Karl Barth and the Incarnation

Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent and I preached about the incarnation – the coming of God in the flesh; Jesus Christ.  For the first time ever I included a long quote from a theologian.  However, I chopped it up a bit to make it easier to comprehend in an aural form, so here’s the original, undisturbed, quote:

"…in Jesus Christ as we know him from the witness of Holy Scripture, we have not to do with humanity in the abstract – people who, in their little bit of religion and religious morality, could satisfy themselves without God and therefore be God to themselves.  Nor, on the other hand, with God in the abstract – a God who in his divinity is nothing else than separated from human beings, nothing else than far from them and strange to them and therefore non-human, if not quite inhuman.  In Jesus Christ there is no barrier on the human side upwards nor one on God’s side downwards. Rather what we have in him is the history, the dialogue, in which God and humanity are together, the reality of the covenant concluded, kept and completed by them mutually.  In his one person Jesus Christ is at once as true God humanity’s faithful partner, and as true human being God’s faithful partner, both the Lord abased to community with humanity and the servant exalted to community with God, both as the Word spoken from out of the highest, most glorious Beyond, and the Word heard in the deepest, darkest Here and Now: both unconfused, but also undivided, wholly the One and wholly the Other.  Thus, in the unity Jesus Christ is the Mediator, the Reconciler between God and humanity.  Thus demanding and awakening faith, love and hope, he acts for God before humanity – and representing, atoning, interceding, for humanity before God. 

Thus he attests and guarantees to humanity God’s free grace, but he also attests and guarantees to God free human gratitude.   Thus he establishes in his person God’s right vis-à-vis humanity, but also humanity’s right before God.  Thus he is in his person the covenant in its fullness, the close at hand kingdom of Heaven in which God speaks and humanity hears, God gives and humanity receives, God commands and humanity obeys.  God’s glory shines in the highest – but also from the highest into the depths – and peace on earth eventuates among the people of his good pleasure.  And just in this way, as this mediator and reconciler between God and humanity, Jesus Christ is for both revealer.  Who and what God is in truth and who and what humanity, we have not to explore and construct by roving freely far and near, but to read it where the truth about both dwells, in the fullness of their union, their covenant, that fullness which manifests itself in Jesus Christ."


Barth, K. The Humanity of God (James McNab, trans.) in God, Grace, and Gospel, Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, 1959

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