall. It took me an entire year to convince my own parents to listen to me, and begin reviewing the evidence for themselves. Now that they have thoroughly and objectively taken a fresh look into all the available evidence, they too are now aware of how badly we have been deceived. They now fully support my mission to find out what really happened to 2,993 of our fellow countrymen that fateful September morning. My mom is very interested to see if/how Dr. Dobson will respond. Please read my open letter to Dr. Dobson and share your thoughts at.........


Does Christ's Church really stand for TRUTH & JUSTICE? That is the question!

Daniel Edd Bland III

Jon Coutts said...

Let me know if anyone reads that. I have no idea who this "Bland" fellow is.