The Knowledge of God on God’s terms
Barth reminds us that in ‘the doctrine of God we have to learn what we are saying when we say “God”’. Who is God? Do we speak rightly about this Subject? I am of the opinion that there is great confusion within evangelicalism concerning this very question. Given certain theological commitments regarding the atonement, and the rampant naive biblicism I see in so many quarters (something I consider to be Evangelicalism's greatest weakness), I suspect that behind many evangelical confessions that "God loves us" is more than a sneaking suspicion that God is not entirely for us, that there is a part of God which would sooner destroy us than embrace us.
Karl Barth, in CD II/1, § 25, kicks off his discussion of the knowledge of God by maintaining that this knowledge begins with God, a fact which involves a number of negative correlates. First, we cannot therefore ask whether knowledge of God is real "from some position outside itself", which would effectively create a position and standpoint to adjudicate on the matter outside of the actuality (an important word for Barth) of God's revelation of His Word by the Holy Spirit. As he argues:
‘[T]he possibility of the knowledge of God and therefore the knowability of God cannot be questioned in vacuo, or by means of a general criterion of knowledge delimiting the knowledge of God from without, but only from within this real knowledge itself’
Second, to begin analysis of what we mean when we say "God" outside of the revelation of God, will ultimately lead, through doubt and anxiety, to idolatry and even atheism.
What is required is the constraint of the Word of God, which is our only basis for considering the doctrine of God. It is precisely this wonderful constraint which is often lacking in the devoted biblicism of much evangelicalism, such that sincere “Bible believing” Christians, attempting their best to work out the "original meaning" or "plain sense" of given scriptures, can end up saying almost anything they want to about God. In the next post (in the Barth CD II/1 category), I will cite an alarming example which demonstrates this point.
Labels: Barth CD II/1