A Real Closing of the Breach

Posted by Kendall Harmon

“God with us means more than God over or side by side with us, before or behind us. It means more than His divine being in even the most intimate active connection with our human being otherwise peculiar to Him. At this point, at the heart of the Christian message and in relation to the event of which it speaks, it means that God has made himself the one who fulfills his redemptive will. It means that He Himself in His own person —at His own cost but also on His own initiative—has become the inconceivable Yet and Nevertheless of this event, and so its clear and well-founded and legitimate, its true and holy and righteous Therefore. It means that God has become man in order as such, but in divine sovereignty, to take up our case. What takes place in the work of inconceivable mercy is, therefore, the free overruling of God, but it is not an arbitrary overlooking and ignoring, not an artificial bridging, covering over or hiding, but a real closing of the breach, gulf and abyss between God and us for which we are responsible. At the very point where we refuse and fail, offending and provoking God, making ourselves impossible before Him and in that way missing our destiny, treading under foot our dignity, forfeiting our right, losing our salvation and hopelessly compromising our creaturely being—at that very point God Himself intervenes as man."

--Karl Barth (1886-1968)



Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeChurch Year / Liturgical SeasonsChristmas

5 Comments
Posted December 26, 2008 at 5:47 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. An Anxious Anglican wrote:

Thank you for the Barth postings, Kendall.  Can you tell us the(ir) source?

December 27, 10:57 am | [comment link]
2. Terry Tee wrote:

I too would like the source, which I take to be one of the volumes of Church Dogmatics.  And can anybody interpret the following for me?
<i>It means that He Himself in His own person —at His own cost but also on His own initiative—has become the inconceivable Yet and Nevertheless of this event, and so its clear and well-founded and legitimate, its true and holy and righteous Therefore.<i/i>

December 27, 12:02 pm | [comment link]
3. Ross wrote:

#2 Terry Tee:

I’m going to guess that the Yet, Nevertheless, and Therefore business is something that makes more sense in German than in English.  However, if I were going to take a stab at it, I would interpret it something like this:

In this event [the Incarnation] God became Man, yet remained fully God, while nevertheless being no less than fully Man; therefore God has of his own choice and act fully bridged the gap between God and Man.  The targets of the yet, nevertheless, and therefore of the event are all God, so God is not merely the instigator and cause of the event but also its ultimate consequence.

At least, that’s how I would interpret it.  But I make no pretense to being an expert on Barth, or even particularly knowledgeable, so if someone has a better take on it I will bow to superior expertise.

December 27, 12:26 pm | [comment link]
4. Terry Tee wrote:

Ross, I give you a gold star for that, I think it is brilliant.

I have read worse.  Once, when reading theology at King’s College, I had to plough through Rahner’s Foundations of Christian Belief which gave me a whole new way of looking at implicit spirituality.  But what hard work!  It reminded me of Leszek Kolakowski who wrote, a little sadly in the preface to his own book Religion:  ‘This book has been written in a language purporting to be English.’  (He was a native Polish speaker.)  But I think the incomprehensibility stakes must be won by the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, who is also worth persevering with.

December 27, 12:55 pm | [comment link]
5. Kendall Harmon wrote:

Church Dogmatics (IV.1) [E.T. By Geoffrey Bromiley and Thomas Torrance of the German Original] (London: T and T Clark, 1956), page 12

December 27, 7:33 pm | [comment link]
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