In prayer, he (the Christian) makes use of the freedom to answer the Father who has addressed him, or, to put it in another way, to go to meet the Father whose goodness he proceeds, or, to put it in yet another way, to give direct and natural expression of the truth of the situation in which the Christian finds himself as a Christian. When he prays, he puts himself in the position in which faith and obedience can always begin again at the beginning. As this primitive movement, prayer, which is the basis of all other activity, is included in obedience. It is itself the act of obedience par excellence, the act of obedience from which all other acts must spring. (Church Dogmatics III.3 49.4. p.265)
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“Faith itself cannot be without prayer, for, as we have already maintained, faith is neither a possession which is transferred to the Christian from without, nor is it a conviction which he has reached from within, but it is an act which is creaturely by nature, which fulfils itself in those two movements, but the fulfilment of which is anything but self-evident, needing the awakening of man by the Word of God. Therefore, it is inevitable that in faith, in the fulfilment of this act, God is always a surprise to man, and man a surprise to himself. Man stands amazed before the divine goodness which gives him the freedom for this act. And he stands amazed before all that it shows him—the fatherhood of God, his own sonship, and the right of sonship in the house of the Father as the Father confers it and he himself receives it. It is in this inevitable surprise that the faith of a Christian as such is also prayer—the prayer of thanksgiving and praise. Again, he stands amazed before the unmerited gift that he himself is actually enabled to believe, to believe this. And he can never understand how it is that he is able to do so, to receive this unmerited gift. Indeed, the more freely he can believe, and the more fully he receives in faith, the more he is conscious of his own inability and unworthiness, his own incapacity. It is in this surprise that his faith as such is prayer—the prayer of penitence and confession of penitence towards the great God who has done such things towards man, and still does so. And again, the Christian stands amazed before the nearness of God, and the superabundant wealth of all those things which call him to faith, and which as the gift of God are calculated to appease his hunger, to cover his nakedness, to make good his deficiencies. ” (Church Dogmatics, III.3 49.4. 252-253)
For Barth, the presupposition of the atonement is God’s original covenant with humanity – the atonement brings this to fulfillment in Jesus Christ. ‘He therefore fulfills and reveals the original and basic will of God, the first act of God, His original covenant with man.’ Because the atonement fulfills this original covenant of God it demonstrates that God has always been for humanity, that ‘God does not occupy a position of neutrality in relation to man.’
That is the covenant of God with man, from which He has bound and pledged Himself always to begin, and in virtue of which He has constituted Himself his God. And that is the presupposition of the atonement as revealed in its actualisation in Jesus Christ: the presupposition whose consequences are deduced in atonement; the presupposition which in the atonement is fulfilled in spite of the opposition of man. We do not postulate it. We do not grope for it in the void. We find it in that which has actually taken place in Jesus Christ. IV.1.2 p38
It is in act of atonement that God says ‘I will be your God and you will be my people.’ So, for Barth, this means two things. First, humanity cannot think of God except as the One who has established and fulfilled this covenant. ‘For according to the Word which He Himself has spoken in His supreme and final work, there is no other God.’
Second, this means humanity cannot think of itself except as those covenanted to God. ‘Just as there is no God but the God of the covenant, there is no man but the man of the covenant: the man who as such is destined and called to give thanks.’
All of this means that gratitude is the only right response humanity can make to the presupposition of the atonement – that God will be their God and they will be His people:
Grace and gratitude belong together like heaven and earth. Grace evokes gratitude like the voice an echo. Gratitude follows grace like thunder lightning. IV.1.2 p41
Its been a long long time since Mark and I got together for the Pilgrim’s Podcast. But here it is…episode 1 of season 3…or something.
Here we chat with an old mate, Richard Maegraith about his life, his passion for music (he’s one of Sydney’s premier Jazz saxophonists), how he came to faith in Jesus and his exciting plans for the future. We also go on a cool tangent about passions v.s. Christian ministry…well worth a listen.
Richard, along with a few other Christian musos are preparing to plant a new church in Sydney’s Marrickville in January 2011. Have a listen to see how you can get involved or just to hear a great story.
Get it here
If you’re a young punk and want some help in following Jesus, or if you’re involved in youth ministry then check out these links:
The Nugget is a new(ish) podcast that a good mate of mine is doing, Adrian Foxcroft (hereafter referred to as ‘The Fox’). Each episode goes for around 5 minutes and in it The Fox makes reading the Bible easy and accessible by giving you a passage and a couple of questions to think through! Pure gold! Its a great way of dipping into the Bible — The Fox has just finished going through Luke’s Gospel.
The next site I want to share with you is another new(ish) venture that another good mate of mine has begun. A Light On A Hill is Ryan Smarrt’s blog and its a fantastic resource for anyone who is in youth ministry in any form! You might remember Ryan from an earlier podcast where he chatted to Mark and I about his work as head of Christian Studies at Scots College. Ryan’s a super sharp guy with stacks of interesting insights into how to go about working with young punks. Check out his blog regularly!
This is a beautiful quote from O’Donovan on the power of the resurrection to rescue what was lost, to give life to what was dead and to recreate what had been uncreated:
It might have been possible, we could say, before Christ rose from the dead, for someone to wonder whether creation was a lost cause. If the creature consistently acted to uncreate itself, and with itself to uncreate the rest of creation, did this not mean that God’s handiwork was flawed beyond hope of repair? It might have been possible before Christ rose from the dead to answer in good faith, Yes. Before God raised Jesus from the dead, the hope that we call ‘gnostic’ , the hope for redemption from creation rather than for the redemption of creation, might have appeared to be the only possible hope. ‘But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…’ (1 Cor 15.20). That fact rules out those other possiblities, for in the second Adam the first is rescued. The deviance of his will, its fateful leaning towards death, has not been allowed to uncreate what God created.
(O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order, p. 14)
ps. The pic is of the roof of The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Over the next little while I’m going to try and use pics from our recent trip…
I’m back from my escapades around the middle east and eager to make up for lost blogging time. As per my promise, I’m trying to post some highlights from Barth’s Dogmatics. This last week we read some hot stuff on election, here is some of the gold:
There is no such thing as a decretum absolutum. There is no such thing as a will of God apart from the will of Jesus Christ. Thus Jesus Christ is not only the manifestatio and speculum nostrae predestinationis. And He is this not simply in the sense that our election can be known to us and contemplated by us only through His election, as an election which, like His and with His, is made (or not made) by a secret and hidden will of God. On the contrary, Jesus Christ reveals to us our election as an election which is made by Him, by His will which is also the will of God. He tells us that He Himself is the One who elects us.
For Barth, the fact that our election is not a decree external to His being, but lodged firmly in the Godhead, in Jesus, is grounds for our assurance of its reality:
In the very foreground of our existence in history we can and should cleave wholly and with full assurance to Him because in the eternal background of history, in the beginning with God, the only decree which was passed, the only Word which was spoken and which prevails, was the decision which was executed by Him. As we believe in Him and hear His Word and hold fast by His decision, we can know with a certainty which nothing can ever shake that we are the elect of God.
(Barth II.2 p 115-116)
Fırst up, many apologıes for the bad grammar ın thıs post, Im tryıng to kıll tıme ın Istanbul and am havıng much dıfıculty workıng out thıs crazy Turkısh keyboard! A couple of weeks ago I promısed to post some memorable sectıons from Barths Dogmatıcs. Two weeks have passed so tıme for another one…
Barth begıns by drawıng attentıon to the relatıonshıp between the Word of God and the dogmatıc method. The ıntımacy of thıs relatıonshıp, he argues, demands obedıence:
The content of the Word of God ıtself must command, and dogmatıcs and Church proclamatıon must obey. Therefore the content of dogmatıcs can only be an exposıtıon of the work and actıon of God as ıt takes place ın Hıs Word… No work of man and therefore no dogmatıcs can accomplısh thıs work of God. But ın so far as thıs work ıs actualısed ın the Word of God, ın so far as ıt ıs present to the Church ın the bıblıcally attested revelatıon of God ın Jesus Chrıst, dogmatıcs can testıfy to ıt. Thıs means, concretly, that ıt can descrıbe and explaın ıt ın the lıght of ıts pressence. Thıs ıs the one task of Church proclamatıon. (II.2, 856)
Thıs ıs a really ınterestıng sectıon of dogmatıcs for explorıng where Barths doctrıne of the Word takes hım. Because dogmatıcs can only ever testıfy to the work of God ın the Word, thıs means that ıt must always be taught and receıved ın freedom:
Lıke the obedıence of the Church ın general, the obedıence of dogmatıcs ıs obvıously not understood as real obedıence ıf ıt ıs not understood as obedıence gıven ın freedom. (II.2, 857)
And thıs means that dogmatıcs can only ever offer a challenge, not a command:
Under no cırcumstances can ıt (dogmatıcs) present ıtself to others as anythıng but a free decısıon whıch as such can only challenge others to make sımılar free decısıons…ıt ıs ımpossıble for any human person to press hıs own understandıng of the dıvıne law upon others, as though the two thıngs were ıdentıcal. (IIç2, 860)
Barth goes on to say that dogmatıc systems fall ınto thıs trap and by so doıng theır ‘system’ usurps the place of the Word of God:
In dogmatıc systems the presupposed basıc vıew aquıres ınevıtably the posıtıon and functıon whıch accordıng to all our prevıous consıderatıons can be ascrıbed only to the Word of God. But the Word of God may not be replaced even vıcarıously by any basıc ınterpretatıon ofthe ‘essence of Chrıstıanıty’, however pregnant, deep and well founded. (II.2, 826)
I’m a total hack when it comes to anything to do with websites. This even includes not being able to navigate myself around the dummy-safe wordpress blog templates. You might have noticed some misplaced photos in previous posts, links that dont work properly, and in particular, the feeble blogroll down the bottom right hand side of the page.
I’m really sorry I haven’t updated the blogroll in ages! The truth is I forgot how to do it! But, I’ve repented and put in some hard yards learning how to plumb the depths of the old wordpress template…well that’s a lie, i’ve just learnt how to add others to the blogroll.
Have a scan, let me know if you reckon there are others worth putting on there. I havent tried to put every single blog I know on the list, mostly the ones I look at from time to time, and mostly ones that update pretty frequently.
Sorry if you are a blogger and haven’t made the cut! Let me know what your blog is…
A few of us from MTC have begun a Dogmatics reading group. The idea came from Andrew Errington and its a cracking one! The approach of the group is not to read every single word of the entire dogmatics, but to read key sections.
This week we read I.1 The Doctrine of the Word of God.
In all three modes of being God is the one God both in Himself and in relation to the world and man. But this one God is God three times in different ways, so different that it is only in this threefold difference that He is God, so different that this difference, this being in these three modes of being, is absolutely essential to Him, so different, then, that this difference is irremovable. Nor can there be any possibility that one of the modes of being might just as well be the other, e.g., that the Father might just as well be the Son or the Son the Spirit, nor that two of them or all three might coalesce and dissolve into one. In this case the modes of being would not be essential to the divine being. Because the threeness is grounded in the one essence of the revealed God; because in denying the threeness in the unity of God we should be referring at once to another God than the God revealed in Holy Scripture–for this very reason this threeness must be regarded as irremovable and the distinctiveness of the three modes of being must be regarded as ineffaceable. (Church Dogmatics I.1 360-361)
This comes at the end of an interesting section where Barth suggests the term ‘modes of being’ as a better category for understanding the distinctiveness within the trinity, rather than the traditional, ‘personhood’ language. Some have thought this sounds too much like modalism, but that is quite obviously not the case, as this section shows. But strikingly, Barth suggests, that the three modes of being in God are essential for Him to be God.