Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Even what is impossible with God is possible with God

Many thanks to those who submitted those tantalizing Bible Brain Busters in the suggestion box. Please feel free to continue to suggest a Bible Brain Buster here. I look forward to addressing some of these in upcoming posts.

This week I am in the midst of writing one long research paper after another. I ask that you indulge me as I simply quote a great line from a text I was reading this week. Let this quote and following questions for discussion stand as a more than sufficient thursday theological thought:

"Not only what is impossible with us humans, but also what must rightly appear to us impossible with God himself, is possible with God."
- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I/2, p. 31, rev.).

Any thoughts?

What are some things that we usually think of as impossible with humans but possible with God? On what basis would we discern this difference?

What are some things that we usually think of as impossible for humans? On what basis could we impute any impossibilities to God?

In what contexts might this quote apply? Where do we need to be reminded that God's possibilities even exceed the boundaries of what we rightly appears to be impossible for God?


Casey said...

This post makes me think of the whole "Can God make a mountain so big that He can't move it?" thing. I need to check out this Barth guy.

Keith.Drury said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keith.Drury said...

This opens up all kinds of actions of God that are (to us) "logically impossible" ..which of course delights me...

Evan and Julia said...

God is free to do that which he cannot do without ceasing to be God. My brilliant philosophy professor, Craig Keen, used to say this in class.

Ken Schenck said...

As is usual for me with Barth, I am left wondering how this statement works out in specific instances. Can God make 2 + 2 equal 7, for example? I answered "yes" to this question on a 20 question "God test" out of Oxford I found online and was promptly told that I had made a fatal error in my philosophical judgment.

But I've decided that I would have to read the whole Dogmatics really to get Barth. He makes these sorts of suggestive comments without indicating their scope or limits. This you have to find out over time as you work through, synthesizing as you go along.

At least that's how I feel at this point.

JohnLDrury said...


You are right to point out that this cannot be a principle that we apply willy-nilly. Of course, this is does count against the quote, because KB does not introduce this as a general concept. Rather, the quote actually comes from a section where KB is talking about how we think through the possibility of the incarnation on the basis of its actuality - since it has happen, it must be possible for God. So even though it seems impossible (because God is God and humans are humans), apparently it is within the power of God to become human. So, Barth has indicated the scope and limits of this statement: the history of Jesus Christ.