Barth's Theology of Relations, part 5

This post continues 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: 123, 4.

Last time we looked at key points in Barth's Christological anthropology, noting that the humanity of Jesus reveals the essence of what it means to be human as "beings-in-relationship." In this post we'll learn more about Barth's perspective on this essential truth and our response to it.

In the relationship between Jesus and God, his Father, we learn that to be truly and fully human means to be a being-in-relationship in three ways: from God, to God, and with GodThese three dynamic, active ways of being for God constitute the content of the relationship between Jesus and God, and thus the relationship between humanity (born again in Jesus) and God. As Gary notes, Barth teaches that "God is a relational being-in-action of loving fellowship in Himself and towards us in Christ" (p. 54).

Do Not Be Afraid by Liz Lemon Swindle
(used with permission)

The three divine Persons of the Trinity enjoy a relationship with each other that is analogous to the relationship that humans, in Christ and by the Spirit, enjoy with God. That divine-human relationship is covenantal, not contractual---one of love, not law. For the human person Jesus, this means "living in covenant relation under the blessed Lordship of His Father to the end of fulfilling and participating in His Father's (and His own) good and loving purpose for the salvation of humankind" (p. 55). Thus who Jesus is (being-in-relation) defines what he does. Said another way, Jesus' doing perfectly expresses his being, and his being is one of becoming---living out his purpose for being, which is to save the world. Indeed, the man Jesus lives both for God and for humankind, the latter expressing God's own act of love for humankind. Thus the Gospel of John declares that "God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son..."

In the perfect humanity of Jesus we see what we, also beings-in-relationship, are destined to become. On p. 57, Gary notes six criteria in defining this perfected humanity (re-born in Jesus). It's about...
  1. humans in relation to God
  2. being conditioned by the fact of what Jesus, in his vicarious humanity, has done for all humans
  3. God's glory
  4. God's lordship
  5. freedom for God, not freedom from God (so as to escape his lordship)---it's about freedom to decide for God and so to worship him
  6. active participation in what God does and means for humans---it's about serving God
Gary sums up these criteria noting that humanity is with God in that, in Christ (the elect human), humanity is summoned to a life lived out in a response of gratitude and responsibility. Gary goes on to summarize Barth's thought:
Humanity is not only revealed in Jesus, but is determined to be what it is in Jesus and his relationship to God. That is, humankind is given its ontologial status in and with the being-in-relationship of the man Jesus to God. All humanity [thus] stands in this history of relationship. (p. 59)
The "bottom line" of this onto-relational reality is that "no man would be with God were not Jesus with God in His own unique way" (p. 60). But the good news is that the human person Jesus truly is (forever) perfectly with God where he serves on our behalf as our Mediator (High Priest) bringing us with him into an intimate relationship with God. That this mediation is a continuing work, changes forever who we (ontologically) are as humans. Or as Barth succinctly (and powerfully) puts it, "Man is with God because he is with Jesus" (p. 60). Gary summarizes Barth's thought on this vital point:
In and through and with Jesus all humankind is co-ordinated with God.... Jesus is not [merely] an example of a human with God; he embodies and enacts the immediate presence of God so that all other, by His presence and saving activity, are with God. Human existence is determined in form and content by this Word of God. (p. 60)
Of course, among humans, there are those who resist this onto-relational reality that their being is with God just as Jesus's (human) being is with humankind. In their reistance, they are living a lie. As Barth notes, they are living contrary to their humanity (see p. 60).

A word of caution is in order here (and Gary offers one, beginning on p. 61)---the union we have with God, in Christ, does not mean that we, as human, are "identical" with the being of God. As Gary notes, "humankind is distinct yet utterly dependent upon its relationship to God for its existance" (p. 61). According to Barth, this union is "not a oneness of being but a genuine togetherness of being with God" (p. 61). Gary continues, summarizing Barth's thought on this point:
In relationship mankind has its being which is distinct yet inextricably bound to God in Jesus Christ. Relationship of this sort is not a threat to man, but the ground of his existence, the fulfillment of his being. Thus, Jesus' humanity is not extinguised by his unity with the Father but is in fact established all the more. (pp. 61-62)
Said another way, "Because God is for man in Christ, man in turn can now be for God in Christ" (p. 65). Indeed, God in (the elected divine-human person) Jesus Christ, is for humanity and, in Christ, humanity is for God. This being-in-relationship with God summons humanity to a response---to actively live out the reality of what humankind, in Christ, truly is. Gary comments:"Humanity becomes what God purposes it to be in and through participating responsibly, that is obediently, prayerfullly and knowingly, in the graciously-given relationship" (p. 64).