After having to take the last week off I am now back to comment on Bath’s last section that attempts to answer the question, “Is God knowable?” So far, his answer has been yes but no. No, that is, to the person who believes God is part of this creation and can be known like any other part of creation. He then went into explaining the that this is where the Church fits in to the whole scheme of things, that is, the Church is the place where God’s word is proclaimed. Obviously, then, if the Church is to proclaim God’s Word they must, in some sense, know God.
This is where faith, the much maligned word, comes in. For Barth, faith, “is the making possible of knowledge of God’s that takes place in actual knowledge of it.” (228) In other words, the only way that God may be known is through the path that is blazed between God and humanity by faith. But, don’t be fooled, faith is not simply believing God’s word to be true in the same way one may believe their spouse or parents. Faith, is the act that takes place when humanity acts on the Creator’s message, which is the word of Christ. The fact that faith is not naturally possible to humanity is non-negotiable to Barth and he makes this quite clear by saying,
“Faith is not one of the capacities of man, whether native or acquired. Capacity for the Word of God is not among these. The possibility of faith as it is given to man in the reality of faith can be understood only as one that is loaned to man by God.” (238)
He then goes on to say that it is only by keeping ones gaze fixed on God that this faith may be maintained. As soon as one begins to look at him or herself they loose the ability to trust God as their object has shifted from Christ to themselves. If one is able to stay focused on God, then faith becomes known as what it is, that is, experience. Faith is an act, not just thought, but thought that is followed by action to back up this thought about Christ. He says,
“The proof of faith is consists in the proclamation of faith…in faith and confession the Word of God becomes human thought and a human word.”
I have a couple of concluding thoughts about this section:
1) I really appreciate Barth’s emphasis on faith. Honestly, I am not sure that there is a way around the absolute fundamental value that faith plays on an argumentative and practical level. Faith is the thing I love and hate most about Christianity. It cannot be persuasively argued for. Any skeptic worth his salt will destroy faith because it proves nothing because faith, by definition, cannot be proved. Loftus’ Outsider’s Test for Faith is a good example of this.
2) Because of faith’s seemingly devious and malicious role in religion (you know, look at Benny Hinn’s followers who can’t even question the leader because it would be out of faith) it seems that Barth has followed the old line that faith must/have to be a gift of God. Humanity can’t know God or trust him without a miraculous intervention. This, then, leaves Christians off the hook for having to explain why some don’t encounter God and why some who ‘have’ don’t believe―it was the will of God. (I know, I know, the doctrine of Original Sin plays some part in this too, but I am not exactly sure what part yet.)
3) I just don’t buy that God has to provide the means to believe him. Sorry, really I am sorry, but I cannot find this claim to make sense. (Part of me wonders if Barth could either since I have heard his theology was headed toward universalism, but that is for another day.) Why can’t we believe? Do the Scriptures teach that humanity is that bad? One of the Issues that I have with Barth, so far, is that in an effort to equip the Church with a handbook he seems to smooth over the discontinuity in the NT so much that there is now only continuity. I really believe that the view he holds to can be found in the Scriptures but that is not the same a saying it is Scripture’s view (at least from my perspective!).