God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility in Hypostatic Union

The following is Karl Barth’s articulation on a Christ centered understanding of human freedom and God’s sovereignty. Barth focuses on Jesus as the archetypical man, which then becomes the basis for how we should understand our relationship to the Father — and the subsequent freedom “for” God that humanity has in Christ. We will hear from Barth and Bruce McCormack in the following quote:

seen in the light of God’s self giving and the freedom of Jesus’ obedience unto death, Barth concludes that [this was McCormack’s part]:

the perfection of God’s giving of himself to man in the person of Jesus Christ consists in the fact that far from merely playing with man, far from merely moving or using him, far from dealing with him as an object, this self giving sets man up as a subject, awakens him to genuine individuality and autonomy, frees him, makes him a king, so that in his rule the kingly rule of God himself attains form and revelation. How can there be any possible rivalry here, let alone usurpation? How can there be any conflict between theonomy and autonomy? How can God be jealous or man self assertive? (CD I I/2, p. 179)

. . . Genuine freedom as it is realized in Jesus is not a freedom from God but a freedom for God (and, with that, a freedom for other human beings). ‘ To the creature God determined, therefore, to give an individuality an autonomy, not that these gifts should be possessed outside Him, let alone against Him, but for him and within his kingdom; not in rivalry with his sovereignty but for its confirming and glorifying’ (CD I I/2, p. 178).

I think it is important to ground everything in Christ, even this apparent and historical conundrum; I appreciate Barth’s framing of this issue here, and I really appreciate T. F. Torrance even more as he fleshes this out through emphasizing the vicarious nature of Christ’s Spirit anointed work — and further, how he grounds “our freedom and choice for God” in Christ’s medatiorship as the God-Man (cf. I Tim. 2:5-6). Too often in Christian theology we have a dualistic competition between God and Man; instead we should see this in unitary harmony as God reconciles man in Christ through the Incarnation and hypostatic union.

*an old post from another blog

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2 Responses to God’s Sovereignty and Human Responsibility in Hypostatic Union

  1. stanrock says:

    Very cool.

    [1] Hypostatic union is accomplished where there is metaphysical distinction (primarily distinction in conceptual language, as different conceptual language is useful at different times and for different purposes).

    [2] Any other articulation of human freedom — “rivalrous freedom” to borrow some of the language used above — carries a risk of spontaneous rebellion in the eschaton.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bobby Grow says:


    I think it is very Pauline to think the way Barth does about human freedom vis-a-vis God 🙂 .

    Liked by 1 person

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