Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Search of the Living God

I've been thinking about God's Life: the God who lives, the Life of God, God as Life, God's Livingness, the living God, the God of the living, etc. Here's some quotes from Barth on God's life in the context of his doctrine of God (II/1). Interestingly, "life" is not a stand alone attribute or perfection, but it emerges at two crucial points. First, as a correlate of the basal description of God's being as act (§28.1). Second, as the last word on the identify of divine eternity (§31.3). Since Barth's actualist interpretation of divine being and his unique approach to eternity are significant contributions of his theology, I think the placement of the concept of "life" within these contexts is important. Okay, here's the quotes:
The definition that we must use as a starting-point is that God's being is life. Only the Living is God. Only the voice of the Living is God's voice. Only the work of the Living is God's work; only the worship and fellowship of the Living is God's worship and fellowship. So, too, only the knowledge of the Living is knowledge of God... We recall in this connexion the emphatic Old and New Testament description of God as "the living God." This is no metaphor. Nor is it a mere description of God's relation to the world and to ourselves. But while it is that, it also describes God himself as the one he is. (II/1, §28.1, p. 262)

This is the last thing which we have to emphasise in connexion with the concept of eternity. Like every divine perfection it is the living God Himself. It is not only a quality which He possesses. It is not only a space in which He dwells. It is not only a form of being in which He shares, so that it could belong, if need be, to other realities as well, or exist apart from Him in itself* We cannot for one moment think of eternity without thinking of God, nor can we think of it otherwise than by thinking of God, by knowing Him and believing in Him and obeying Him-for there is no knowledge of God without this by loving Him in return when He has first loved us. Eternity is the living God Himself. This radically distinguishes the Christian knowledge of eternity from all religious and philosophical reflection on time and what might exist before and after time. It distinguishes it from all speculations about different aeons, all the mythologies of past, present and future worlds, their essence and their relations to one another. The Christian knowledge of eternity has to do directly and exclusively with God Himself, with Him as the beginning before all time, the turning point in time, and the end and goal after all time. This makes it a complete mystery, yet also completely simple. In the last resort when we think of eternity we do not have to think in terms of either the point or the line, the surface or space. We have simply to think of God Himself, recognising and adoring and loving the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is only in this way that we know eternity. For eternity is His essence. He, the living God, is eternity. And it is as well at this point, in relation to the threefold form of eternity, to emphasise the fact that He is the living God. (II/1, §31.3, p. 638-9).
This is just the beginning. Stay tuned for more... Especially concerning how the livingness of God relates to Christ's resurrection from the dead!

Any thoughts?

1 comment:

Bob MacDonald said...

I love it! He gets to the moment before Einstein. I was looking for such words when I wrote my response to April Deconick here. Thank you for finding them for me.