Yesterday I finished reading Karl Barth’s first book (volume I/1) in his magnum opus The Church Dogmatics. And as before, today I want to present a “summary” of this work in the form of five quotes taken from it. Though a summary is nearly impossible for Barth, due to the dense complexity of his thought. However, these quote are presented here with the hopes of giving a taste of the brilliance of this book. The main subject of this work is the Word of God. This includes Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity, the foundation of which Barth finds in the event of Revelation (a.k.a Jesus Christ).
Several things however have been exclude from this summary. These include the prolegomena (or introduction) Barth writes for the whole dogmatics, his doctrine of the “three-fold Word of God”, and finally his exposition of parts of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. These sections are highly complex in themselves and cannot possibly be summarized in a single quote, and for this reason they are excluded from this summary.
Essentially, therefore, all I present here is Barth’s doctrine of the Trinity, as it is worked out in terms of revelation. Barth saw revelation as the basis of the doctrine of the Trinity, and therefore understood the Triune God as the Revealer, the event of Revelation, and the effect of Revelation. Or, in other words, as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So without further ado, here are five great quotes from CD I/1 which present this doctrine: (All page numbers are from the Hendrickson version. Brackets are my comments.)
#1 “Revelation in fact does not differ from the person of Jesus Christ nor from the reconciliation accomplished in Him. To say revelation is to say ‘the Word became flesh’.” (P. 119)
#2 “God reveals Himself. He reveals Himself through Himself. He reveals Himself. If we really want to understand revelation in terms of its subject, i.e., God, then the first thing we have to realize is that this subject, God, the Revealer, is identical with His act in revelation and also identical with its effect.” (P. 296)
#3 “Thus it is God Himself, it is the same God in unimpaired unity, who according to the biblical understanding of revelation is the revealing God, the event of revelation and its effect on man.” (p. 299)
[or, in other words, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit]
#4 “The doctrine of the Trinity is what basically distinguishes the Christian doctrine of God as Christian…” (p. 301)
#5 “One may sum up the meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity briefly and simply by saying that God is the One who reveals Himself.” (p. 380)
Bonus quote: “We do the bible poor and unwelcome honor if we equate it directly with revelation itself.” (p. 112)
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