Home » Barth » The “error” of Jesus as the Center: Eternal Generation, Ontology of the Word, God’s Triune Love and other Miscellanies

The “error” of Jesus as the Center: Eternal Generation, Ontology of the Word, God’s Triune Love and other Miscellanies

Here is something from Barth that bespeaks of the beauty of God’s Triune life of love; eternal generation has something to do with that according to Karl Barth. God’s aseity is appealed to in what Barth writes; if someone read this and hadn’t been tainted by critiques of Barth they might think Barth was one of their orthodox own (and he actually is in his own creative and brilliant way). Barth explicates the reality of Triune love and the eternal generation of the Son as he speaks to his theology of the Word.

barthbarthIn its form neither as proclamation, Holy Scripture, nor revelation do we know God’s Word as an entity that exists or could exist merely in and for itself. We know it only as a Word that is directed to us and applies to us. The fact that it is this is not, of course, self-evident. It is not something one might deduce from a general concept of speech. It is so in fact, but it might not be. In the inter-trinitarian life of God the eternal generation of the Son or Logos is, of course, the expression of God’s love, of His will not to be alone. But it does not follow from this that God could not be God without speaking to us. We undoubtedly understand God’s love for man, or in the first instance for any reality distinct from Himself, only when we understand it as free and unmerited love not resting on any need. God would be no less God if He had created no world and no man. The existence of the world and our own existence are in no sense vital to God, not even as the object of His love. The eternal generation of the Son by the Father tells us first and supremely that God is not at all lonely even without the world and us. His love has its object in Himself. And so one cannot say that our existence as that of the recipients of God’s Word is constitutive for the concept of the Word. It could be no less what it is even without us. God could satisfy His love in Himself. For He is already an object to Himself and He is an object truly worthy of His love. God did not need to speak to us. What He says by Himself and to Himself from eternity to eternity would really be said just as well and even better without our being there, as speech which for us would be eternal silence. Only when we are clear about this can we estimate what it means that God has actually, though not necessarily, applies to us, that His Word has actually, though not necessarily, been spoken to us. The purposiveness by no means essential to God Himself. We evaluate this purposiveness correctly only if we understand it as the reality of the love of the God who does not need us but who does not will to be without us, who has directed His regard specifically on us.[1]

Eternal generation matters. The fact that God is God matters. And as we can see through Barth, the Word of God has ontology, it has personality; it is the eternal Logos, Jesus Christ. I’m trying to think of other cool things to say about this right now, but I think what Barth has written stands on its own.

The elegance with which he writes, particularly with reference to Jesus, has captivated my soul now for the last ten years. I have still never come across another theologian who thinks so crystalline from the Gospel itself; who seeks to magnify Jesus in everything he writes and thinks. I have never come across another deep well like Barth who thinks from the heights and depths all at once centered in Jesus Christ. Years ago I came to the conclusion, and this from simply reading the Bible over and over again, that if I was going to err in my thinking, theologically, it would be to err from the conclusion that everything is about Jesus. To my delight when I found Barth I found someone who agreed, and then he wrote more than six million words demonstrating that “error” over and over again.

 

[1] Karl Barth CD I/1.120-124.

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7 thoughts on “The “error” of Jesus as the Center: Eternal Generation, Ontology of the Word, God’s Triune Love and other Miscellanies

  1. Your admiration of Barth is obvious ( I fully concur though his KD I haven’t tackled). However your statement that to see Jesus as at the Centre is to be in error puzzles me. Am I not reading this right? I would see Jesus as the indicative Centre for humanity as all things (understandable to humanity) are deferred to his Lordship and all that that implies. I would only dare to hazard that this ontologically is concerning the actual aseity of the Godhead. However this is a sacred business for humanity to ever address or speculate upon. It should be enough that in Jesus we are not only in fealty to God but quite sufficiently so and thus as filial participants?
    Appreciate any feedback.

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  2. Rein, I was hoping the irony was obvious; it should be. Yeah, I post on whatever I feel like posting on whenever I feel like it; part of the perks of having a personal blog. You’re under reading what I wrote; error is ironic–I of course believe the opposite which I explained in that paragraph itself. You aren’t going to typically get treatises from me by reading my blog posts you’re going to get bloggy reflections 🙂 pax.

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  3. Phew …. thanks bud. I thought I had taken leave of my senses for a short moment.
    My conversion to Barthian deductive logic came from a nighttime reading of Dogmatics in Outline in 1992 St John’s College NZ. The following morning during a lecture of Ephesians, in a fresh sunfilled enlightened theatre I found myself totally at odds with the admirable and devout lecturer. I commented that it seemed his take on the Pauline Gospel seemed to run quite counter to Barth’s unilateral “God to humanity” revelation (leaving absolutely no room for natural theologizing). He agreed that he differed fundamentally but smiled graciously at the sudden interruption. I was red faced and embarrassed at my temerity before the class and afterward as it had been a near involuntary query on my part; however it meant, I realize now, that I had crossed first into the faithland of what is now postmodern Reformed thought and theology. I have the then lecturer in Systematics there-Rev. Dr. Stephen May- to thank for supplying to road signs initially and K H Miskotte and Reeling Brouwer for filling in the details of the road atlas.

    Thanks for your blogs and guidance; you are a tonic along the way.

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