Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Human Independence/Freedom Day, from Karl Barth

Since it is 'Independence Day' here in America, today, I thought I would repost a reflection and response on 'Human Freedom' that I posted at my older EC blog quite a few months ago now. As you will see, these reflections are in response to a brother (in Christ) of mine. Happy 'Freedom Day'!

36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. ~John 8.36

Silhouette of Barth, Garbed in the 'Colors'
I am reposting the following because I am working the next couple of days, and so don’t have the time to develop some things I would like to in response to the discussion I have been having with Nathan in this thread. Some have asked what ‘grace all the way down’ might mean (in the thread and post I am referencing). Some of you are wondering how I might move differently than a classic Calvinist or Arminian in framing human action as grounded in a theological-christological anthropology—thus ultimately recasting, and somewhat avoiding the usual categories of working out of ‘the bondage of the will’ dialogue. So in lieu of me writing an actual post that would articulate how I might proceed; this post, and maybe one more tomorrow will have to suffice until I can do a proper (new) one. Somebody might think that some of the language from Barth sounds like what Billings is critiquing in the Arminian, but it’s not. Since Barth’s construct grounds what it means to be human, dogmatically, in the elect humanity of Christ for us. This is the piece that classic Arminianism (and Calvinism) is missing; i.e. ‘the classic way’ operates with a competitive view between Divine-human action vis-á-vis human action simpliciter. Meaning that the classic approach, does not ground humanity from the humanity of Christ in an objective gracious way. Instead, it sees humanity as abstracted from the humanity of Christ in need of union with his humanity which is only actualised through their cooperation with God in salvation by habituating in the ‘created grace’ (which becomes the impersonal intermediary that binds elect or foreknown humanity to Christ’s humanity). More to be said. Here’s Barth on the vicarious humanity of Christ as ‘God with us’, which becomes the recreated humanity through which our humanity elevated to what it means to be human; or free for God.

Here is a great statement from Barth on the vicarious humanity of Christ,

[T]he answer is that we ourselves are directly summoned, that we are lifted up, that we are awakened to our own truest being as life and act, that we are set in motion by the fact that in that one man God has made Himself our peacemaker and the giver and gift of our salvation. By it we are made free fro Him. By it we are put in the place which comes to us where our salvation (really ours) can come to us from Him (really from Him). This actualisation of His redemptive will by Himself opens up to us the one true possibility of our own being. Indeed, what remains to us of life and activity in the face of this actualisation of His redemptive will by Himself can only be one thing. This one thing does not mean the extinguishing of our humanity, but its establishment. It is not a small thing, but the greatest of all. It is not for us a passive presence as spectators, but our true and highest activation—the magnifying of His grace which has its highest and most profound greatness in the fact that God has made Himself man with us, to make our cause His own, and as His own to save it from disaster and to carry it through to success. The genuine being of man as life and activity, the “We with God,” is to affirm this, to admit that God is right, to be thankful for it, to accept the promise and the command which it contains, to exist as the community, and responsibly in the community, of those who know that this is all that remains to us, but that it does remain to us and that for all men everything depends upon its coming to pass. And it is this “We with God” that is meant by the Christian message in its central “God with us,” when it proclaims that God Himself has taken our place, that He Himself has made peace between Himself and us, that by Himself he has accomplished our salvation, I.e., our participation in His being. [Karl Barth CD IV/I, p. 12]

This is the kind of stuff I am looking for. A theological anthropology, that is Christological; that honors the integrity of created humanity by giving humanity its place in the recreated humanity of Jesus Christ for us. It is a participationist humanity that we are given as a gift, we don’t possess it in ourselves. The giveness of humanity is where humanity flourishes through its relation in the divine life (i.e. the proper order) in Christ. This early section in IV/I is entitled “God with Us.”

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