“Wake me up inside…” (part 5a): Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Reconciliation (iv.1.58)

iv.1.58.4 Barth works out the threefold form of the Christological aspect of the doctrine of […]

Lauren R.E. Larkin / 11.19.10

iv.1.58.4 Barth works out the threefold form of the Christological aspect of the doctrine of the reconciliation*. In and by Jesus, humanity is confronted with God. In Jesus, God—by becoming man—actively intervenes and takes up His cause—the covenant—“with and against and for man”. Jesus “is the authentic revealer of God as Himself God”. By Jesus one understands the Godhead because Jesus defines it and it does not define Jesus. “[Jesus] is God as he takes part in the event which constitutes the divine being” and He does this by becoming man. In this becoming man, God freely wills to condescend and bind and humiliate Himself in becoming like His creatures who are bound and takes them to Himself and takes upon Himself their penalty and judgment. “That is the nature and essence of the true God as He has intervened actively and manifestly in Jesus Christ”.

In the second form of the Christology of Jesus, humanity is confronted with God as Man, as human man. As a man, Jesus as God is subjected to the limitations as all humans are limited. He suffers as humans suffer. Just as He is fully God he is also fully Man (not part and part to create a whole). He is truly God as He is truly human and thus the triune God’s glory is in His humiliation. Yet, Jesus is a different human than we are, in that in His humanity He is the glory of God, and, thus, can be our mediator; but this must not be taken to consider Jesus as not fully human as we are: He is in complete equity with us. “To say man is to say creature and sin, and this means limitation and suffering. Both these have to be said of Jesus Christ…in correspondence with His true manhood”. His manhood is defined by Him, and Him alone. It is by His manhood that one knows true manhood: marked by suffering and limitation, yet exalted as the Godhead is humiliated. Jesus is fully God and fully man—two natures not two states—in His entire existence and the humiliation removes nothing and the exaltation adds nothing to Jesus Christ.

In Him it took place that while maintaining His true deity God became man, in Him to make His own the cause of man. In Him God Himself humiliated Himself—not in any disloyalty but in a supreme loyalty to His divine being (revealing it in a way which marks it off from all other gods). That is the secret of Christmas and Good Friday and the way which leads from the one to the other.

Jesus as fully man is the One who was lowly yet became exalted, who was bound yet is free, who was tempted yet without sin, who suffered yet ministred to himself and others, who died yet was resurrected, who is a servant yet is Lord. In Jesus Christ, humanity is true humanity: exalted, freed, unbound, without sin, with life; and, as a result, humanity that is outside of Christ—that is still bound and limited and lowly—is false humanity; just as gods who lack humiliation are false gods.

The third Christological aspect is Jesus as One as God-Man, this is the “source of the two first and comprehends them both”. Jesus Christ is “the Son of God who as such is this man, this man who as such is the Son of God”. Jesus as fully God and as fully Man must be held together as one. For it was by God (Christ) becoming fully human (Jesus of Nazareth) that reconciliation occurred between God and humanity once and for all.

A Christ who did not come in the flesh, who was not identical with the Jesus of Nazareth who suffered and died under Pontius Pilate, would not be the Christ Jesus—and a Jesus who was not the eternal Word of God, and who as man was not raised again from the death, would not be the Jesus Christ—of the New Testament.

In Jesus Christ of Nazareth—as the God-Man—is the intersecting point of the previous two Christological aspects of the reconciliation. He is the reconciliation: the Mediator and the pledge of the covenant. As God-Man, “Jesus Christ is the actuality of the atonement, and as such the truth of it which speaks for itself”. In pronouncing this Name, “Jesus Christ”, one pronounces the truth of God’s grace and turning toward man and the conversion of humanity to God, the truth of heaven and earth, the truth of God and Man being bound together. Humanity in Christ does not produce these truths of Jesus Christ, rather these truths encounter humanity in and by Jesus Christ and is humanity’s teleos. And, as humanity in Christ stands in relation to these truths, it stands as a witness to these truths and to the promise, the guaranty of its future in Christ.

*You will see in this section how Barth has folded in the threefoldness of humanity’s being in Christ (iv.1.58.2).