Advent with Barth: Revelation and Reconciliation


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

“Incarnation of the Word” asserts the presence of God in our world and as a member of this world, as a Man among men.

It is thus God’s revelation to us, and our reconciliation with Him.

That this revelation and reconciliation has already taken place is the content of the Christmas message.

But even in the very act of knowing this reality and listening to the Christmas message, we have to describe the meeting of God and world, of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ — and not only their meeting but their becoming one–as inconceivable.

This reality is not given nor is it accessible elsewhere.

It does not allow us to acknowledge that it is true on the ground of general considerations.

Our experience no less than our thought will rather make constant reference to the remoteness of the world from God and of God from the world, to God’s majesty and to man’s misery.

If in knowledge of the incarnation of the Word, in knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ we are speaking of something really other, if the object of Christology, “very God and very Man,” is objectively real for us, then all that we can arrive at by our experience and our thought is the realization that they are delimited, determined and dominated here by something wholly outside or above us.

Knowledge in this case means acknowledgment.

And the utterance or expression of this knowledge is termed confession.

Only in acknowledgment or confession can we say that Jesus Christ is very God and very Man.

In acknowledgment and confession of the inconceivableness of this reality we describe it as the act of God Himself, of God completely and solely.

If we speak of it in any other way, if we deny its inconceivability, if we think that by our statements we are speaking of something within the competence of our experience and thought which we can encounter and master, we are speaking of something different from the dogma and from the Scripture expounded in the dogma.

We are not understanding or describing revelation as God’s act in the strict and exclusive sense.

We are speaking of something other than God’s revelation.

In the very act of acknowledgment and confession we must always acknowledge and confess together both the distance of the world from God and the distance of God from the world, both the majesty of God and the misery of man.

It is the antithesis between these that turns their unity in Christ into a mystery.

Thus we must ever acknowledge and confess the inconceivability of this unity.


from Karl Barth, “The Miracle of Christmas”, Church Dogmatics I.2, page 173

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