“Wake me up inside…” (part 3): Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Reconciliation (iv.1.58)

(iv.1.58.2) Barth continues by discussing ‘The Being of [Humanity] in Jesus Christ”. If being is […]

Lauren R.E. Larkin / 10.1.10

(iv.1.58.2) Barth continues by discussing ‘The Being of [Humanity] in Jesus Christ”. If being is found only in reconciliation through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, then Christians represent being in humanity. Therefore, to speak of Christians we can only speak of them in Jesus Christ because they only exist in Him. In this their “peculiar being”—being beings in Jesus Christ—Christians reflect the reconciliation between God and humanity and stand as the representatives of this reconciliation and being therein. Others, though they may be inheritors of the work of Christ, are not representatives in their existence because they lack obedience to the Holy Spirit, open ears and eyes, experience and knowledge of reconciliation by atonement and the new directional change, and their confession of Jesus Christ.

[This is a rather complicated way to say: everyone exists and is in and outside of Christ; but, true humanity is only found in reconciliation through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, therefore Christians represent true humanity. Barth’s if-then logic here is simple. The complication lies in the insinuation that outside of Christ, others do not exist, which is what he is not saying. Rather, using Eberhard Jüngel, those outside of Christ live a sham or false existence.] Thus, to discuss what it means to be a being of [true] humanity we can only truly speak of the Christian.

The being of humanity in Jesus Christ has three aspects: faith, love, and hope. Firstly, Faith: In faith the Christian, by the influence of the Holy Spirit, subjects themselves* to the verdict proclaimed by God: they affirm, acknowledge, and accept the verdict. This verdict has both a negative and positive meaning and content. In the negative, the verdict “disowns and renounces”. The old being is the thing that is renounced and disowned by the verdict of God. This old man has ceased to be. God “could not, and would not, tolerate and have him any longer. He could and would only do away with him”. By this divine word, the existence of the being as a sinner and transgressor are put behind them, the person will not be this transgressor ever again. [Meaning, this person will not be known/defined as this transgressor.] This divine word is “forgiveness”, which designates not God’s change in disposition toward humanity, but rather the radical acknowledgement of the judgment of humanity’s rejection by God in its transgressions. The old being is fully and completely rejected and has no future. By being a Christian, one subjects themselves and affirms this negative meaning and content of the divine verdict.

The positive meaning and content of the divine verdict is the verdict “which recognizes and accepts”, “it declares that God receives man, and that man in accordance with his election and institution as a covenant-partner—can confess himself a faithful servant of God, His recognized friend and well-loved child”. And this, like the negative content and meaning of the verdict, is executed once and for all, neither to be reversed nor repeated. In reconciliation by the atoning work of Jesus Christ the new being has a future only as the righteous one of God in Jesus Christ. Humanity, in Jesus Christ, is affirmed and accepted in their possibility (righteousness) over their actuality (transgressions); and in Jesus Christ and by his atoning work in reconciliation, the possibility of humanity takes on actuality: this event actually happens [it is true] and it is for real and is forever.
*It is important to note that this ‘subjection’ is not to be seen as cooperation with the Spirit (which we will investigate later in the series); rather, it’s the necessary response when your eyes see and your ears hear the truth of the Gospel message.
Last two photos taken by a good friend Josiah Miller (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jomiller613/).