Barth's Theology of Relations, part 4

This post continues a series looking at Gary Deddo's two-volume book, "Karl Barth's Theology of Relations (Trinitarian, Christological, and Human: Towards an Ethic of the Family)." For other posts in this series, click a number: 1, 2, 3, 5.

Last time in this series we noted two key points in Barth's Christological anthropology:
  • In God we begin to see who we are (beings-in-relation, reflections of the relational, triune God)
  • Jesus' humanity determines our humanity (in his humanity, Jesus is the true imago Dei)
Gary goes on to note five related points:

1. In the person of Jesus there is the co-incidence of act and being

Ascension of Christ by Fugel
(public domain via Wikimedia Commons)
A fundamental truth for Barth is that Jesus does what he is. In Christ, there is perfect unity between his being and act. Who is Jesus?---according to Barth, he is the one who has his being "by virtue of His relationship to God and in relationship to mankind" (p. 45).

As the God-man that he is, and thus in all he does, Jesus is humanity's wisdom, righteounsess, sanctification and redemption. Jesus is who he is in these saving acts on behalf of all humanity. In his own person and thus by his acts, he is humanity's Way, Truth, Life, Light, Door, Bread and Shepherd---all the "I am" designations in John's Gospel. Jesus does these things because Jesus, the God-man, is these things in relation both to God and to all humanity.

2. This Jesus, in the unity of being and act, is a human person

Jesus is a real man (fully human), and remains so in his resurrection, ascension and session at God's right hand as our High Priest. This human person (now glorified) will return to earth one day. The stunning truth of the Incarnation is that the divine Son of God has, in the human person Jesus, the same human nature we have, though that nature cannot be measured by ours for "it is original in Him."

It is Jesus' humanity (not ours) "that reveals what our humanity truly is" (p. 47), or as Barth states: "The nature of human possiblities rests upon and is knowable by the fact that they are realized in [Jesus]" (p. 47). Gary elaborates:
Jesus is "real man." It is not the case... that since Jesus is designated real all others are unreal. It is just the opposite. Our reality is established in Him. For Barth it is misleading to speak only of Jesus as true man, that is as an ideal, as a potential reality which may or may not become realized. There is only one reality of our humanity. It is that established in Jesus Christ. It is that realtiy in which we now live and move and have our being. The only question is whether we will live according to that reality or not. Not doing so does not establish a counter-reality, or a less that ideal reality, but constitutes a denial of the reality of who we actually/really are: those who have their being in relationshipt to God in Jesus Christ. (footnote, p. 47)
Thus we understand that Jesus has his being in real relationship (union) both with God and with humanity. Jesus, who IS our humanity, has this humanity for us. It is ours, though we do not yet fully experience it.

3. The history, action, and work of the person of Jesus has no other reason for being except the Salvation of humankind

Again, Jesus does what Jesus is. He saves us because in his person (the union of God and humanity) he is humankind's salvation. He also judges us because in his person he is humankind's judgment.

4. The life and work of this man are identical with the life and work of God, yet in such a way that the real humanity of Jesus is confirmed not subsumed

Because Jesus in his divinity is in union with the Father and the Spirit, when Jesus acts, God acts---there is, as Gary notes, "a complete correspondence between God and Jesus" (p. 49). This does not mean, however, that Jesus' person is lost in this union---Jesus' person is not collapsed into God.

The union between God and Jesus is to be understood as "an intimate relationship which may properly be called a oneness... which calls for differntiation with it. It is a relational unity.... The unity does not dissolve the relationship; the diffentiation does not threaten to undo the relationship" (pp. 49, 50).

5. The unity and continuing distinction between the man Jesus and God is ultimately grounded in the intra-triune relations of Father, Son and Spirit

In the humanity of Jesus, as he relates to the Father, we see the triune relations of Father, Son and Spirit. We also see this relationship in the way Jesus relates to humanity. A defining common denominator in these relationships is love, expressed as self-giving.

Next time we'll look further at the humanity of Jesus and what that tells us about our humanity as beings-in-relationship.