Archives For Karl Barth


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!”


‘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.


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.


‘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

Following on from my last post, here’s one of my slightly edited, simple attempts, at fusing theological language with poetry, without fueling a natural theology. This is also, in part, a response to the photo my sons and I captured early one morning of the sun rising through mist, over our town’s one hundred year old train bridge.

The bridge yawns,

as each element warms to this season’s

dawning significance.

The mist is gently tapped.


slow movements bring it to its feet.

Blanket in tow,

this conduit of condensation rises,

drowsy from a nights good sleep.


it’s words are heard as a whisper;

a proclamation.

Announcing the renewed presence

of something far greater.


“I am the man who has seen affliction…but this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to and end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”

(Jeremiah, Lamentations 3:1 & 21-23, ESV)


‘We call upon God, because, and only because, He has answered before we call.’ 

(Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans, 1922, p.383)


Light from Uncreated Light RL2017


The drop in temperature
.     preceded the mist’s silken stroll.
Words sprinkled down.

Like snow, their slow fall,
.      caught on branch and leaf,
.      and these melting words,
.      filled the earth beneath.

The patient cascade of living water.
The colour of Christ’s red-royal-robe of white,
.      spelling out, “behold, life from uncreated life!”

The shimmering emphasis of divine repetition.
Wrestled from the hands of broken human volition.

The consequences of hot headed men, and power hungry women.
Those who’d left God for dead in their decisions.

Instead of cleaving themselves to God
.              cleaved God to their ideas
.              and in vain submission,
.                        let ideas become the god of
.                        their own self-justification;
.                        the mirror image of self,
.                        the deep evil in the Garden’s violation.

Failed gratitude
Warped considerations

All for approval and the prospect of substantial renumeration.
Though overlooked
.          Each quiet word, as if an earthen tremor.
.                   Each still small voice, as that of thunder
.                            Each cool puddle of water,
Filled with proclamation

Speaks only of emancipation:

.           “Behold, the dark advanc
“Behold, the dark advance of lordless night,
will unexpectedly be countered,
.            by the Lord of light from uncreated light!”


“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

(Romans 13:12-14)


.         ‘The Church is therefore enlightened by
.                the light of eternity, by light from light uncreated.
.                      The question is whether the Church is able to recognise this light’. 

(Karl Barth,1922 The Epistle to the Romans, [1933, p.374]).


artist-unknown-4_modified by RL2017Inner & outer peace is connected to the overcoming of evil with good. That fight for peace; for transformation of the heart and the renewing of the mind, begins with God and is the outworking of His dealings with us.

The strength and ability to fight that fight; to respond by taking in our hands the responsibility that is, even in our limited capacity, given to us, through His costly invitation, which grants us permission to participate, comes from the grace of God.

It is true, that He acts in His capacity as Master and true Lord over us, however, He is no master of puppets, nor does He will to be so [i]. In putting on ‘the armour of light’, (Rm.13:12-14)

Christians, through Jesus Christ, become what they, even in their own brokenness are: ambassadors of light.

‘According to Romans 12, there is a possibility of doing what the man torn by his inner distress cannot do […] This possibility is certainly not one which they can have of themselves […] Those who are in a state of inner disquiet can and must be peacemakers.’ (Karl Barth, CD 2/2:731) [ii]

To be Christian, doesn’t mean that we resign ourselves to ignorance, tyranny, blind compassion, or an oppressive ideological hegemony.

It means a realignment towards the One, who, on our behalf chose and chooses to correct, and challenge all ideological prisons that seek to nail distortions, disorder, and dysfunction, into the flesh of our entire existence.

Christian love, therefore, is knowing how, why and when to say “no”; as much as when, why and how to say “yes”. Christ did not preach or uphold an absolute ‘ethic of universal niceness.’

God is no master of puppets, nor does He will to be so.


[i] ‘…but the sovereignty which was to be confirmed and glorified was the sovereignty of His love, which did not will to exercise mechanical force, to move the immobile from without, to rule over puppets or slaves, but willed rather to triumph in faithful servants and friends, not in their overthrow, but in their obedience, in their own free decision for Him.’ (Barth, The Election of Jesus, CD II/II p.178)

[ii] Barth, K. 1942 The Goodness of the Decision of God, Church Dogmatics, Hendrickson Publishers – It should be noted here that Barth is not advocating a kind of stoic detachment from conflict; he isn’t advocating pacifism. Particularly one that seeks stand over the Prince of Peace, pacifying Him and God’s command. See p.717 of CD: 2:2, ‘…We cannot and should not spare either ourselves or others this conflict.But it can and will be rightly conducted  only as we recognise that in itself the command of God is the command of absolute peace, and that we can engage in strife only for the sake of peace.’

Artwork: Unknown artist. I, however, have edited this from the original.



Since reading the above quote, its been lingering in the back of my mind. So much so, that after posting it as a text on both Twitter and Facebook, I felt it needed more airplay. So, to really make it stand out, I decided make it into a bit of a meme.

My initial goal was to finish reading volume 2/2 at the end of last year. I still made significant progress and am nearing the end, but given other priorities that didn’t happen.

The journey through the text, overall, has coincided with some great opportunities to learn more about John Calvin and engage further in the controversial steps Barth took to place Jesus Christ in the centre of Calvin’s doctrine of election and pre-destination; what theologians call, a more definitive Christocentric view of election. Whereby Barth reforms and in doing so rejects the post-Calvin, hyper-Calvinist baggage attached to Calvin’s original intention and notably myopic [to be generous to Calvin, I lean more towards the word “incomplete”] doctrine of election.

For instance: our election is the election of Jesus Christ. This IS God’s electing. God’s will for us, that we should be with Him and He should be with us. As I’ve summed up this in the past, Jesus Christ, is God’s revolt against the disorder of the world.

Jesus represents all of humanity. There is no elite humanity. There is only grace and its command to follow. For all fall short of the glory of God and are raised to righteousness, and eternal life, in Jesus Christ. The distinction between unbeliever and believer remains. This distinction, though, is exactly as it infers, faith in Christ; those who call upon the name of the Lord – grace poured out upon us to empower us towards grateful obedience even in the midst of our ungrateful disobedience – this is the responsibility of our response to the irreversible election that God Himself has already lovingly decided and acted powerfully upon.

I could go on and probably will in a future post, but this, by itself, makes Church Dogmatics 2/2 one of the most interesting works from Barth.

However, while this part has sharpened of my own theological understanding, it’s the latter part of 2/2 that I’ve taken more of a shine to. What I’ve found interesting its Barth’s discussion on theological ethics; what it is; where it begins, and who it begins with. This is one of those specific areas where Barth’s political theology comes into a more obvious light. To justify that, it would require more room to explain it, than the 500 words I’ve aimed it here.

To fully understand what Barth means in the quote posted above, it’s helpful to look at where in his epic, Church Dogmatics, this falls.

Barth is talking about grace being both invitation and imperative, e.g.: Jesus calls us to follow. He goes on to discuss the responsibility of a human response to the grace of God, on the grounds of the Sermon on the mount and its close, affirming relationship with the Ten Commandments.

Ethics & morality as far as the biblical witness goes is grateful obedience; it is at its heart relational; it is lived out response to grace; to what has been done by the God who chooses to be for us. God commits to us, we are not only given the freedom to follow, but are commanded to do so.

It is not an idea that can be misconstrued by humanity and turned into a universal human principle and as such become a puffed up toxic human achievement empty of God.


Barth, K. 1942 The Command As The Decision Of God; The Definiteness of the Divine Decision, CD 2/2 The Doctrine of God, Hendrickson Publishers