All posts in “Quotes”

God is Love in Himself (Karl Barth CD I/2)

Here’s a wonderful little quote from Karl Barth; enjoy!

“We will now try to give the briefest possible outline of what the love of God is which is the real basis of our love to God, determining its character. One thing is certain, that according to Holy Scripture it has nothing to do with mere sentiment, opinion or feeling. On the contrary, it consists in a definite being, relationship and action. God is love in Himself. Being loved by Him we can, as it were, look into His ‘heart.’ The fact that He loves us means that we can know Him as He is. This is all true. But if this picture-language of ‘the heart of God’ is to have any validity, it can refer only to the being of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It reminds us that God’s love for us is an overwhelming, overflowing, free love. It speaks to us of the miracle of this love. We cannot say anything higher or better of the ‘inwardness of God’ than that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and therefore that He is love in Himself without and before loving us, and without being forced to love us. And we can say this only in the light of the ‘outwardness’ of God to us, the occurrence of His revelation. It is from this that we have to learn what is the real nature of the love of God for us.”

(CD I/2, 377)

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St. Augustine VS Jürgen Moltmann (On Loving God)

Today we continue “Moltmann-March” with a quote contrasting Moltmann’s understanding of loving God as gladly existing, and Augustine’s understanding of loving God as rejecting existence and hiding in the innermost self. This quote comes from Moltmann’s excellent book The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of LifeFor other recommended books by Moltmann, check out last week’s article.

For now, enjoy this fascinating match-up between Jürgen Moltmann and St. Augustine on loving God!


“One evening I read the following passage in Augustine’s Confessions. Augustine says:

“‘But what do I love when I love you? Not the beauty of any body or the rhythm of time in its movement; not the radiance of light, so dear to our eyes; not the sweet melodies in the world of manifold sounds; not the perfume of flowers, ointments and spices; not manna and not honey; not the limbs so delightful to the body’s embrace: it is none of these things that I love when I love my God. And yet when I love my God I do indeed love a light and a sound and perfume and food and embrace—a light and sound and perfume and a food and an embrace in my inward self. There my soul is flooded with a radiance which no space can contain; there a music sounds which time never bears away; there I smell a perfume which no wind disperses; there I taste a food that no surfeit embitters; there is an embrace which no satiety severs. It is this that I love when I love my God.’ (X.6, 8)

And that night I answered him:

“When I love God I love the beauty of bodies, the rhythm of movements, the shining of eyes, the embraces, the feelings, the scents, the sounds of all this protean creation. When I love you, my God, I want to embrace it all, for I love you with all my senses in the creations of your love. In all the things that encounter me, you are waiting for me. 

“For a long time I looked for you within myself and crept into the shell of my soul, shielding myself with an armour of inapproachability. But you were outside—outside myself—and enticed me out of the narrowness of my heart into the broad place of love for life. So I came out of myself and found my soul in my senses, and my own self in others.

“The experience of God deepens the experiences of life. It does not reduce them. For it awakens the unconditional Yes to life. The more I love God, the more gladly I exist. The more immediately and wholly I exist, the more I sense the living God, the inexhaustible source of life and eternal livingness.”

(The Source of Life, p. 87-8 emphasis mine)

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Karl Barth on “God is Love”

barth-god-is-loveAs those of you who follow me on either Facebook or Twitter know, I am currently reading Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics volume II/1 and posting some of my favorite quotes along the way with the hashtag #Barth21. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along so far through this magnificent book. I’m about 33% of the way through, so there are still plenty of great quotes to come.

I wanted to share an extended quote I read today in which Barth discusses the being of God as the One who loves. This is a beautiful section, containing many great insights. Enjoy!

(Quotes are from the Hendrickson Publishers 2010 edition. Italics are original; bold is mine.)

Karl Barth on “God is Love”

“God is He who, without having to do so, seeks and creates fellowship between Himself and us.” (273)

[God] wills to be ours, and He wills that we should be His. He wills to belong to us and He wills that we should belong to Him. He does not will to be without us, and He does not will that we should be without Him. He wills certainly to be God and He does not will that we should be God. But He does not will to be God for Himself nor as God to be alone with Himself. He wills as God to be for us and with us who are not God. …He does not will to be Himself in any other way than He is in this relationship. His life, that is, His life in Himself, which is originally and properly the one and only life, leans towards this unity with our life. The blessings of His Godhead are so great that they overflow as blessings to us, who are not God. This is God’s conduct towards us in virtue of His revelation.” (274)

I love this! God is so for the human race that God wills not only to be God in Himself, but, without having to do so, God becomes our God and makes us His people. This is the depths of God’s love for us. These statements come after Barth works through the concept of God’s being in God’s act, of God as the “self-moved” God. Accordingly, who God is towards us is who God is in Himself, God’s act is God’s being. God loving us is therefore not just a part of who God is or a part of what God has done for us, God loving us is who God is, God is this God, the God who wills not to be God without us, who wills us not to be human beings without Him.

From this Barth continues, explaining that God is this way in Himself, that God is not a solitary, or lonely being, but that God is a fellowship in Himself. In other words, that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

“As and before God seeks and creates fellowship with us, He wills and completes this fellowship in Himself. In Himself He does not will to exist for Himself, to exist alone. On the contrary, He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and therefore alive in His unique being with and for and in another. The unbroken unity of His being, knowledge and will is at the same time an act of deliberation, decision and intercourse. He does not exist in solitude but in fellowship. Therefore what He seeks and creates between Himself and us is in fact nothing else but what He wills and completes and therefore is in Himself. It therefore follows that as He receives us through His Son into His fellowship with Himself, this is the one necessity, salvation, and blessing for us, than which there is no greater blessing—no greater, because God has nothing higher than this to give, namely Himself; because in giving us Himself, He has given us every blessing. We recognize and appreciate this blessing when we describe God’s being more specifically in the statement that He is the One who loves. That He is God—the Godhead of God—consists in the fact that He loves, and it is the expression of His loving that He seeks and creates fellowship with us. It is correct and important in this connexion to say emphatically His loving, i.e., His act as that of the One who loves.” (275)

It is because God is in Himself this fellowship, is in Himself the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that God creates fellowship with us. God’s blessing to us is His giving us the highest good: Himself. It’s because God is this God in Himself that God loves us and creates fellowship with us. God could not love us or have fellowship with us if God were not in Himself love and fellowship, thus God must be this Triune God in the loving fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. A unitarian God, a solitary God, cannot love or be in fellowship with another. Only the Triune God can properly love out of His very being and nature. 1

From this Barth moves to an exegesis of that famous passage in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” Barth brilliantly notes that the context of this verse gives far more meaning to it than the phrase is often given. We tend to shortchange the idea that God is love when we forget the context this statement comes in. Barth explains:

“The tempting definition that ‘God is love’ seems to have some possible support in 1 Jn. 4:8. But it is a forced exegesis to cite this sentence apart from its context and without the interpretation that is placed on it by its context, and to use it as the basis of a definition. We read in v. 9: ‘In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.’ Again we are told in v. 10 (with a remarkable similarity of prediction): ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.’ And finally in v. 15: In this we have knowledge and faith in the love that God has for us, that we confess ‘that Jesus is the Son of God.’ The love of God, or God as love, is therefore interpreted in 1 Jn. 4 as the completed act of divine loving in sending Jesus Christ.” (275)

We tend to quote the phrase “God is love” and misuse it as a kind of abstract definition we can fulfill. We say God is love but then we define love ourselves, making God into whatever we’d like Him to be. But here Barth insists upon saying that this means, properly, that God has sent Jesus Christ for our sakes. John 3:16 also defines love in this way; that God loves means that God sends His Son for our sakes. God’s love is not an abstract definition we can fill with whatever we want to say, defining it by ourselves. God’s love is God’s definition, and only God can define it, and has, in sending Jesus Christ for our sakes.

Conclusion

In these quotes Barth has brilliantly and beautifully painted a picture of God as the One who loves, the One who wills not to be God without us. This may be one of my new favorite Barth quotes! I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well.

Keep following along with #Barth21 by liking my Facebook page and following me on Twitter. Cheers!

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Notes:

  1. This is a point I bring up in the first chapter of my book, We Belong: Trinitarian Good News. Check it out for more.

#KBRomans – Quotes from Reading Barth’s Romans

41y3kd5arZL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_A few weeks ago I read Karl Barth’s classic The Epistle to the Romans and posted quotes to my Twitter and Facebook pages. I posted these with the hashtag #KBRomans. I had a blast doing it and seeing the responses from everyone online. Generally speaking I really enjoyed this book, although, as even Barth writes in the introduction, there are things I think were over emphasized. But it is a product of its time, and an very important one at that.

This book is one of Barth’s most well-known, though as much as I have read Barth and written much about him here, I had not read it up until now. The book launched Barth’s theological career, and is without a doubt a fascinating book. It’s one that Barth himself later moved beyond and would come to disagree with much of it, but I enjoyed it. Here I wanted to compile some of my favorites, as well as some comments on them. Enjoy!

#KBRomans Quotes

“If I have a system, it is limited to a recognition of what Kierkegaard called the ‘infinite qualitative distinction’ between time and eternity…” (p 10)

Here’s a summary of Barth’s primary theme in Romans. Kierkegaard finds his way into the book often, and this idea of the distinction between us and God, of time and eternity, is prevalent for the entire commentary.

“And so, when we set God upon the throne of the world, we mean by God ourselves.” (p 44)

Here Barth is crushing natural theology with a devastating blow. When we posit God as the “highest good” of our world, as the “ultimate concern” of our humanity, we do not have the God and Father of Jesus Christ—we have ourselves situated on the throne. When we “speak of God by speaking of man with a loud voice” (Barth) we practice idolatry. We set ourselves in the place of God when God is enthroned in our world. God must be seen above our world, transcendent even in His imminence.

“‘Jesus Christ our Lord.’ This is the Gospel and the meaning of history.” (p 29)

“Only when grace is recognized to be incomprehensible is it grace.” (p 31)

Barth has several “grace is…” “faith is…” statements in Romans, but this one is just brilliant. We have a human tendency to make grace natural, but Barth reminds us that grace is always incomprehensible because it is God’s grace. Bonhoeffer called the kind of grace we give ourselves “cheap grace”. But I don’t want the kind of grace I can give myself. We can’t live by human grace. Only by the grace of God, which is mystery, miracle, and incomprehensible.

“Grace is the gift of Christ, who exposes the gulf which separates God and man, and, by exposing it, bridges it.” (p 31)

Another great “grace is…” remark. Barth has often said that grace is never without judgement, that judgement is never without grace. When God acts graciously towards us in Jesus Christ to reconcile us to Himself He at once exposes our sinful condition, He judges it, but only in the act of reconciliation. This is why Barth later develops a revolutionary doctrine of sin in the light of Jesus Christ.

“The Gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question-mark against all truths. […] Anxiety concerning the victory of the Gospel—that is, Christian Apologetics—is meaningless because the Gospel is the victory by which the world is overcome.” (p 35)

This is one of the most fascinating remarks in the book. Barth rejects apologetics as an attempt to remove the impossibility of the gospel, to make grace natural. Why do we believe? We do not know, only that because we believe we believe by pure miracle, i.e., by grace.

“[The Gospel] is the signal, the fire-alarm of a coming, new world.” (p 38)

“Faith is awe in the presence of the divine incognito…” (p 39)

“Our relation to God is ungodly. We suppose that we know what we are saying when we say ‘God’.”(p 44)

I like this quote. It’s another crushing attack against natural theology. If we take seriously this qualitative distinction between God and man, then our relationship with God can only be ungodly, or in Paul’s terms “unrighteous”. We do not know what “God” is. Only as God reveals Himself to us and sets us right (revelation and reconciliation) can we know who God is.

“The enterprise of setting up the ‘No-God’ [of natural theology] is avenged by its success.” (p 51)

Natural theology is avenged by its success. Those who wish to posit a God in the image of mankind suffer in their success: they are given over to a God who looks like they do. But I for one do not want a God who looks like me. Give me the God and Father of Jesus Christ or no God at all.

“God does not live by the idea of justice with which we provide Him. He is His own justice.” (p 76)

“[God] declares that He has espoused our cause, and that we belong to Him.” (p 101)

One of the most powerful things I learned from Barth in CD IV/1 is that in Jesus Christ God has taken up our cause as His own. This is how fully we belong to Him.

“[God] is the death of our death and the non-existence of our non-existence. He makes alive and calls all things into being.” 

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Another great “grace is…” quote. From page 207.

“[Adam] exists only when he is dissolved, and he is affirmed only when in Christ he is brought to nought.” (p 171)

For Barth, Adam’s fall takes place in Christ’s world, Christ’s redemption does not take place in Adam’s world. See this article for more.

“Faith is the possibility which belongs to men in God, in God Himself and only in God when all human possibilities have been exhausted.” (p 202)

“Men [and women] can apprehend their unredeemed condition only because they stand already within the realm of redemption.”

“[Men and women] know themselves to be sinners only because they are already righteous [in Christ].”

“God has justified Himself in our presence and us in His presence.” (p 150)

Barth writes in CD IV/1 that the first act of justification is God’s justification of Himself in the raising of Jesus Christ. Here he seems to echo a similar point.

“I am transformed, renewed, purified, made a participator of the divine nature, of the divine life, in Him. This is adoption.”

“If Christianity be not altogether thoroughgoing eschatology, there remains in it no relationship whatever with Christ.” (p 314)

Barth sounding a bit Moltmannian with this one! It’s a shame Barth never completed his final volume on eschatology (the planned CD V).

“Faith is miracle. Otherwise it is not faith.” (p 366)

“To know God means to stand in awe of Him and to be still in the presence of Him that dwells in light unapproachable.” (p 463)

Conclusions

And there you have it. These were just some of my favorites from Barth’s Romans, quotes that I tweeted during my #KBRomans tweeting season! Feel free to check out the rest of the quotes at the hashtag #KBRomans on Facebook or Twitter.

 Which book should I do next? I’ve thought of either Barth’s CD II/1 or possibly TF Torrance’s Trinitarian Faith as two options for the next Twitter/Facebook quote session! Which do you think I should do? Let me know in a comment below! I hope you enjoyed #KBRomans.

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Karl Barth on Universalism

Paradiso_Canto_31Karl Barth responds to the question of universalism directly, though briefly, in his short book The Humanity of GodHis response to the question of universalism is brilliant, and perhaps one of the best pictures of how he understood universalism. It’s an often debated subject: whether or not Barth was a universalist. 1 I personally would argue that he is not, but here, in Barth’s own words, is a beautiful response to the question.

Does this mean universalism? I wish here to make only three short observations, in which one is to detect no position for or against that which passes among us under this term.

“1. One should not surrender himself in any case to the panic which this word seems to spread abroad, before informing himself exactly concerning its possible sense or non-sense.

“2. One should at least be stimulated by the passage, Colossians 1:19, which admittedly states that God has determined through His Son as His image and as the first-born of the whole Creation to ‘reconcile all things to himself,’ to consider whether the concept could not perhaps have a good meaning. The same could be said of parallel passages.

“3. One question should for a moment be asked, in view of the ‘danger’ with which one may see this concept gradually surrounded. What of the ‘danger’ of the eternally skeptical-critical theologian who is ever and again suspiciously questioning, because fundamentally always legalistic and therefore in the main morosely gloomy? Is not his presence among us currently more threatening than that of the unbecomingly cheerful indifferentism or even antinomianism, to which one with a certain understanding of universalism could in fact deliver himself? This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before.” 2


What a fantastic answer!

We might break down these three points like this. First, Barth argues that we should avoid the gut-reaction common to the term universalism (especially among evangelicals). I take this to mean that Barth wants us not to immediately dismiss the idea as heretical just because that’s what we’ve been told about it. Second, if we take the scriptures seriously we cannot help but at least find ourselves stimulated by the idea of universalism, as there are certainly universalist tendencies in the scriptures. And finally, universalism, at the end of the day, is far more preferable over doom-and-gloom pessimism! That is perhaps the more serious error. But if we’re going to error, isn’t it better to error on the side of God’s loving-kindness? to “understand [God’s love] as being still greater than we had seen before”, rather than to error on the side of pessimism in which universalism is dogmatically impossible? The possibility of universalism may not be a perfect one, but it is a far better alternative to dogmatic pessimism!

All these three points could, in other words, be summarized by Barth’s most famous statement on universalism, “I don’t teach it [universalism], but I don’t not teach it.” Barth said it himself: he takes no position either for or against universalism.

It is this emphasis that I find so compelling, especially since this subject is all too often dealt hastily with cheap and quick yes or no answers. I admire that Barth leaves the question open and unanswered. It’s a sign of respect for God, I believe. Ultimately, I think this is the best way to understand Barth’s position towards universalism: it is an open, unanswerable question. He cleverly is giving us a non-answer here. I don’t think he was afraid of the question, I think Barth genuinely considered it unanswerable, as any attempt to dogmatically answer it is, ultimately, I think, an attempt to play God. Who will know in the end what will take place? Only God can, and will, answer the question of universalism. But we can and should have hope for it, or at least not be so quick to dismiss it as many do today!

It is an open question, one which we can hope for, but never dogmatically assert. The error of dogmatic assertion is on both sides here, as Barth rightly warns us. To dogmatically claim that salvation/redemption is not universal is just as problematic as to dogmatically claiming that it is universal.  We can hope for it, but we cannot try and “play God” and thus divine what the outcome will be. Although, as Moltmann pointed out, our hope is a “certain” hope, founded on the cross of Christ. So it is not merely a “wishing for the best,” but a definite hope in what God has done in Jesus Christ and will do for all humanity.

What do you think of Barth’s answer? Is this a brilliant way to answer the question, or just a nonsense answer? In your reading of Barth, would you say he’s a universalist? Leave me a reply in the comments!

(P.S. The Humanity of God is this month’s free book for those of you in my Readers Group! If you’re not a part of my mailing list, you should be. You get free books like this each month, plus my book Where Was God free right away! Sign up here.)

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Notes:

  1. One of the best articles on the subject is Roger Olsen’s.
  2. The Humanity of God, John Knox Press, 1960, pp. 61-2

Barth on “Adam and Christ” vs. “Christ and Adam”

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The following is a quote from Karl Barth’s short book on Romans 5. In this Barth argues that the proper order we have to think through is not “Adam and Christ” but “Christ and Adam”. That is to say, Christ first then Adam, and therefore Adam only in the light of Christ. This reframes the doctrine of sin and the doctrine of atonement by placing the justification of the sinner first before the knowledge of sin and of the sinner, because, as Barth later argues in the Church Dogmatics, we can only know sin in the light of the One who conquered it! Furthermore, as best shown here, Barth also argues that the fundamental nature of human beings is not in Adam but in Christ. Since this order is reverse, since we know Adam only in the light of Christ, we likewise can only know ourselves and human nature in the light of Christ. (Bold text is mine.)

“The meaning of the famous parallel (so called) between ‘Adam and Christ,’ which now follows, is not that the relationship between Adam and us is the expression of our true and original nature, so that we would have to recognize in Adam the fundamental truth of anthropology to which the subsequent relationship between Christ and us would have to fit and adapt itself. The relationship between Adam and us reveals not the primary but only the secondary anthropological truth and ordering principle. The primary anthropological truth and ordering principle, which only mirrors itself in that relationship, is made clear only through the relationship between Christ and us. Adam is, as is said in v. 14, typos toumellontos, the type of Him who was to come. Man’s essential and original nature is to be found, therefore, not in Adam but in Christ. In Adam we can only find it prefigured. Adam can therefore be interpreted only in the light of Christ and not the other way round.

For Christ who seems to come second, really comes first, and Adam who seems to come first really comes second. In Christ the relationship between the one and the many is original, in Adam it is only a copy of that original. Our relationship to Adam depends for its reality on our relationship to Christ. And that means, in practice, that to find the true and essential nature of man we have to look not to Adam the fallen man, but to Christ in whom what is fallen has been cancelled and what was original has been restored. We have to correct and interpret what we know of Adam by what we know of Christ, because Adam is only true man in so far as he reflects and points to the original humanity of Christ.

(Christ and Adam: Man and Humanity in Romans 5pp. 39-40 and pp. 74-5, Collier Books ed. 1962)

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Happy 130th Birthday, Karl Barth!

Karl_Barth_DeskKarl Barth was born 130 years ago today. It’s no secret that I greatly admire the theologian, so today I wanted to celebrate him by sharing some of my favorite quotes. But first, I’ll say a bit about why I admire Karl Barth as much as I do.

Karl Barth was a theologian of joy. He famously said, “The theologian who labors without joy is not a theologian at all.” Joy is essential to the work of theology, if sadly today few have learned this lesson from Barth. When I read Barth one of the most striking things about his work is how full of life and joy it is. He does not write as a man without hope, he writes of the living God, the God who is present with us, who is for mankind, the God of Jesus Christ. And because of all this, Barth writes with the most profound joy.

Karl Barth was a theologian of Jesus Christ. Central to his theology is Jesus. It’s a aptly applied joke about Barth to say: “The answer is Jesus, what’s the question?” Reading the Church Dogmatics especially highlights this christological focus. As one of his students, Thomas F. Torrance, puts it, “There is no God behind the back of Jesus Christ.” This is central for Barth, and one of the aspects of his theology that I have learned from the most.

Karl Barth was a genius. This is obvious to anyone who reads even the smallest of his works. The stunning brilliance and creativity and discipline with which he was able to produce such an astonishing body of work goes without saying for anyone who’s studied Barth. It’s what makes him so difficult at times, but it’s also what makes him so profoundly simple.

I personally owe much to Karl Barth, as he’s helped shape my own thinking about God tremendously, but so does the church today. He has moved theology forward in tremendous lengths, and anyone who engages with theology in the future must also engage with Karl Barth.

But to all this talk of appreciation and of his greatness, Karl Barth would say, “Nein!” He was above all a humble theologian. He was not interested in calling himself great, though history will remember him this way. And this final point is why I respect him even more, he was humble, always realizing that to do theology meant above all else worshiping God and giving Him glory. His work always has this doxological characteristic to it, it is worship. As Jürgen Moltmann once said about it, when he was asked why Barth would write 9,000 pages in the Church Dogmatics, he responded that the whole Dogmatics could be summarized on half a page, yet, “The rest is worship.” 1

Quotes

It’s hard to say what my favorite quotes from Barth are because there are so many, Barth was incredibly quotable. But here are just some of my favorites that I could find, and they offer a good insight into Barth in celebration of his birth. So happy birthday, Karl Barth!

 “In the fourth place, the God of the Gospel is no lonely God, self-sufficient and self-contained. He is no “absolute” God (in the original sense of absolute, i.e., being detached from everything that is not himself). To be sure, he has no equal beside himself, since and equal would no doubt limit, influence, and determine him. On the other hand, he is not imprisoned by his own majesty, as though he were bound to be no more than the personal (or impersonal) “wholly other.” […] Just as his oneness consists in the unity of his life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so in relation to the reality distinct from him he is free de jure and de facto to be the God of man. He exists neither next to man nor merely above him, but rather with him, by him, and most important of all, for him. He is man’s God not only as Lord but also as father, brother, friend; and this relationship implies neither a diminution nor in any way a denial, but, instead, a confirmation and display of his divine essence itself.” (Evangelical Theology, P. 10-11)

“A quite specific astonishment stands at the beginning of every theological perception, inquiry, and thought, in fact at the root of every theological word. This astonishment is indispensable if theology is to exist and be perpetually renewed as a modest, free, critical, and happy science. If such astonishment is lacking, the whole enterprise of even the best theology would canker at the roots. On the other hand, as long as even a poor theologian is capable of astonishment, he is not lost to the fulfillment of his task. He remains serviceable as long as the possibility is left open that astonishment may seize him like an armed man.” (Evangelical Theology, P. 64)

“Whoever begins to concern himself with theology also begins to concern himself from first to last with wonders.” (Evangelical Theology, P. 65)

“The content of God’s Word is his free, undeserved Yes to the whole human race, in spite of all human unreasonableness and corruption.” (Evangelical Theology, P. 79)

“Theological work can be done only in the indissoluble unity of prayer and study. Prayer without study would be empty. Study without prayer would be blind.” (Evangelical Theology, P. 171)

“Without love, theological work would be miserable polemics and a waste of words.” (Evangelical Theology, P. 197)

“At the beginning of all theological perception, research, and thought—and also of every theological statement—stands a quite specific amazement. Its lack in even the best theologian will threaten the heart of the entire enterprise, while even bad theologians are not a lost cause in their service and their duty, as long as they are still capable of amazement.” (Insights, P. 3)

“The doctrine of election is the sum of the gospel because of all words that can be said or heard it is the best: that God elects man; that God is for man too the one who loves in freedom.” (Church Dogmatics II.2, P. 3)

“God’s eternal will is the election of Jesus Christ.” (Church Dogmatics II.2, P. 146)

“‘God with us’ is the centre of the Christian message—and always in such a way that it is primarily a statement about God and only then and for that reason a statement about us men.” (Church Dogmatics IV.1, P. 5)

“To say atonement is to say Jesus Christ.” (Church Dogmatics IV.1, P.158)

“I don’t teach universal reconciliation but I don’t not-teach it.”

“[Man] may let go of God, but God does not let go of him.” (Church Dogmatics II.2)

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Notes:

  1. I’m paraphrasing from this video.

Thomas F. Torrance on Preaching Christ Today

thomastorranceSeveral months ago I finished reading Thomas F. Torrance’s short book Preaching Christ Today. For anyone who’s never read Thomas Torrance, and perhaps feels too daunted by his academic strength, you should read this book. It is an excellent introduction to some of his most significant contributions to theology, and it highlights quite well why I love reading his work: T.F. Torrance is a scientific thinker because he is an evangelical thinker. He writes with this end in mind, to preach the gospel, to evangelize the world even in the discipline of modern science (which is often wrongly seen as an antithesis to theology). I have a lot of respect for what Torrance has done for theology, not only for the church but for my life personally. It was in Torrance that I first encountered an understanding of God that shattered all  my images of him, revealing himself to be a God of infinite grace and love. So without a doubt, this short book is an inspiring read as well. Just as Barth’s sermons to prisoners at Basel, Deliverance to the Captives, is a great starting point for his theology, so this book is great for Torrance. Today I wanted to put together several great quotes from the book that I enjoyed. (All quotes are from the 1994 Eerdmans edition.)

Quotes:

“This is the end to which my own life has been dedicated. What I have been trying to do is to show how the gospel can be taught and preached in ways that are faithful to the apostolic faith as it was brought to authoritative expression in the Nicene Creed, and at the same time may be taught and preached today in ways that can be expressed and appreciated within the scientific understanding of the created universe upon which God has impressed his Word and which under God was have been able to develop in modern times. Far from being hostile to one another, Christian theology and natural science are complementary to one another.” (Preface, vii)

“The real Jesus of history is the Christ who cannot be separated from his saving acts, for his person and his work are one, Christ clothed with his gospel of saving grace. The so-called Jesus of history shorn of theological truth is an abstraction invented by a pseudo-scientific method.” (P. 9)

“What overwhelms me is the sheer humanness of Jesus, Jesus as the baby at Bethlehem, Jesus sitting tired and thirsty at the well outside Samaria, Jesus exhausted by the crowds, Jesus recuperating his strength through sleep at the back of a ship of Galilee…for that precisely is God with us and one of us, God as ‘the wailing infant’ in Bethlehem, as Hilary wrote, God sharing our weakness and exhaustion, God sharing our hunger, thirst, tears, pain, and death… He does not override our humanity but completes, perfects, and establishes it.” (p. 13)

“In giving his own dear Son to die for us in atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, God has revealed that he loves us more than he loves himself.” (p. 28)

“In him we believe that God himself has come into the midst of our human agony and our abominable wickedness and violence in order to take all our guilt and our just judgement on himself. That is for us the meaning of the cross. If I did not believe in the cross, I could not believe in God. The cross means that, while there is no explanation of evil, God himself has come into the midst of it in order to take it upon himself, to triumph over it and deliver us from it.” (p. 29)

“Faith in Christ involves a polar relation between the faith of Christ and our faith, in which our faith is laid hold of, enveloped, and upheld in his unswerving faithfulness.” (p. 31)

“In far too much preaching of Christ the ultimate responsibility is taken off the shoulders of the Lamb of God and put upon the shoulders of the poor sinner, and he knows well in his heart that he cannot cope with it.” (p. 35)

“During those years what imprinted itself upon my mind above all was the discovery of the deepest cry of the human heart: Is God really like Jesus? This came home to me very sharply one day on a battle field in Italy, when a fearfully wounded young lad, who was only nineteen and had but half an hour to live, said to me, ‘Padre, is God really like Jesus?’ I assured him as he lay upon the ground with his life ebbing away that God is indeed really like Jesus, and that there is no unknown God behind the back of Jesus for us to fear, to see the Lord Jesus is to see the very face of God.” (p. 55)

That last quote always gets to me! This is why I read theology and attempt what little I can to write it, because the world needs to know this simple truth. God really is like Jesus! And few theologians have shown this fact better than Thomas F. Torrance.

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Not One – Good Friday Meditation

Isenheim Altarpiece

Happy Easter and a very blessed Good Friday to you!

I hope you have the time today to sit and meditate on what Jesus Christ has done for the human race in His death, resurrection, and ascension. This gospel is truly good news of great joy! Jesus became one of us rescuing us from death and sin by dying our death, raising us again to new life, and seating us with Him in heavenly places. Today calls for the celebration and remembrance of this marvelous truth!

Yesterday, I was reading Karl Barth, as I’ve mentioned before, in his Church Dogmatics volume IV.1. As I read I came across a magnificent passage I want to share with you today. Here Barth writes about the objective work of Jesus Christ for all people, what He has done on the cross for all mankind in justifying us and obliterating our sin. It is a beautiful passage on what Jesus has done for the human race, and I was struck with emotion when I read it. It is a perfect reminder as we contemplate and remember what Jesus has done for us! Enjoy!

If you’re looking for something to listen to today, I’ll be listening to the music of Arvo Pärt. Here’s an especially appropriate choral work called “Passio” which follows Johns account of the crucifixion. It’s very beautiful!

Enjoy!

Not One

“But the self-demonstration of the justified man to which faith clings is the crucified and risen Jesus Christ who lives as the author and recipient and revealer of the justification of all men. It is in Him that the judgement of God is fulfilled and the pardon of God pronounced on all men. …It happened that in the humble obedience of the Son He took our place, He took to Himself our sins and death in order to make an end of them in His death, and that in so doing He did the right, He became the new and righteous man. It also happened that in His resurrection from the dead He was confirmed and recognised and revealed by God the Father as the One who has done and been that for us and all men. As the One who has done that, in whom God Himself has done that, who lives as the doer of that deed, He is our man, we are in Him, our present is His, the history of man is His history, He is the concrete event of the existence and reality of justified man in whom every man can recognise himself and every other man—recognise himself as truly justified. There is not one for whose sin and death He did not die, whose sin and death He did not remove and obliterate on the cross, for whom He did not positively do the right, whose right He has not established. There is not one to whom this was not addressed as his justification in His resurrection from the dead. There is not one whose man He is not, who is not justified in Him. There is not one who is justified in any other way than in Him—because it is in Him and only in Him that an end, a bonfire, is made of man’s sin and death, because it is in Him and only in Him that man’s sin and death are the old thing which has passed away, because it is in Him and only in Him that the right has been done which is demanded of man, that the right has been established to which man can move forward. Again, there is not one who is not adequately and perfectly and finally justified in Him. There is not one whose sin is not forgiven sin in Him, whose death is not a death which has been put to death in Him. There is not one whose right has not been established and confirmed validly and once and for all in Him. There is not one, therefore, who has first to win and appropriate this right for himself. There is not one who has first to go or still to go in his own virtue and strength this way from there to here, from yesterday to to-morrow, from darkness to light, who has first to accomplish or still to accomplish his own justification, repeating it when it has already taken place in Him. …There is not one whose peace with God has not been made and does not continue in Him. There is not one of whom it is demanded that he should make and maintain this peace for himself, or who is permitted to act as though he himself were the author of it, having to make it himself and to maintain it in his own strength. There is not one for whom He has not done everything in His death and received everything in His resurrection from the dead.

Not one. That is what faith believes.”

(Karl Barth Church Dogmatics IV.1 Hendrickson Publishers, 2010, pp.629-630)

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Thomas F. Torrance on the Bible (11 Quotes)

LutherbibelA few weeks ago I finished reading Thomas Torrance’s book Reality and Evangelical TheologyIn this book, renowned theologian Thomas Torrance deals with an important issue, especially in today’s church: the bible.

How should we interpret the Scriptures?

Is the bible inerrant (perfect)? Or merely inspired?

Is the bible itself the truth or merely a witness to the truth?

I’ve already quoted the introduction of this book about fundamentalism and the scriptures (here), but I also wanted to post here my favorite quotes from the book. Not all of them have to do with scripture, but a large portion of them do. Later I plan to write an article about how this applies to the bible, but in the meantime enjoy these eleven quotes!

(All quotes are from the 1982 Westminster John Knox Pr. edition.) 

_____________

“The fact that, through the free grace of God, Jesus Christ is made our righteousness means that we have no righteousness of our own.” (P. 18)

“No one may boast in his own orthodoxy any more than he may boast of his own righteousness. Justification thus turns out to be the strongest statement of the objectivity of faith and knowledge.” (P. 18)

“If God is not inherently and eternally in himself what he is towards us in Jesus Christ, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then we do not really or finally know God at all as he is in his abiding Reality.” (P. 24)

“…Since God has irreversibly incarnated his self-revelation in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, there cannot be two ways to knowledge of God, one in Jesus Christ and another behind his back, but only one way, through Christ and in his Spirit.” (P. 34)

“The development of fluid axioms which are continually open to change and renewal in the light of ever-deeper understanding of God means that the formulations of doctrine organized by reference to them must be open structures of thought and statement.” (P. 50)

“In a realist theology this will mean that we must distinguish no less sharply between dogmatic formulations of the truth and the truth itself, in the recognition that even when we have done all that it is our duty to do in relating them rightly (i.e., in an “orthodox” way) to the truth, they nevertheless fall far short of what they should be, and are inadequate. Indeed, it must be said that their inadequacy in this way is an essential part of their truth, in pointing away from themselves to the truth they serve, as it is an essential element in their objectivity in being grounded beyond themselves on reality that is independent of them.” (P. 50-1)

“The Holy Scriptures are the spectacles through which we are brought to know the true God in such a way that our minds fall under the compelling power of his self-evidencing Reality.” (P. 64-5)

“As such Jesus Christ is the Word through whom and with whom and in whom the true and faithful response of man is made to God and divine revelation completes the circle of its own movement.” (P. 86)

“Once and for all he [Jesus Christ] has become God’s exclusive language to man and he alone must be man’s language to God.” (P. 88)

“Strictly speaking, Christ himself is the scope of the Scriptures, so that it is only through focusing constantly upon him, dwelling in his Word and assimilating his Mind, that the interpreter can discern the real meaning of the Scriptures. What is required then is a theological interpretation of the Scriptures under the direction of their ostensive reference to God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ and within the general perspective of faith.” (P. 107)

“That is to say, biblical statements are to be treated not as containing or embodying the Truth of God in themselves, but as pointing, under the leading of the Spirit of Truth, to Jesus Christ himself who is the Truth. We have to recognize the fact, therefore, that the Scriptures indicate much more than can be expressed, and that there is much more to their truth than can be reduced to words.” (P. 119)

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