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 John Calvin
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13, God's Freedom for Man
14, The Time of Revelation
15, The Mystery of Revelation
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Karl Barth was the leading Reformed theologian of the twenthieth century. He continues to have a great deal to teach us through his writings.
 
After reading through John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion in 2009, it occurred to several of us to try to read through Barth's Church Dogmatics in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Yes, it is very long!
 
Here is a link to our posted plan of reading through it at a pace of about 300 pages per month:
 
 
From time to time, I shall try to provide a little bit of an outline and a few comments as we work together on this.
 
We have arrived at Volume I, The Doctrine of the Word of God, Chapter II, The Revelation of God, and Part II, The Incarnation of the Word, which comprises the following three numbered paragraphs.
 
In order to treat these three together, I have included some material that has been sent before, along with some new material.
13, God's Freedom for Man 
 
According to Holy Scripture God's revelation takes place in the fact that God's Word became a man and that this man has become God's Word. The incarnation of the eternal Word, Jesus Christ, is God's revelation. In the reality of this event God proves that He is free to be our God.
 
As I have ventured again into Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics, Volume I, part 2, I have encountered some delightfully dialectical assertions, wherein he holds up two contradictory claims simultaneously:
"Revelation and it alone really and finally separates God and man by bringing them together." (I.2, 29)
"The Old Testament like the New Testament is the witness to the revelation in which God remains a hidden God, indeed declares Himself to be the hidden God by revealing Himself." (I.2, 84)
We, the readers, have to think about these a little, and that is part of the point. But if you can understand these, you are well on the way to appreciating his project.
 
God is wholly other from us. We know this not because we can know it but only because he became one of us in Jesus Christ and told us so. But the telling does not undo the difference. In fact, the becoming and telling establish the difference. If there were no difference, it would not be revelation.
 
1. Jesus Christ the Objective Reality of Revelation I.2, 1

2. Jesus Christ the Objective Possibility of Revelation I.2, 25
14, The Time of Revelation
 
God's revelation in the event of the presence of Jesus Christ is God's time for us. It is fulfilled time in this event itself. But as the Old Testament time of expectation and as the New Testament time of recollection it is also the time of witness to this event.
 
As Barth writes about the time of expectation, the time of the Old Testament, the time before the incarnation of Christ, he has this to say about the impact of God's self-revelation on Israel and on the people around them:
"The Old Testament like the New Testament is the witness to the revelation in which God remains a hidden God, indeed declares Himself to be the hidden God by revealing Himself. In and with this attested revelation a judgment is pronounced upon the whole world surrounding it, since God--here and now actually and presently--declares the whole world surrounding His revelation to be godless, irrespective of what it apparently believed itself to possess in the way of divine presence. And by this judgment this entire surrounding world is as such destined to die off, to pass away. If it has a hope, it is not to be found in itself, but only in connexion with the divine presence which breaks out fresh in revelation, and is the only real presence. But in the first instance it has no hope. It must first of all pass away. The nations settled in Palestine, which were in certain respects highly civilized nations, were struck with surprise and horror at the nomad nation that broke in from the desert with their first and second commandments [i.e., the first two of the Ten Commandments, You shall have no other gods before me, and You shall not make for yourself a carved image . . . , Exodus 20:1-17], although it was really questionable how far even they understood and followed these commandments themselves. The revelation which was the origin of this nation was the revelation of the one, only God, to be acknowledged without analogy and to be worshipped without image. What invaded Palestine was the radical dedivinisation of nature, history and culture-a remorseless denial of any other divine presence save the one in the event of drawing up the covenant. If there were any pious Canaanites--and why should there not have been such?--the God of Israel must have appeared to them as death incarnate, and the faith of Israel as irreligion itself. But admittedly no time was left them for such reflections." (I.2, 84-85)
Well, this goes on for another page, but you get the gist of it. Here is the thought that occurred to me: Should not our preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ today, to the extent that it is faithful to the revelation of God in Christ as attested in the Scriptures, strike the same terror in the hearts and minds of the people, forces, and powers that surround us? We cannot accommodate God's revelation to the world. We cannot accommodate God's gospel to the supposed powers that be. We must not water down the gospel until, and as if, that would or could make it likeable or acceptable. Should we not proclaim, clearly, that the arrival of Jesus Christ brings judgment upon all other loyalties and faiths?
 
And Barth was writing about the time of expectation! Should not the proclamation of the gospel in our time bring even more dread that the arrival then of a rag-tag band of runaway slaves from Egypt?
 
If the nations do not tremble, are we not doing something wrong?

 
1. God's Time and Our Time I.2, 45
 
2. The Time of Expectation I.2, 70
 
3. The Time of Recollection I.2, 101

15, The Mystery of Revelation
 
The mystery of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ consists in the fact that the eternal Word of God chose, sanctified and assumed human nature and existence into oneness with Himself, in order thus, as very God and very man, to become the Word of reconciliation spoken by God to man. The sign of this mystery revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the miracle of His birth, that he was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.
 
1. The Problem of Christology I.2, 122
 
"What happens in this life and passion of Christ is thus the concrete content of the revelation which takes place in the event of Easter." (I.2, 122)
"We now have to inquire into the presupposition of this work and event, hidden in the life and passion of Christ and revealed in His resurrection. What is the power of the resurrection, and so of this work and event? How can it be the Word of reconciliation, spoken by God to men, at once divinely true and humanly real and effective? Who is the subject of it? Who is Jesus Christ?" (I.2, 122, emphasis added)
 
"A church dogmatics must, of course, be christologically determined as a whole and in all its parts, as surely as the revealed word of God, attested by Holy Scripture and proclaimed by the Church, is its one and only criterion, and as surely as this revealed Word is identical with Jesus Christ." (I.2, 123)
 
"As a whole, i.e., in the basic statements of a church dogmatics, Christology must either be dominant and perceptible, or else it is not Christology." (I.2, 123)
 
"The central statement of the Christology of the early Church is that God becomes one with man: Jesus Christ 'very God and very man.' And it describes this event in the 'conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.' The merit of the statement is that it denotes the mystery without resolving it away." (I.2, 125-126)
 
2. Very God and Very Man I.2, 132
 
Pages 132-171 comprise a detailed exposition of John 1:14.

"Jesus' sinlessness obviously consists in His direct admission of the meaning of the incarnation. Unlike Adam, as the 'second Adam' He does not wish to be as God, but in Adam's nature acknowledges before God an Adamic being, the state and position of fallen man, and bears the wrath of God which must fall upon this man, not as a fate but as a righteous necessary wrath. He does not avoid the burden of this state and position but takes the conditions and consequences upon himself." (I.2, 157)
 
"This is the revelation of God in Christ. For where man admits his lost state and lives entirely by God's mercy-which no man did, but only the God-Man Jesus Christ has done-God Himself is manifest. And by that God reconciled the world to Himself. For where man claims no right for himself, but concedes all rights to God alone-which no man did, but only the God-Man Jesus Christ has done-the world is drawn out of its enmity towards God and reconciled to God." (I.2, 158)
 
"If we paraphrase the statement 'the Word became flesh' by 'the Word assumed flesh,' we guard against the misinterpretation already mentioned, that in the incarnation the Word ceases to be entirely Himself and equal to Himself, i.e., in the full sense of the Word of God. God cannot cease to be God. The incarnation is inconceivable, but it is not absurd, and it must not be explained as an absurdity." (I.2, 160)
 
3. The Miracle of Christmas I.2, 172 
 
"Now it is no accident that for us the Virgin birth is paralleled by the miracle of which the Easter witness speaks, the miracle of the empty tomb. These two miracles belong together. The constitute, as it were, a single sign." (I.2, 182)
 
"The mystery of revelation and reconciliation consists in the fact that in His freedom, mercy and omnipotence, God became man, and as such acts upon man." (I.2, 191)
 
"The mystery does not rest upon the miracle. The miracle rests upon the mystery. The miracle bears witness to the mystery, and the mystery is attested by the miracle." (I.2, 202)
 

Grace and Peace,

Jim
Dr. James C. Goodloe IV, Executive Director
Foundation for Reformed Theology
 
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