Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Holy Spirit "resurrects" faith in us

Below is a passage in Barth that I have been busy interpreting today. What caught my eye is the pun on "awakening," that connects the resurrection of Christ and the Spirit's awakening of our faith in him, all against the implicit background of the Awakening as a technical term for German community movement (i.e., pietism). [Note: as some drulogion readers have already noticed, I'm in dissertation la la land right now and so most of what you'll get from me is Barth quotes for the next little while].

Okay here goes:
It is not he [the believer] that is strong when he believes, but rather the One in whom he believes shows himself to be strong over him when he believes: strong as the one who is raised again from the dead to awaken him first from the death of unbelief to the life of faith. Faith means to be awake on the basis of this awakening : to be awake to the strong One who awakens him and who along can awaken him; to be awake to the necessity with which he does this, a necessity which excludes all pseudo-freedoms; to be awake to the implicitness of the arising which, on the part of man, will directly follow his awakening. (KD IV/1, p. 836; ET: CD IV/1, p. 748)
And here's the my nerdy version with the relevant German words inserted:
It is not he [the believer] that is strong when he believes, but rather the One in whom he believes shows himself to be strong over him when he believes: strong as the one who is raised again (auferstanden) from the dead to awaken (erwecken) him first from the death of unbelief to the life of faith. Faith means to be awake (wach sein) on the basis of this awakening (Erweckens): to be awake (Wachsein) to the strong One who awakens (erweckt) him and who along can awaken (erwecken kann) him; to be awake (Wachsein) to the necessity with which he does this, a necessity which excludes all pseudo-freedoms; to be awake (Wachsein) to the implicitness of the arising (Aufstehens) which, on the part of man, will directly follow his awakening (Erwecken). (KD IV/1, p. 836; ET: CD IV/1, p. 748)
Any thoughts?
_

4 comments:

Harper said...

Hi John,

One question: what is the necessity with which the Spirit awakens us which Barth speaks of in this quote?

-- Chris

Nathan Hitchcock said...

Yesterday I caught myself amazed that Barth was so willing to move resurrection toward the personal regeneration of the believer. I mean, after all, he saw what that move had done in the hands of the liberal tradition. Hadn't Harnack turned the awakening into a (pneumatic) subjective moment with only an unnecessary glance back to Jesus?

Yet in the hands of Barth everything has been encircled by "the christological perfect." By the Spirit the awakening of a believer corresponds to Jesus' own awakening in the resurrection - though I think for Barth the awakening of Jesus has much more to do with election and incarnation than glorification, bodily or otherwise.

Chris, I think the "necessity" Barth speaks of is the imperative of the "direction of the Son," the need to follow the absolutely established sanctification of humanity in the hypostatic union. We are alive in Christ - therefore we must act accordingly (Cp. Rom 6.) Does that sound right, John?

JohnLDrury said...

Nathan,

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Some thoughts:

(1) I think you are right to see Barth critically appropriating the piestist and later liberal concerns about personal faith by locating them on his terms. The pun on "Awakening" is undoubtedly intentional, as he makes the connection elsewhere in CD IV.

(2) I would agree that for Barth the awakening of Jesus has to do with the confirmation and revelation of the execution of election in the life-history of Jesus, though this understanding includes the bodily awakening. This revelatory function of resurrection is what Barth means by glorification, which is God's active self-radiating life (cf. CD II/1 §31.3 & IV/3 §69.2). It is not, however, the "exaltation" of humanity in the sense that the incarnate life history is (cf. CD IV/2 §64). The distinction (within unity) b/w Christ's first history and his second corresponds with the distinction (within unity) b/w reconciliation and revelation. This distinction underlies the whole of the architectonic of CD IV. Though critical questions can and should be posed to this conviction, trying to tweak it may cause the whole house to fall.

(3) Regarding "necessity," thanks for responding to Chris (and sorry Chris for the delay on my part!). Yes, I agree with Nathan, and the reference to the direction of the son is helpful (cf. IV/2 §64.4). "Necessity" for Barth is not some kind of abstract philosophical "must" but a concrete practical "may". To live like Christ: this, and only this, have you been freed by him to do.

-John

PS to Nathan - Perhaps you could send me your email or email me at johnldrury at gmail, so that we could talk some more about our research (both to learn from each other and to make sure we know where the differences lie).

Christian Collins Winn said...

This is great stuff! I'm working on some comments for a presentation I give next week on my work on the Blumhardts and Barth and I have come to the firm conviction that what Spener was really after was what difference the resurrection makes in this life. That "new birth" is rooted in the resurrection Spener makes clear in a number of places, but most of the Pietists that I know never really pursued the Christological line. I think this shows that a dialogue between Barth and Pietism must begin with the confluence of resurrection and new birth. Can't wait to see what dissertating comes next!