Foundation for Reformed Theology


When at Christmas we read again Mary's song, the Magnificat (Luke 1:39-56), we are reminded of Hannah's song (1 Samuel 2:1-10), which it seems to echo.

There Hannah sings of, among other things, the power of God over death:

    "The LORD kills and brings to life;
        he brings down to Sheol and raises up" (verse 6).

Consider what Reformed theologian Karl Barth has to say about the power of God over death.
Karl Barth on Hannah's Song

The fundamental Old Testament insight at this point is Yahweh's decisive superiority over death and the underworld. In the Old Testament death may be a powerful menace to man. But it is not an independent god of death confronting Yahweh. God does not have to contend with it for mastery. "I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I the Lord do all these things" (Isaiah 45:7). "I kill, and I make alive" (Deuteronomy 32:39; cf. 1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7).

The power of death, in all its salient features, is certainly one of chaos. It is the perverse power of Satan which is radically separated from the powers created by God, which is alien to His creation, which in His creation is denied and excluded and to that extent opposed to His creative will. But as it erupts in the world created by God, it cannot put forward an absolute claim any more than Satan himself. Death has come into the world. It has become a tyrant over man. But so far as God is concerned it is not a sovereign power.

For as soon as it entered the world it came under His dominion. Like all the other forces of chaos, it is radically called in question. Even that which is intrinsically negated by God, i.e., in its purely negated being, derives from God. Hence it does not exist side by side with Him or above Him, but under Him. . . .

Its capacity and achievement in relation to man stand under Yahweh's perpetual and absolute oversight, control and disposing. Yahweh is really the boundary of death, as death is the boundary of man.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, edited by G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance, III/2 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1960), p. 616, emphasis added.
Dr. James C. Goodloe IV So let us learn to sing God's praises again this Christmas.

Grace and Peace,

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