James K.A. Smith discusses his book “How (Not) to Be Secular”, in which he helps to bring the work of Charles Taylor to be more accessible to a broader audience. It’s worth your time to watch.
“To pronounce the name of Jesus Christ means to acknowledge that we are cared for, that we are not lost. Jesus Christ is man’s salvation in all circumstances and in face of all that darkens his life, including the evil that proceeds from himself. There is nothing which is not already made good in this happening, that God became man for our good. Anything that is left can be no more than the discovery of this fact. We do not exist in any kind of gloomy uncertainty; we exist through the God who was gracious to us before we existed at all. It may be true that we exist in contradiction to this God, that we live in remoteness from Him, indeed in hostility to Him. It is still truer that God has prepared reconciliation for us, before we entered the struggle against Him. And true though it may be that in connection with our alienation from God man can only be regarded as a lost being, it is still much truer that God has so acted for our good, does it and will also act, that there exists a salvation for every lost condition. It is this faith that we are called to belief through the Christian Church and in the Holy Spirit.” -Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, page 71.
Karl Barth and N.T. Wright do not typically make good bedfellows. There are a number of significant and (possibly) insurmountable differences between the two in terms of both methodology and theology. There are, however, at least a few interesting and perhaps not insignificant areas of concord between the two, and it is these that I’d like to explore here – I intend to open up space more than give answers and so my conclusions and ideas are more open-ended.
1.The first thing that comes to my mind is that both Barth and Wright are christocentric in their conception of election. They are christocentric in very different ways – but christocentric nonetheless. Both seek to focus election on Jesus. Barth’s (in)famous redrawing of election completely around Christ is rather well-known and fairly radical, Wright’s less radical. Whereas Barth sees God’s election of Christ in terms of God electing all humanity in…
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This is part of an essay I wrote for a Theology class. The subject is on God’s activity in the world.
The Activity of God
At the core of Christianity is the understanding that God is active in our lives, and in our world today. We can begin to look at this through the incarnation as our starting point. God’s activity is grounded in the work of Christ. From the incarnation (John 1:14, Colossians 2:9), to His ministry on earth, performing miracles (John 2:1-11, John 4:46-54, Luke 5:12-15), to His death and resurrection (Luke 24:1-53). Through Christ, God is shown to be active, and specifically believers. The Old Testament is the foundation and preparation for the coming of Christ, at one point God dwelt among His people, in which He dwelt in the tabernacle and the temple. His spirit was in some people (Num 27:28), but had not dwelled within His people. Through the work of Christ, the view of God dwelling in the temple became a personal reality for those who belong to Christ. ‘Under the new covenant, the temple is now the believing community itself, God dwells not only among us corporately (Matthew 18:20; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16) but also in each member individually (John 14:17; Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:19)’ (Hamilton, pg. 2, 2006). Out of this work and indwelling, we see the gifts of the Spirit being poured out to all believers (1 Cor 12). The speaking of tongues was a sign for the unbeliever (1 Cor 14:22), and prophesies for the Church (1 Cor 14:22). These are signs of God’s activity within the world today. To quote George Hendry:
“If the Holy Spirit means the Living action of God in the world (and we can accept this as a provisional definition), our formulations cannot hope to catch up with reality… the Spirit, which is from God, or “proceeds” from God, makes God known to us, because the Spirit is God’s knowledge of Himself, and we can know God only as he shares his self-knowledge with us.” (Hendry, 1965)
Karl Barth puts it beautifully:
“But the heart of it all is that it is He Himself, the one, supreme and true Lord, who thus unveils Himself to us; that in revelation we have to do with His action as the triune God, and therefore with Himself in every creaturely work and sign that He uses. On this basis and only on this basis can there be real knowledge of God.” (Barth, 1957)
God acts towards us through the person of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is the only way we can truly have knowledge that He is with us, working in our world today.
Barth, K. (n.d.). Dogmatics in outline.
Hamilton, J., & Clendenen, E. (2006). God’s indwelling presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old & New Testaments. Nashville, Tenn.: B & H Pub. Group.
Hendry, G. (1956). The Holy Spirit in Christian theology. Philadelphia: Westminster Press.
“What is the meaning of this recollection of past revelation? Recollection of God’s enacted revelation might mean the actualization of a revelation of God originally immanent in the existence of every man, i.e., of man’s own original awareness of God. In this case recollection of God’s enacted revelation would be identical with the discovery and fresh appropriation of a long hidden, forgotten and unused part, and indeed the most central and significant part, of the timeless essential constitution of man himself, namely, his relation to the eternal or absolute.”
-Karl Barth CD I/I page. 99