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John Calvin
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25, The Fulfilment of the Knowledge of God
26, The Knowability of God
27, The Limits of the Knowledge of God
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Here are some notes on Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics, Volume II, "The Doctrine of God," Chapter V, "The Knowledge of God."
This is part of an ongoing series of once-per-month emails accompanying our plan to read through Barth's Dogmatics in 2010-2012

25, The Fulfilment of the Knowledge of God

The knowledge of God occurs in the fulfilment of the revelation of His Word by the Holy Spirit, and therefore in the reality and with the necessity of faith and its obedience. Its content is the existence of Him whom we must fear above all things because we may love Him above all things; who remains a mystery to us because He Himself has made Himself so clear and certain to us.
1. Man before God (II.1, 3)
     "In the Church of Jesus Christ men speak about God and men have to hear about God. About God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; about God's grace and truth; about God's thoughts and works; about God's promises, ordinances and commandments; about God's kingdom, and about the state and life of man in the sphere of His lordship. But always and in all circumstances about God Himself, who is the presupposition, meaning and power of everything that is to be said and heard in the Church, the Subject who absolutely, originally and finally moves, produces, establishes and realises in this matter. . . .
      "All speaking and hearing in the Church of Jesus Christ entirely rests upon and is connected with the fact that God is known in the Church of Jesus Christ; that is to say, that this Subject is objectively present to the speakers and hearers, so that man in the Church really stands before God." (II.1, 3)

      "We start out from the fact that through His Word God is actually known and will be known again." (II.1, 4)

      "True knowledge of God is not and cannot be attacked; it is without anxiety and without doubt. But only that which is fulfilled under the constraint of God's Word is such a true knowledge of God." (II.1, 7)

      "That the knowledge of God in its fulfilment by the revelation of the Word of God is bound to its one, determined and uniquely distinct object, and that it is knowledge of this object and not of another-knowledge of the God who gives Himself to be known in His Word-means further that, without any prejudice to its certainty, but in this very certainty, it is mediated knowledge. That is to say, God is and remains its object. . . . Man cannot and must not know himself apart from God, but together with God as his 'opposite.' . . . The real knowledge of God is concerned with God in His relationship to man, but also in his distinction from him." (II.1, 9-11)

      "The fact that man stands before the God who gives Himself to be known in His Word, and therefore to be known mediately, definitely means that we have to understand man's knowledge of God as the knowledge of faith. In this consists is reality and necessity, which are not and cannot be attacked from without. . . .
      "Faith is the total positive relationship of man to the God who gives Himself to be known in His Word. It is man's act of turning to God, of opening up his life to Him and of surrendering to Him. It is the Yes which he pronounces in his heart when confronted by this God, because he knows himself to be bound and fully bound. It is the obligation in which, before God, and in the light of the clarity that God is God and the He is this God, he knows and explains himself as belonging to God. But when we say that, we must at once also say that faith as the positive relationship of man to God comes from God Himself in that it is utterly and entirely grounded in the fact that God encounters man in the Word which demands of him this turning, this Yes, this obligation; becoming an object to him in such a way that in His objectivity He bestows upon him by the Holy Spirit the light of the clarity that He is God and that He is his God, and therefore evoking this turning, this Yes, this obligation on the part of man. It is in this occurrence of faith that there is the knowledge of God; and not only the knowledge of God, but also love towards Him, trust in Him and obedience to Him." (II.1, 12)
2. God before Man
(II.1, 31)
      "God is He whom we may love above all things. God exists, and is the object of our knowledge, as this One who is to be loved above all things. It we are bound to God's Word we cannot contradict this. To be bound to God's Word means that we may love above all things Him who speaks this Word to us. We emphasise-may. Binding to the love of God is first and foremost a permission, a liberation, an authorisation." (II.1, 32-33)

      "But precisely because this is true, precisely because God is He of whom it may be true, we must now go further, and say that God is the One whom we must fear above all things. We must fear him above all things because we may love Him above all things." (II.1, 33)

      "The same God whom we must fear above all things because we may love Him above all things is also He who remains a mystery to us because He Himself has made Himself so clear and certain to us." (II.1, 38)

      "God speaks to man in His Word. Thereby He gives Himself to be known; therein He is known by him. . . .
      "But God speaks about Himself in His Word. Everything that He says to man depends upon the fact that when God speaks to man He does not say this or that, but declares Himself. . . .
      "God speaks in his Word about Himself as the Lord." (II.1, 44-45)

      "If it is true that God stands before man, that He gives Himself to be known and is known by man, it is true only because and in the fact that God is the triune God, God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." (II.1, 48-49)

      "Only by proceeding downwards from the triune existence of God can we understand how God stands before us, how in His revelation He gives Himself to be known and is known by us. The revelation of God, in which man's fulfilment of the true knowledge of God takes place, is the disposition of God in which He acts toward us as the same triune God that He is in Himself." (II.1, 51)

  26, The Knowability of God

The possibility of the knowledge of God springs from God, in that He is Himself the truth and He gives Himself to man in His Word by the Holy Spirit to be known as the truth. It springs from man, in that, in the son of God by the Holy spirit, he becomes an object of the define good-pleasure and therefore participates in the truth of God.
1. The Readiness of God (II.1, 63)
      "God's being and nature are not exhausted in the encroachment in which He is God among us and for us, nor His truth in the truth of His grace and mercy. But whatever else He may be, God is wholly and utterly the good-pleasure of His grace and mercy. At any rate, He is wholly and utterly in His revelation, in Jesus Christ." (II.1, 75)

      "We possess no analogy on the basis of which the nature and being of God as the Lord can be accessible to us. . . . The decisive and distinguishing mark of the lordship of God is this fact that He is really the Lord over all things and therefore supremely over ourselves, the Lord over our bodies and souls, the Lord over life and death." (II.1, 75)

"We cannot experiment with unbelief, even if we think we know and possess all sorts of interesting and very promising possibilities and recipes for it. We must treat unbelief seriously. Only one thing can be treated more seriously than unbelief; and that is faith itself-or rather, the real God in whom faith believes. But faith itself-or rather, the real God in whom faith believes-must be taken so seriously that there is no place at all for even an apparent transposition to the standpoint of unbelief. . . . When faith takes itself seriously, who has place or freedom for this apparent assimilation, for this game with unbelief? Who is it who really has to stoop down at this point? Not one man to another, a believer to an unbeliever. . . . He who stoops down to the level of us all, both believers and unbelievers, is the real God alone, in His grace and mercy. And it is only by the fact that he knows this that the believing man is distinguished from the unbeliever. Faith consists precisely in this-in the life which is lived in consequence of God's coming down to our level." (II.1, 95)

2. The Readiness of Man (II.1, 128)
"God is knowable to Himself; the Son to the Father, but also the Father to the Son. This is the first and last thing which is to be said about the knowability of God even from the point of view of the readiness of man." (II.1, 151)

      "As the one and only man ready for God, Jesus Christ has not only lived, died, and risen for us once in time, so that the abounding grace of God might be an event and at the same time revelation among us, but that as this same One He stands before His Father now in eternity for us, and lives for us in God Himself as the Son of God He was and is and will be." (II.1, 156)

27, The Limits of the Knowledge of God

God is known only by God. We do not know Him, then in virtue of the views and concepts with which in faith we attempt to respond to His revelation. But we also do not know Him without making use of His permission and obeying His command to undertake this attempt. The success of this undertaking, and therefore the veracity of our human knowledge of God, consists in the fact that our viewing and conceiving is adopted and determined to participation in the truth of God by God Himself in grace.
1. The Hiddenness of God (II.1, 179)
"God is known by God and by God alone. His revelation is not merely His own readiness to be known, but man's readiness to know Him. God's revelation is, therefore, His knowability." (II.1, 179)

"We ourselves have no capacity for fellowship with God. Between God and us there stands the hiddenness of God, in which He is far from us and foreign to us except as He has of Himself ordained and created fellowship between Himself and us-and this does not happen in the actualising of our capacity, but in the miracle of His good-pleasure." (II.1, 182)

"The hiddenness of God is the content of a statement of faith." (II.1, 183)
"God does not belong to the objects which we can always subjugate to the process of our viewing, conceiving and expressing and therefore our spiritual oversight and control. In contrast to that of all other objects, His nature is not one which in this sense lies in the sphere of our power. God is inapprehensible." (II.1, 187)

"God-the living God who encounters us in Jesus Christ-is not such a one as can be appropriated by us in our own capacity. He is the One who will appropriate us." (II.1, 188)

      "Knowing the true God in His revelation, we apprehend him in His hiddenness. And just because we do this, we know the true God in His revelation." (II.1, 194)
2. The Veracity of Man's Knowledge of God (II.1, 204)

"The veracity of our knowledge of God is the veracity of His revelation." (II.1, 209)
Jim GoodloeGrace and Peace,
Dr. James C. Goodloe IV, Executive Director
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