Archives For Karl Barth

Knight The Wounded

June 22, 2017 — 2 Comments

Rose At Night

.

Find this level of emptiness.
Forgive my heart’s forgetfulness.

Engulf my worship of sadness.
Embrace this prayer, despite my often awkward reach.

Tear these broken words apart.
Reorder each, so that I may hear,
.             You, my adopted Father speak.

Then accept these groans as prayers without speech.
Grip grace like a vice around our fears
.              and take these shivering hands,

.               that for so many years,
.               were so often drenched in tears.
Enter our darkness, breach the brokenness,
Holy Spirit, teach.

Be the fight, deploy Your word
With one firm sound, crack the violence;
that each stand may be under Your standard.

That all focus will be brought to hear
.               the noise of battle cease.

Seize upon the ashes.
Rejoice at the sight of
minds drawn to fellowship from desolate lands;

.                hearts of substance,
.                because every broken ounce and splinter
.                has been gathered,
.                       and placed gently into Your hands.

Walk through the garden of faithlessness,
.                that Your light will pierce the dark, choices and the consequence.

Then mend the overgrown path,
.        tend to the request for forgiveness.

And as all actions of wounding significance
.        are humbly brought before Your grace.

Knight the wounded,
Raise up the contrite,

Breathe Your life into this place.


(RL2017)

‘Where the grace of God encounters us, where we are led, pulled and made to grow, there, the Bible becomes clear […] He is the redeemer of that sighing creature within us.’

– (Karl Barth, 1917. The New World In The Bible)

#inhaledgraceignites

 

In his discussion on ‘The Freedom of Man for God’, Karl Barth distinguishes between human triumphalism and ‘God’s triumph’[i]. Barth’s exposition asserts that human triumphalism stands against the God who triumphs.

Human triumphalism is both an active and passive denial of God.

Linked to works righteousness, it is a fanatical rejection of the Creators rights to His creation.

His Lordship is undermined, ignored and forgotten in order for humanity to assert their own. This act exemplifies itself in the form of ‘primal atheism’[ii]; humans reaching for God’s power whilst at the same time proclaiming that such a power only exists in a special few (mysticism) or does not exist at all (atheism).

In short, men and women seek to become lordless powers.

Examples of this can be seen in how some modern proponents utilise Religion or ideology to justify their rejection of God’s Lordship in Jesus Christ.

Via claims to superior, “inside” knowledge or the Darwinian excuse that the strong determine the treatment or mistreatment of the weak.

In the progressive quest to work for God, or alternatively ignore God, we find elements which seek emancipation from God.

Consequently, the biblical promise of a ‘newness of life’ (Romans 6:4) is replaced with a mystical fog or a reason induced cold pragmatism. Most often affirmed by an esoteric elitism who, hiding behind entitlement, choice, nature and good intentions, hypocritically end up forcing a tyrannical ‘denial of life’ upon humanity.

Ultimately, the charade is found wanting and sinful humanity is once again reminded of its tendency to parade darkness as light.

No matter how hard we try, we cannot apprehend that which can only be given to us.

Humanity remains unfree in the ignorance and futility of its quest to be free from the Creator, who has and still does, have a right to His creation. By enforcing His right the Creator appears as powerless. In mercy, He lowers Himself in order to raise us up.

‘Freedom to be for God is not a freedom which we have taken, but a freedom which God has given to us in His mercy’ [iii]

Our lack of  sensitivity and response to God’s approach i.e.: our lack of ‘receptivity to revelation through gratitude and humble recognition’[iv], leads to a rejection of God and His freedom.

Paul writes:

‘We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death He died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 6:10)

This in consequence means that ‘to be with God is to be in Christ’[v].

God’s triumph is God’s revelation which has been given in Jesus the Christ and is asserted in this time of grace by the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, and only in Christ, is God’s triumph reconciled to human triumphalism.

From this point we stand and say “Jesus is the Victor”. From this point we abandon all questions that concern ourselves with what we have to do to be in God’s will, or win his approval. From this point we take up our true concern: the invitation into participation with what God has already done and is doing right now on our behalf.

As Barth noted:

God’s continued  presence in us and for us means a ‘state or position in which humans may find themselves, but only with amazement, only with gratitude, only in humble recognition of an accomplished fact…an earlier state is one of self-glorification and self-will. Apart from the triumph of God it would still be the state of humanity today. Marked again by forgetting or denying the triumph of God by seeing (and calling) the power of God on us and in us as anything other than the Holy Spirit’[vi]

References:

[i] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics I.II Hendrickson Publishers p.260

[ii] Ibid, p.321

[iii] Ibid, p.258

[iv] Ibid, p.260

[v] Ibid, p.258

[vi] Ibid, p.260

Image credit: Tim Marshall, Unsplash.com

Of all the points of parallel relevance the past has with modern society, there are sometimes moments when historical parallels between past and present collide.

This nexus isn’t always clear or easy to acknowledge. The past may be misappropriated and misrepresented; hyped up to buttress a political agenda.

Key players manipulate the material in order to provoke a response, carefully steering reactions in a particular direction for political gain.

Throughout history the Christian Church has come up against this, battling forces within and without. Along the halls of Church History can be found the graffiti of false prophets, corrupt leaders, anti-Christs, and, the more surreptitious, pseudo-christs.

There have, for example, been a number of notorious examples of cults, false prophecies and dates given asserted to be the exact return of Jesus Christ and the end of days.

Like freedom, truth has to be fought for. Like freedom, the greatest threat to truth is the corruption of it.

One of the great positives of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, is that he provides an insight into the secularized church mindset. The, politically necessary fake-it-to-maintain-it, surface only profession of, in Machiavelli’s context, faith in Jesus Christ in order to maintain status, power, control and influence over the people.

‘There is nothing more important than appearing religious. In general people judge more by appearances than first-hand experience , because everyone gets to see you but hardly anyone deals with you directly. Everyone sees what you seem to be, few have experience of who you really are, and those few won’t have the courage to stand up to the majority opinion underwritten by the authority of the state.’ [i]

Social media provides the most poignant example of where a nexus between past and present exists. Just as Machiavelli, half mockingly describes politicians and the socio-political mix of his time, for a good majority, appearance is placed over substance.

Seeming to be something, or be doing something is part of the rule of the day. Today, it’s correct, politically incorrect, label is “virtue signalling”.

The nexus isn’t easy to see because it’s feared. Learning from the past empowers responsible action in the present. When allowed to speak freely, the truth of the past secures the future.

Either the truth of the nexus is too close for comfort, or what confronts us isn’t in line with political narratives that shape, and seek to shape, the way people think, act and speak.

Ideas that are deified, demanding an absolute pledge of allegiance to those, who by blurred distinctions, coerce the surrender of tried and trusted systems that ensure basic civic freedoms. Those who bind truth to lies with threats to deny those civic freedoms under the guise of treason.

God’s Word as law, given in grace is supplanted. Man’s word as law, given to enslave, is enthroned. Chiseled into existence with the arrogant proclamation, “God is dead”. This jubilant euphoria at man triumphant; God conquered, is, however, short lived.

The great evil committed in the Garden, now cemented in the creeds of an incorporated and thought-to-be newfound lordlessness. The regression towards a pre-Christ primal atheism strikes a devastating blow against humanity.Those this side of all of histories examples, say with lament, “man is dead”.

Human lords are divided,

‘no longer able so unambiguously to distinguish the light of Lucifer from the light of God […] Humankind has got what it wants; it has become creator, source of life, fountain head of the knowledge of good and evil […] it is the lord of its own world.’ [ii].

This was the case in Germany throughout the 1930’s: “To the good Nazi not even God stands before Hitler” [iii] Humanity becomes the source of good and evil; ‘living out of it’s own resources'[iv] in a rejection of God’s grace. The fickle motion of whim, feeling, and lust, combined with a reasoned insanity. Humanity strikes a devastating blow against itself.

Examples of this can be seen in how some modern proponents utilize Religion or ideology to justify their rejection of God’s Lordship in Jesus Christ. Via claims to superior, “inside” knowledge or the Darwinian excuse that the strong determine the treatment (mistreatment) of the weak.

Helmut Gollwitzer, in response to the so-called, reasoned insanity, of ‘Kristallnacht’ (Night of broken glass/crystal) preached:

”Those who cannot admit their guilt before God can no longer do so before men and women. Then begins the insanity of persecution that seeks to make the other person into the devil in order to make themselves into a god. Where repentance stops, inhumanity begins; there all common bonds shatter even while one tries to strengthen them through tenacious self-justification and self-pardon’ [v]
– (November 1938, Berlin, Sermon: ‘About Kristallnacht’ )

In the progressive quest to work for God, or alternatively ignore God, we find elements which seek emancipation from God.

Consequently, the biblical promise of a ‘newness of life’ (Romans 6:4) is replaced with a mystical fog or a reason induced cold pragmatism. Most often affirmed by an esoteric elitism who, hiding behind entitlement, choice, nature and good intentions, hypocritically end up forcing a tyrannical ‘denial of life’ upon humanity.

Ultimately, the charade is found wanting and sinful humanity is once again reminded of its tendency to parade darkness behind a veil of light.

No matter how hard we try, we cannot apprehend that which can only be given to us.

Humanity remains unfree in the ignorance and futility of its quest to be free from the Creator, who has and still does, have a right to His creation. By enforcing His right the Creator appears as powerless. In mercy, He lowers Himself in order to raise us up.

‘Freedom to be for God is not a freedom which we have taken, but a freedom which God has given to us in His mercy’ [vi]

Our lack of  sensitivity and response to God’s approach i.e.: our lack of ‘receptivity to revelation through gratitude and humble recognition’[vii], leads to a rejection of God and His freedom.

Humanity is triumphant only because God triumphed! Without God, nothing. For ‘God gives of God’s own life, of God’s Spirit. Human beings do not live as human beings apart from God’s Spirit.’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation & Fall p.79)

“Extract us from sin, He Who dwells in the heavens
as the sun sets, call to those who pass through fire and water
Next Year in Jerusalem.” (source)


References:

[i] Machiavelli, N. 1532, The Prince Penguin Classics, 2011, (p.71)

[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. DBW 3:Creation & Fall

[iii] Julien Bryan, Henry Luce & Louis de Rochermont, 1939. March Of Time: Inside Nazi Germany

[iv] Bonhoeffer, D. DBW 3: Creation and Fall

[v] Gollwitzer, H. 1938 in Stroud, D. (ed.) 2013 Preaching in Hitler’s shadow: Sermons of resistance, Wm.B Eerdmans Publishing p.120

[vi] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics I.II Hendrickson Publishers p.260

[vii] ibid, 1938

YouTube: Jerusalem (Swedish Band): ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ from the album ‘Prophet‘, 1993

Image: United States Holocaust Museum, Kristallnacht

Il faut en finir.jpg2Karl Barth never ceases to confound his students or humble our feeble attempts to steer him in a particular political direction. One key example of this is a letter written in December 1939, to ‘The French Protestants’ at the outbreak of World War Two.

His words here are straight from the front, back towards the left and then on towards the right.

Barth is not advocating that the Church take up a “‘crusade’ against Hitler“. Rather that the Church repent and pray for a ‘just peace’. Choosing the better side of responsible action over against irresponsible action or worse, total inaction. Barth is calling for the Church to awaken; to turn from a politics of appeasement and blind compassion, in order to avoid the problems created when both are infused with good, but naïve intentions.

‘It would be regrettable if the Christian Churches, which in previous wars have so often and so thoughtlessly spoken the language of nationalism and militarism, should just in this war equally thoughtlessly decide to adopt the silence of neutrality and pacifism. The Churches  to-day should pray in all penitence and sobriety for a just peace…to bear witness to all the world that it is necessary and worth while to fight and suffer for this just peace’
(Barth in Loconte, J (Ed.) The End Of Illusions, 2004:157)

According to Joseph Loconte, Barth lamented the ‘Munich Agreement’ writing in his diary: ‘catastrophe of European liberty in Munich’ ibid:153). Adding in a letter to Czech soldiers that ‘resistance to Hitler, was service to Christ’ (ibid).

Also noting that the partial injustice of 1919, The Treaty of Versailles, made England and France ‘chiefly responsible for the  state of affairs which arose in Europe after 1919 – which in turn, as far as Barth sees it, makes them responsible, too, for making Hitler possible’ (ibid:156).

Although Barth prefers the term ‘just peace’, steering away from applying the phrase ‘just war’, he is advocating the latter. For instance: ‘Our generation would be answerable before God and before humanity if the attempt were not made to put an end to the menace of Hitler’. (ibid:156)

Other than reinforcing the important relevance of Barth to contemporary discussions. This letter shows that placing him into an ideological box, in order to serve an understanding of his theology, or using any conclusions drawn from that to advance the defence of utopian illusions or a benevolent ideological master, are deeply flawed. Such as being quick to claim that Barth was a sold-out pacifist.

Since there are parallels between his time and ours.Today’s Church needs to “get this”. It ought not fail to stand against sloppy sentimentalism, popular activism nor fail to act on the warnings which were so powerfully relevant for then, and are just as relevant to us today.

Barth asks:

‘Why have we heard and why do we continue to hear, and that not infrequently, voices of eschatological defeatism, a defeatism which appealing to the truth that “the whole world lies in the evil one,” busies itself almost cynically with asserting that Hitler’s present adversaries for their part are no saints either? The apprehension of the truth that God alone is holy will not excuse us from the duty of putting up resistance to-day.’ (ibid:157)
‘We must be prepared for God, just when we are acting in obedience to His command, to confront us with His own “Il faut en finir,” and again by His command to lead us to something wholly other… Done in this spirit of preparedness, our work of resistance will then be a good work…We are both allowed and obliged to know that God will reign in any case and the He makes no mistakes’ (ibid:161)

Loconte is right: ‘Any serious student of the 1930’s is struck by the familiarity of the debate’. (ibid:3)


Source:

Barth, K. 1939 First Letter to the French Protestants in Loconte, J. (Ed.) 2004 The End of Illusions  Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Image: French roughly translated in English as ‘We must/will end it’ or ‘We shall go on to the end.’

(Originally posted Jan. 2015)

.

Wings stretch and earth darkens.

From West to East, wrists to wood
From the river of bitter vinegar, to where it merges with blood from the north.

South past open flesh,
.                        before which mockery stood.

To where pierced feet meet;
.                        on branch intersecting branch;
.                        where branch kills the vine,
.                        and the vine is laid to rest.

All within the borders
.            of an empire, and an empire’s hornets’ nest.

To where silent spaces are professionally sealed
For fear of blind and impassioned zeal.

Before the scarlet X.
That marks the scarlet spot;

To the place where men and women,
.                  embalm the unforgettable
.                  with a burial cloth.

Look to the place forged by Light;
.       to the heart of where the darkened,
.       once received their sight.

To where the sudden presence of the messenger
disturbed the guards and the still of night.

There you’ll find that death
.         and boulder was no match for Light from Uncreated Light.

There the fire-born, who stands inside this broken enclave.
turns to humanity and sets its gaze.

“From God comes His own humiliation.
This; God’s self-limitation, now become your exaltation.

This unforgettable vertical collision,
lifts the now forgiven.

Therefore, rise as you are raised.

For I tell you the truth, He is Risen!”


(©RL2017)

‘In the person of Jesus Christ, in the death of the Son of God on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. God allowed this humiliation to come upon Himself and this exaltation to be the lot of the other, humanity […] God could not be more glorious as God than in this inconceivable humiliation of Himself to humanity, and the no less inconceivable exaltation of humanity to Himself.’ 

-(Karl Barth, CD. II:1 pp.662-664)

.

God paints with nature.

Though He isn’t a picture,
He’s involved in it.

Though behind this art,
He chooses to remain hidden;

choosing when and where to make Himself known
to His creation.

Revelation incarnate.
Spoken and unspoken.

Word made flesh,
via covenant, grasp and gracious breath

The knowledge of God begins with acknowledgement,
by way of The Presupposition;
the rock of Truth,
by which all truth is measured with precision.

Still this knowledge is limited.
God exists in freedom
and by this has chosen to voice His own self-limitation.

For the God of hope,
of Christ, joy, love, justice and peace
knows the deceptive heart of His once innocent,
now sin-ravaged beast.

Thus our struggle for an adequate human explanation.

For if we had gained His comprehensive capacity
It would intoxicate all of our faculties;
senses driven mad with lust for divine equality,
like a Nazi, I.S.,
or Bolshevik socialist.
God to become another power utility
conquered, killed; dissected in a laboratory.

We know because God speaks,
this is where He has chosen to meet.

This:

The wonder of God’s intention for creation;
God dies for our salvation – resurrection is vindication.
His master plan,
the centerpiece of His revelation
His beaten, torn and crucified Son,
the apocalypse of the anointed One.

Though darkness; Nothingness seeks to devour
to this Conqueror it has had to submit all it’s power.

This, the cross and the end of the abyss.

The final curtain call, where it will no longer exist.

So it is, with horror and jubilation,
creation groans in anticipation.
For rising through darkness is the proclamation

“On the third day God forged
our emancipation!”

Now reason states
that where He speaks, He exists;
therefore, then,
where He has spoken,
we ought to respond with both ears open.

So in faith, we join this decorated Victor
and the never ending chorus
of His decorous vista.


(RL2017)

‘Those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’ 

– (Isaiah 52:5; Romans 15:21)

This term for homeschool we’re walking through Romans. As a result of my own lesson preparations, I’ve found myself surrounded by some excellent statements that easily speak to the world today, as they did when they were first penned.

Here’s some interesting ones from Karl Barth on the difference between two of the four loves, eros & agape. They’re assembled from his discussion on pages 453 & 454.

(Summarizing Barth comes with the danger of misrepresenting Barth. So, I have rearranged some of the sequence so as to not impact negatively on the integrity of intention or his original meaning. I, in fact, consider both to be positively amplified by it):

‘Eros deceives. As a biological function it is now hot, then cold. Eros does not merely deceive: it is also uncritical. Agape on the other hand, consistently accepts and rejects. Only the love which is strong enough to abhor that which is evil can cleave to that which is good. Agape is therefore both sweet and bitter [involving a Yes & a No]. It can preserve peace; but it can also engage in conflict. Love forgets – and knows; forgives – and punishes; freely receives – & utterly rejects.’ [i]
(Barth on the Romans, 12:9)

I’m also working on a post about Paul’s imperative in Romans 12:9 to ‘hate evil and cleave to good’.

My starting point is a question:

a) How do we hate evil in a world that hates both hate, and hates anyone who proclaims that evil exists?

The follow-up:

b) How do we as Christians respond to those who simply, and sometimes, for no real good reason, contradict themselves in a curious secularized jihad of hate against hate?

Not only am I trying to engage with Barth on this subject, but I’m also working on bringing in Calvin, Spurgeon and Chrysostom.

Hopefully I can keep it at 800 words or less, but since putting pen to paper yesterday it’s looking likely to be over that.

Stay tuned! 🙂


[i] Barth, K. 1922, Epistle to the Romans, 12:9; Oxford University Press, assembled from pp.453 & 454

Image: Karl Barth with gun, via Faith-Theology.com