1.1 §5.4-6.2

In this week’s section I finally get back to understanding Barth…uh, I think. What I have figured out so far is that Barth founds almost every theological thought on the understanding that God is so, so, so ‘other-than.’ He then, in this section, adds to that foundation the ‘personal’ aspect of God’s word. Put in another way, Barth’s understanding of the God’s Word is that God is completely unknowable unless God personally speaks to an individual (usually in the place of the Church). There is one caveat though, God is so ‘other’ when his word brings revelation it simultaneously brings concealment, or, what I’d like to call un-revelation. Here’s Barth’s words:

“Mystery is the concealment of God in which He meets us precisely when He unveils Himself to us, because He will not and cannot unveil Himself except by veiling Himself.”

God is so ‘other,’ that if we, as creatures were to come into contact with God or God’s Word it would be disastrous. Matter of fact, it seems that the Word of God’s double function as revealer and concealer is the only way it could work. He says,

“It is good for us that God acts as He does and it could only be fatal for us if He did not, if He were manifest to us in the way we think right, directly and without veil…It would not be love and mercy but the end of us and all things if the Word were spoken to us thus.”

In order for us to understand and perceive God through the Word we must hold the distinction between form and content and never allow the line to blur. With that being said, Barth is clear, we should never attempt to combine the two and get a holistic understanding of God’s Word, this actually is ‘unchristian.’ We must remember that our thinking will always be ‘idealistic’ or ‘realistic’ and while this is not perfect it is the best that we can do. So as to not leave us bewildered and despondent Barth has a word of hope for humanity. The reality of faith allows humanity to navigate this ‘impossible’ (at least this is what I think Barth is saying since he calls the Word of God a miracle) moment. Of course, for Barth faith is not something we can conjure up but is something only God can give us. He says,

“Hence believing means either hearing the divine content of God’s Word even though nothing but the secular from  is discernible by us or it means hearing the secular from of God’s Word even though ony its divine content is discernible by us.”

Barth, it seems in this section, really wants the reader to get the fact that God has revealed things about the divine identity but we must be humble. I got the sense through this section that God’s identity is like the law (or is it theory?) that state one may know the location of a particle but not its speed or speed but not location. We know because God has made known but we must understand we are only so capable on knowing God.

God speaking is predicated only on God speaking there is nothing we can do to manufacture the act; even studying the Bible. He says,

“Hence one cannot lay down conditions which if observed guarantee hearing of the Word, There is no method by which revelation can be made revelation that is actually received, no method of scriptural exegesis which is truly pneumatic, i.e., which articulates the witness to revelation in the Bible to that degree rally introduces the Pneuma, and above all no method of living, rousing proclamation that truly comes home to the hearers in an ultimate sense.”

While there is something that I love about Barth, I could not get this thought out of my head while reading, “How does he know so much about God’s Word which is so mysterious? God must have told him, Lucky guy!”


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