Advent with Barth: Jesus is “Very God and Very Man”

The nativity

Monday, December 3, 2018

(God’s revelation in its objective reality is the person of Jesus Christ. This revelation becomes the object of our knowledge by its own power and not by ours.)

The act of knowing it is distinctive as one which we actually can achieve, but which we cannot understand, in the sense that we simply do not understand how we can achieve it.

We can understand the possibility of it solely from the side of its object, i.e., we can regard it not as ours, but as one coming to us, imparted to us, gifted to us.

In this bit of knowing we are not the masters but the mastered.

It is when we are in the act of knowing God’s revelation, amid the objective reality of it, in the act of knowing the person of Jesus Christ, that this must be said.

If we do not know this person, if we are unaware of the reality of “very God and very Man,” we will certainly not say this, but confidently ascribe to ourselves the possibility of knowing it.

If we are aware of it and declare that it is true, we will also be aware and will not hesitate to declare, that it can be manifest to us in its truth only by its own agency and not because of any capacity belonging to us; just as a man justified by faith in Christ, and he alone, is aware and confesses that he is a lost sinner, whereas one who has not received forgiveness will definitely regard himself as a man with power to justify himself.

Thus it is in the act of knowing revelation that it will always be and become a mystery to us.

It is indeed the prime mystery, because strictly, logically and properly, it is only of this object, of the person of Jesus Christ, that all this can be said.

That is the outcome of our Christological foundation and it remains for us now to make its content quite explicit and understandable.


from Karl Barth, “The Miracle of Christmas”, Church Dogmatics I.2, page 172

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