Advent with Barth: The Compelling Light of Revelation

Thursday, December 6, 2018

It certainly was not their age and source-value that brought the narratives of the Virgin birth in the text of the Gospels and out of this text into the creed.

But a certain inward, essential rightness and importance in their connection with the person of Jesus Christ first admitted them to a share in the Gospel witness. 

At first this was announced with great reserve but in the last resort quite definitely, and then admitted also to a share in the Church confession and dogma in contrast to some other elements in this testimony which outwardly (and apparently inwardly too) were much more distinctive.

The question to which we must address ourselves here and give a serious answer is, whether this rightness and importance, which they must have had at the rise of the canonical New Testament, and then again at the framing of dogma, are so compellingly illuminated for us that we, too, must acknowledge the essential rightness and importance of the narratives of the Virgin birth.

By putting the question in this way we shall be quite clear that in answering it we are concerned only with an a posteriori understanding (understanding from experience) of the rightness and importance which belong to this matter in revelation itself, for only in so far as the rightness and importance arise out of revelation can they shine upon us with compelling light.

Behind literary as behind dogmatic investigation there arises the quaestio facti (question of fact), which cannot be answered either by literary or by dogmatic investigation. 

It is fitting, however, that in the realm of theology literary and dogmatic investigation should both be undertaken in the first instance (i.e., until the utter impossibility of this procedure is demonstrated) sub conditione facti (In consideration of the facts.)

from Karl Barth, “The Miracle of Christmas”, Church Dogmatics I.2, page 176-177

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