Dipping into Barth

“In Jesus Christ we are ready to learn to be told what Godhead or the Divine nature is. We are confronted with the revelation of what is and always will be to all other ways of looking and thinking, a mystery, and indeed a mystery which offends. The mystery reveals to us that for God it is just as natural to be lowly as it is to be high. To be near, as it is to be far. To be as little as it is to be great. To be abroad as it is to be at home. Thus when in the action and presence of Jesus Christ…. He chooses to go into the far country to conceal his form of Lordship in the form of this world, and therefore in the form of a servant he is not untrue to himself, but genuinely true to himself, to the freedom which is that of his love”. Vol 4:1, p 192 (for those of you who like to look things up).

Time for a confession. I have not directly read Barth, not even held one of his 12 (or is it more?) volumes of Church Dogmatics. I haven’t even read much written by people who have read his weighty tomes. But I think I might. This quote comes from a lecture I listened to this morning. The “…” bit had too many big foreign Latin words for me to guess at for the purpose of this post. All that (not so helpful information aside), this little quote blew me away. We sing about the grandeur, majesty, greatness of God (and rightly so). But here Barth declares that it is as natural for God to be lowly as it is for God to be high. To be near as it is to be far. We know Jesus made himself lowly to come to the “far country” as Barth aptly puts it, but somehow we seem to separate this “lowliness” from God. It is as though while we believe Jesus is God, we don’t follow that thought to its fullness in how we see God, and how we think about how God is. These pictures apply to Jesus while here on earth, but don’t reflect on God himself. We are told that if we have seen Jesus we have seen the Father. What is true of Jesus is true of the Father. This is not to say that they are identical in every respect (a huge topic of discussion for another day). I wonder how our Christian living would be impacted if that was the grid through which all of our journey was experienced. Do we relate primarily to God who is far or near, lowly or high, abroad or at home? Can our faith and everyday living cope with the tension of these apparent “opposites”?

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5 thoughts on “Dipping into Barth

  1. Christina, your posts are fascinating as usual. Sorry about the time it took to reply to this one, but I had to think on it and had a few things come up before I could come back and leave you a comment.

    I certainly agree with you on that quote, that it is an eye-opener for anyone’s faith. Do we see God as the God of the highlands, the lowlands, or every land? In truth, I think that most see him as God of the highlands. However, if God is God, an all-powerful being, then isn’t he God everywhere?

    The only problem that I see with the God of everywhere is that humans have tended to get things horribly wrong when they’re talking about him. I need only mention the crusades to prove that. My question is this: is the disconnect between the God of the low and the God of the high a bad thing, or a good one?

    I agree in either case, however, that regardless of human action, I would think that God’s nature is to be everywhere, even in the lowest of places. To answer the question at the end of your post: of course it can. The disconnect serves the purpose of isolating those things that humans so often abuse for power. To see God as the God of the high and Jesus as the God of the low is to strip humans of semantic power, rather than stripping God of supernatural power. At least, that’s my opinion.

    Hope to see you back soon!

  2. well thought out response there Will, and good to hear from you again! I haven’t written in a while as I have been inordinately busy with work, study and a plethora of other things. I think the disconnection between “God of the low and the God of the high” as I don’t believe God is divisible in that way. The distinction could suggest that God of the high is some illusive untouchable, and mitigates the heart that led to the incarnation of Jesus. Similarly, Jesus is somewhat diminished if he is restricted to “the low”. Hmmm, not sure I am making a great deal of sense here, so probably need to think about it more.

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