Archives For Karl Barth

The tally of the Sri Lankan bombings on Resurrection Sunday now stands at 290 people with around 500 more wounded (many of that number include Sri Lankan Christians).

CNN reported that ‘two (now revealed to be 8) suicide bombers perpetrated the attacks hitting three churches and four luxury hotels.’  The Wall Street Journal noted official statements from the Sri Lankan government, who said that the attacks were perpetrated by an Islamist group known as National Thoweeth Jamath.

Apart from some formal condemnations from countries such as Indonesia, the Muslim world remains largely silent. While there are live updates from news organizations, including CNN, there’s no outrage about Islamism, or widespread sympathy from Muslims.

In addition, as was done to right-wing groups after the Mosque attack in New Zealand, there are no extensive editorials, and little to no panels filled by Leftist academics, sitting down to examine the issues and dangers pertaining to Islamism, and how the Islamic faith is interwoven with political ideology, or how events like the mass murder of Sri Lankans in church celebrating Easter, proves that the political dogma which permeates Islam is a tyrannical antitheses to Biblical Christianity (Judeo-Christianity), it’s progeny Classical Liberalism and Western Civilization[1].

With over 500 wounded and 290 dead, the outpouring of support, outrage and sympathy has been well short of that which was seen after a lone wolf, “eco-fascist”, attacked the Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, killing 50 and wounding another 50.

One of the few examples of unprecedented support for Christians, came from Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament President, who hours after the Islamist terror attacks in Sri Lanka, issued a message of condolence, and solidarity. Tajani stated that the “attacks on Sri Lankan churches testify to a real genocide perpetrated against Christians.”

Tajani called a spade a spade, arguing for a renewal of the pursuit for religious freedom. Part of this was an implied condemnation of violent attempts to eradicate Christians from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Tajani’s response is a direct contrast to the begrudging sympathy issued forth by leading Democrats in the United States. Democrats fell in line with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, falsely referring the victims of the Church attacks as “Easter worshippers”.

Certainly not every victim was a Christian, but this deliberate ambiguity is antagonistic, if not snarky, and manipulative. It’s how the Democratic Left does politics and it’s abhorrent.

Not calling a spade a spade, or politicking with half-truths is why the American Democrats are viewed with suspicion in the eyes of many voters. What voters see and observe, doesn’t match what their politicians are selling them.

That leading Democrats are still continuing to play around with words, and blur distinctions, in order to suit their own narrative, shows that these leading Democrats have learnt nothing from Hillary Clinton’s bitter election loss in 2016.

Calling the Christian victims “Easter worshippers” doesn’t just insult the victims of the Islamist attack on three Sri Lankan churches, it rubs salt into a wound felt by Christians all around the world.

Adding insult to injury, some Leftists and at least one Australian Union mocked Scott Morrison, Australia’s Christian Prime Minister, after video emerged of him attending Church. Inferring that Christians were “Nazi worshippers”. Twitter users falsely equated Christians raising their hands in a sign of surrender and openness to God (and as such an act of humility and worship), with the Hitler salute.

One Twitter user referencing an article in The Age stated: “[A] nazi salute. Have a look at the photo – only two men doing it so it can’t be a religious thing.”

Another: “The only difference to this and a Nazi rally from the 30s are the players and the date… except Murdoch is Hitler and Morrison is Goebbels!”

Then another asserted that: “Scott Morrison is not a Christian.”By their works ye shall know them”. Looks like a Nazi salute to me.”

While all of these users were anonymous, that fact doesn’t delegitimize the severity of the act, the accusation, and the negative pattern of behavior attached to it.

Turning Christians into “Easter worshippers” and Christians worshipping in Church, into “Nazi worshippers”, shows the contrast between reactions to N.Z and Sri Lanka.

It’s another example of how the narrative surrounding “white guilt” is built up to force Westerners to remain silent, where there should be outrage, critique and criticism.

The West is told that Islamophobia is racism. Any challenge to Islamic ideology is to be punished. All moral opposition to Islamism is treated as treason. (It’s now much the same with critiques of homosexuality).

For fear of being accused of white supremacism, many in the West become unable to see how terms like Islamophobia are used to slowly bring the World into submission to what could be rightfully be called Islamist supremacism.

For example, British Philosopher, Sir Roger Scruton lost his U.K Government role as Housing Adviser, after criticizing George Soros and asserting that

“Islamophobia was an attempt to control conversation by making any and all criticism of Islam or Muslims a social pathology. (The same is true with all these absurd, politicized -phobias.)”[2]

There have also been calls for Scruton’s knighthood to be revoked.

As Scruton and Muslim writer, Ismail Royer point out.

“[In the minds of the Muslim Brotherhood it’s] impossible for anyone to write critically about Islam, or the deeds of Muslims, in good faith. The only acceptable angle was flattery” (Scruton)
“The Scruton affair illustrates a mindset afflicting many modern Muslims. As @ScholarsInk points out, this is a man who has engaged in substantive dialogue with Islamic scholars. It’s a problem that many Muslims find anything other than flattery to be absolutely intolerable.” (Royer)

Through the Left’s sycophantic political correctness imposed on Western societies, far too many are having their hands tied and mouths gagged, by falsehoods and lies such as the myth that Islam is an oppressed “race”, and that “all white people are racist.”

Add “Easter worshippers” and “Nazi worshippers” to these falsehoods and you’d have to be blind not to see the negative pattern of behavior and the agenda behind it.

Persecution of Christians isn’t subsiding. Terror Attacks on Christians and churches in Nigeria, the Philippines, Syria, Iran, China, India, Egypt and France, are now common place. Every year another country is added to the list.

Although different and a lot less blatant in The West, intolerance and discrimination against Christians is surfacing, e.g.: Roger Scruton, Israel Folau, Margaret Court.

Just as physical attacks on Churches are coordinated and deliberate, so are the intellectual and verbal assaults against Westerners and Christians in general.

There is an obvious discrepancy between the response to Christians after the Sri Lankan Church bombings and the global embrace that was afforded to Muslims, not just in New Zealand, but around the world.

One such example is when leading American Democrats deliberately refuse to call the victims of the church bombings Christians, and instead refer to them as “Easter Worshippers”; an insult that dehumanizes Christians and waters down the threat. This was exhibited by vile diatribes from Leftists, who also inferred that Christians were “Nazi worshippers”.

There is, however, hope. There are those like Tajani (in this case anyway), Scruton, and Royer who see the gathering storm, and instead of cowering in appeasement before it, choose to do everything in their power to respond to it, by educating people in the truth about Islam’s violent historical path and the deceptive nature that hides the destructive all-consuming agenda of Islamists.

If the Hillary Clinton losing the 2016 election, Brexit, Lexit, Blexit, #walkaway, Yellow Jackets, Fraser Anning and the list goes on, say anything, it’s that the age of manipulating the truth, of not calling a spade a spade, of sugar coating, and softening truth to fit into people’s lives in order to win votes, instead of speaking truthfully and allowing the truth to correct people’s lives, is nearing an end.

Therefore the work of the church today is to understand and posit an effective resistance within the context of this new and universal Church struggle, not be defined by it. Resisting the storm comes by standing on the truth. The church speaking God’s agenda for the culture, instead of submitting to any culture that seeks to make itself a god and determine the agenda of the Church. Therefore, ‘[our] reaction should be one of a spiritual and psychological nature, and on a scholarly level.’ (Jacques Ellul, 2015)[3]

For Christians, even those who stand before direct hostility, and who face the possibility of annihilation[4], this means continuing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, not the spirit of the age.

It’s by this Light that Christians can ‘stand and proceed even when they and their neighbours expect to see themselves fall into the abyss. It’s by this Light that Christians can be courageous and patient and cheerful even where not just appearances, but the massive whole of reality forbids them to be so.’[5]

This means following Jesus Christ, the One who despite the world’s violent opposition, and despite falsehood from without and within, guides us by God’s grace, through God’s providence, and fatherly good will, into all Truth (John 14:6, ESV).


References:

[1] See Roger Scruton’s ‘The West & all the Rest’ 2002; and Jacques Ellul’s, ‘Islam & Judeo-Christianity: a Critique of their Commonality’, 2015.

[2] Rod Dreher, The ‘Islamophobia’ Smear Against Scruton April 12th 2019, The American Conservative

[3] Islam & Judeo-Christianity: A Critique of Their Commonality (p.67)

[4] Such as the Egyptians Coptic Christians and Assyrian Christians in Northern Iraq and Southern Turkey; for more see the excellent Documentary ‘The Last Christians’.

[5] Barth, K., Bromiley, G. W., & Torrance, T. F. (2004). Church dogmatics: The doctrine of creation, Part 3 (3rd ed., Vol. 3, p. 250). London; New York: T&T Clark.

(Originally posted on Caldron Pool, 23rd April 2019)

©Rod Lampard, 2019

There are a vast number of books that discuss Karl Barth’s theology.

So far some of the best include Gorringe, Busch, Bloesch and Webster.

Outside selected writings, which were core readings while I was at college, I’m yet to completely engage with William Willimon, Sung Wook Chung  or explore works from and Hans Urs Von Balthasar. This said, I may never actually get there because I’m passionate about primary and secondary sources.

It’s one thing to read what people say someone said; it’s another thing to hear what that person actually said. Some filters are necessary. Others mislead and can hinder this objective.

Given the amount of lecturer-directed reading we did of Barth and the student-directed discussions about his theology over those years, my focus since then (as some of you will know) has been on working through his Dogmatics; consulting ‘companion texts’ or sending off an email to mates for their perspective when I’ve found it necessary to do so.

Places to start actually reading Barth are Evangelical Theology: An Introduction’ and ‘Dogmatics in Outline’. These are almost always readily available and inexpensive.

As far as good, short accessible introductions to Karl Barth’s historical context and theology go, I reckon Dean Stroud’s (2013)[i] outline in ‘Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow’  is a serious contender:

‘In 1930 Karl Barth began teaching at the University in Bonn, and not long after that he was calling Christians to radical opposition to the “Thüringen {Nazi-conformist} German Christian movement.’’ (circa 1920’s-1938[ii])
But even before his arrival at Bonn, Barth’s commentary on Romans had caused a stir.
The first edition had appeared in 1919, which was followed by expanded editions from 1921 through to 1932. In his reading of Romans, Barth challenged readers to hear the epistle as God’s word directly addressing the present moment.
No longer was the letter a relic of the past whose message was more historically interesting than contemporarily relevant.
Heinz Zahrnt, whose history of Protestant theology in the 20th Century contains a lengthy discussion of Barth’s commentary, calling it ‘’a great explosion,’’ (bomb theology) in that Barth ‘’proceeds with the single assumption about the text ‘that God is God.’
For Barth, secular history was not an “idealized pantheistic” course of grand events so much as a record of “naturalistic” and “materialistic” forces.
In short, human history was nothing to brag about and certainly it was no hymn of praise to human achievement and progress, given recent events such as World War One.
As Zahrnt expressed it, Barth “turned 19th Century theology on its head” and then went “not from the bottom up but from the top down”. I.e.: we do not reach God by starting with humanity or human achievements and victories, but rather, God reaches out to us in revelation…
For Barth “God is the subject and predicate of his theology all in one”.
Barth and neo-orthodoxy sounded radical to those trained to view Scripture as a curious example of ancient history, not the sacred word of God.
According to Barth’s interpretation, no longer is the reader in charge of the biblical text but the text judges the reader.
And so when the “German Christians” insisted on inserting Hitler and racial hatred into the Scriptures or removing Paul and robbing Jesus of his Jewish identity, Barth was ready to object with a vigorous regard for biblical authority.
19th Century liberal theology had weakened biblical foundations, and “German Christians” has simply taken advantage of this human-centred interpretation.
Barth’s neo-orthodox interpretation of Romans repeatedly hammers away against idolatry of self-worship in human form, nation, or leader…
The gulf between humans and God is too wide for the human eye; only God in his revelation and his word may cross that divide. Hence every human effort to identify a leader, a nation, a fatherland, or a race with the divine always results in the worship of the “No-God.”
Barth urged future preachers in Germany to take the biblical text seriously, to submit themselves to it, and not the other way around.
By focusing on the text through exegesis, pastors would hold up and alternative rhetoric to the culture. From his lectures it is clear that for preachers in the Barthian tradition, the biblical text reigns supreme.
Without the preacher intending to be controversial or political, the Holy Spirit may make him so in the faithful hearing and proclaiming of Scripture. Barth issued a call to arms against the German Christian movement and argued against any marriage of Christianity with Nazism.
He warned that “what under no circumstances is allowed to happen is this, that we in zeal for a new thing we consider good, lose our theological existence.
God is nowhere present for us, nowhere present in the world, nowhere present in our realm and in our time as in his word; that this word of his has no other name and content than Jesus Christ and that Jesus Christ for us is nowhere in the world to be found as new every day except in the Old and New Testaments. About this we in the church are unified or we are not in the church”
Theological existence today, for Barth, was being bound to God’s Word and to Jesus Christ alone and to no other name or race of land.’[iii]

On the whole I’m uncomfortable with labels outside just being called a Christian, so the term Barthian is not something I’m quick to apply to myself or others with any deliberate zeal.

I am, however, convinced that what The Word of God might say to the Christian through a Barthian lens has the potential to transform lives, beginning with their theology.


References:

[i] Stroud, D. 2013 (editor), Preaching in Hitler’s Shadow: Sermons of resistance in the Third Reich, Wm.B Eerdmans Publishing Company

[ii] Ibid, p.23

[iii] Ibid, pp.31-33

Image: Storied Theology – On Loving Freedom

Originally published 14th September 2014 

©Rod Lampard, 2019

A lot of people leave out the Christian part when it comes to Martin Luther King Jnr. They do this because they’re either uncomfortable with the truth, they simply don’t know, have a prejudice towards Christians, or don’t really want to know.

This was illustrated by the brilliant, Vince Conard in a recent comic strip he posted to Instagram.

 

What Conrad presents is a critique of the tone, aggression and disunity of our day. Any mention of Martin’s faith, is anathema on some circles within the West. The fact that in 1934, the year after Hitler had taken for himself total power, MLK’s parents named their son after a German theologian and reformer has a lot to do with their faith in Christ. They acted in faith, because of the liberating power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which was displayed in the actions of the early Martin Luther during the Reformation. This fact seems to grate against those in the West, who may seek to hijack MLK in the name of division, self-interest and fear.

Tearing MLK away from his theological foundation, tears King away from everything he stood for and against. MLK’s legacy is a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the overcoming of sin. All sin, not just the bits and pieces some people choose to focus on in order to lord it over others. This includes the sin of treating others, who are created in the image of God, differently because of the colour of their skin.

MLK’s legacy is a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the liberation of humanity from its primal atheism. This is a liberation from humanity’s rejection of grace, its self-displacement, subsequent displacement of others and self-destruction.

Karl Barth spoke consistently about his view that the “no” of God heard in Jesus Christ has nothing on the great “yes” of God, spoken at the same time. This humiliation of God is the exaltation of humanity. This is something God chose. In exercising His freedom, God hands us freedom. True freedom only finds its place within the God who is free. God remains the God  who is sovereign and free; and must do so, in order for us to be truly set free. Anything outside the gift of freedom from the sovereign God who is free isn’t true freedom, it’s true bondage; for ‘if the Son sets free, you are free indeed.’ (John 8:36)

In more technical terms:

‘…it is necessarily the case that the [free] omnipotent operation of God merely leaves the activity of the creature free, but makes it free…the effect of operation of God is not bondage but freedom. We could almost put it in this way, that the bondage which results from the operation of the Word and Spirit is itself true freedom.’ (Barth CD.3.3:150)

Freedom consecrated by response, responsibility, partnership with God, prophesy, ministry, healing and teaching. Freedom made real by His choice and His suffering at the hands of whip, condemnation, betrayal, spear, and death on a Roman cross. Freedom vindicated by the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus, who is not another myth fostered by human imagination, like that of the half-god/half-man Hercules, but is Himself very God and very man.

What grounded Martin Luther King from the start was his faith in Jesus Christ. It’s well documented that when things weighed MLK down, he would lean on the gifts of Mahalia Jackson, who would minister to him through word and song. It’s his defiant Christian faith that should inspire us and point us to the goal of liberation as he saw it, liberation from ALL sin, in the name, word and deeds of Jesus the Christ. Without God’s sovereignty, and His willingness to be for us, none of us are free.

“God is neither hard-hearted or soft minded. He is tough-minded enough to transcend the world; He is tender-hearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us to our agonies and struggles. He seeks for us in dark places and suffers with us, and for us in our tragic prodigality.” (A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love, p.9)

Furthermore, the faith of Martin Luther King Jnr is not to be confused with optimism. It’s not the “faith” of optimists and psychologists. Those who would preach from the pages of positive psychology such as Jordan Peterson. The clever term they use in order to justify reducing the Christian faith to principles that can be lived out, without any need for a relationship with the One who is the author and foundation of this faith; the One who anchors humanity to the living hope that this defiant faith testifies.

Martin Luther King Jnr wasn’t a man without sin, but he was a man who knew that ALL sin is answered first and foremost by God, in and through Jesus Christ.

This segregating of King from his faith and theology may serve the secular political aims of modern liberals, and their quest for total power by any means necessary, but it ultimately enslaves King to the servitude [i]. It enslaves MLK to ideology-as-master and the reactionary political groups it controls. These include groups and agendas, he, in all likelihood would never have signed on to because they persist in denying their own sin, and yet, are loud and proud in their condemnation of the sin of others.

Despite his liberal theology [ii], to separate MLK from Jesus Christ, is to create an MLK who never existed [iii]. To segregate Martin Luther King Jnr from this defiant Christian faith, and the testimony of God, who speaks through it, is to fail to hear what MLK had to say. To segregate MLK from Jesus Christ, is to burn what he set in motion, on the cross of what he hoped to see achieved.

#FREEMLK!


References:

[i] Jean Bethke Elshtain: ‘Martin Luther King was no generic social reformer but an African-American Baptist Minister; Pope John Paul II’s pastoral identity deeply informed his extraordinary diplomatic missions.A range of developments, from civil rights struggles in the U.S to Solidarity in Poland and the end of the Soviet Empire, are incomprehensible if religion is left out of the picture’ (Just War Against Terror, 2008).

[ii] Martin Luther King’s Early theology on ‘The Humanity & Divinity of Jesus‘, where he dissociates himself with the orthodox view of Jesus Christ’s Divinity (Incarnation), e.g.: ‘The Word Became Flesh’.

[iii] MLK criticised liberal theology, but he was caught up and influenced by the theology of it, particularly the Social Gospel, which has an inherently Marxist leaning – e.g.: liberation theology as opposed to a theology of Christian liberation (solidarity & subsidiarity). I believe MLK was more in the latter category, than the former. He wasn’t a liberation theologian. For the sake of simplicity my comment, “despite his liberal theology”, is more a minor footnote acknowledgement of an area that influenced his theological journey.

Artist: Vince Conard, https://www.instagram.com/vince_conard/  (Used with permission)

King, Jnr. M.L. A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love (p.9)

Torrance, T.F. 2009 Atonement: The Person & Work of Jesus Christ InterVarsity Press

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Since 2014 I’ve been committed to considering what different things God might have to say at the close of Christmas. Traditionally this is Epiphany, the 6th January, marking the end of the twelve days of Christmas.

Magi from the East (Persia), following the star (likely to be the well-timed rare alignment of three planets in our Sol system; a Nova or Super Nova) find confirmation of Micah 5:2:

‘but you, O Bethlehem who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient of days’.

The Magi, after arriving in Jerusalem, are sent by the malicious, King Herod, to Bethlehem. The order is: ‘diligently search for the child and report back’ (Matthew 2:9). The Magi are once again ‘guided by the star that they had seen when it rose before them’ (ibid). At this the Magi ‘rejoiced exceedingly with great joy’ (Matthew 2:10). Arriving at the house where Mary and Joseph now reside, the Magi gift their famous tribute of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

This sacrifice honours the One whom they have sought to honour. Their mission is complete. Their journey comes to an end, and they’re offering enters them into a history they never intended to be included in. The Magi aren’t Jewish, but they know the Old Testament; they know of the Jewish prophets. From the East the Magi arrived, perhaps with apprehension and anticipation, but by the time that they end up leaving, they leave having that apprehension and anticipation answered with great joy. The Magi are not disappointed.

With their own eyes they not only see, but joyfully participate in the confirmation of the prophet Micah’s significant foretelling of the birth of the one who comes from the Ancient of Days; the birth of The King of Israel, in insignificant Bethlehem.

This great joy emboldens the Magi. They take heed of a dream in which they are warned not return to King Herod. This is later justified by Herod’s command to kill all male infants aged two and under, in Bethlehem and the surrounding region.

Like the Magi’s visit and their presenting of gifts to the infant Christ (Matthew 2:11), Epiphany is a time of stepping back and gifting God with the attention of our hearts and minds.

Wise men still seek Him, and Epiphany (the traditional close of Christmas celebrations and contemplation) is a good place to end one year and begin another.

Instead of us making our own resolutions, it’s a good time to seek out the resolutions God has already made towards us. Understanding that we ‘worship by the Spirit of God, glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh’ (Philippians 3:3); and that we can rely on His strength to do so, not solely our own.

Looking to what God has already revealed about Himself, we ask, what can we draw from God’s self-revelation that will take us into the New Year with confidence?

What is it about God’s self-revelation that will help us build on God’s resolution towards us, one that outlasts vain and clichéd New Years Eve promises?

Epiphany is not without substance. The great joy of the Magi is not without justification.

They may leave empty-handed, but they don’t leave empty and disillusioned. The Magi leave well guarded; full of the joy of the Lord. This is a joy they’ve witnessed face to face with, and received from, the One who is the ‘fountain of all joy’ (Tony Reinke)[i].

As Karl Barth noted, this great joy is the radiance of God’s glory:

‘God’s love becomes an event and a person, God’s fellowship, powerful and a fact [.…]It is a glory that awakens joy […] God’s glory radiates it […] because it is God who Himself radiates joy […] His glory is radiant, and what it radiates is joy. It attracts and therefore it conquers.’ (Karl Barth, CD. II:1, pp.643, 655, 654, 661) (Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 30:5; Isaiah 55:12; John 15:11)

May Epiphany remind us that ‘the presence of the Creator is not an idle or unfruitful presence. It is not the presence of cold confrontation. It is not a presence which leaves blind eyes blind or deaf ears deaf. It is a presence which opens them. God’s glory is the indwelling joy of His divine being which as such shines out from Him.’ (Barth, CD 2.1:647)

May Epiphany not be a cold confrontation with the great joy experienced by the Magi. May this great joy, be the joy of the Lord working in our lives. May we ‘not be grieved, knowing that the Joy of the Lord is our strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10), and that it is only in Him that great joy is to be found. That we too are guarded and that we too can march on as wise men, when kings, rulers, or the world (and sometimes those about us), are all too happy to deceive, mock, destroy, steal and tear down.

With the Magi, may we say that the great joy awakened in them by the glory of God is now also before us, for us and given resolutely to us. With the Magi, we can embrace the birth of the new and the continuing reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people, and the fact that His joy WILL BE our strength, and none other[ii].


References:

[i] Tony Reinke noted that ‘joy is fundamental to God’s triune nature. To find God is to find the fountain of all joy […] We participate in joy when we reach the essence of all joy: God Himself’. I disagree with how Reinke’s article conflates happiness with Joy, but I agree with the fact that ‘God is the fountain of joy’.

[ii] Dietrich Bonhoeffer: ‘One should, in such times of confusion, go back to the beginning, to our wellsprings, to the true Bible, to the true Luther. One should keep on, ever more undaunted and joyfully, becoming a theologian who speaks truth in love (ἀληθεύοντες ἐν ἀγάπῃ). (DBW 12)

Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash

© Rod Lampard, 2019

Also published @ The Caldron Pool, January 13, 2019 under the same title.

neonbrand-463099-unsplashGrace shows humanity God’s commitment to humanity. This commitment isn’t the result of our empty attempts to placate a bored King who has everything. God’s commitment to us has nothing to do with any human sycophantic transaction. It is a totally aware, pure, turning towards creation by its Creator.

God’s commitment picks humanity up from its failure to fulfill its own commitment towards Himself. Even when rejected, God’s commitment remains unchanged. It cannot be undone. The follow through of grace means that human commitment is fulfilled. God has done it. What is left is the human response to the completed work.

That human commitment fulfilled by God necessitates a turning of the creature back towards the Creator. Hearts and minds are directed back to the memory of His act on our behalf. Humanity is graciously shown the way and firmly commanded to follow.

For Karl Barth, ‘all that [then] remains for me to do is to let my eyes rest on Him, which really means to let my eyes follow Him. This following is my faith. But the great[er] work of faith has already been done by the One whom I follow […] To abide in; to trust in God (Ps.91:1) to believe is to stand in in the communion of saints; who has received, receives and will receive the forgiveness of sins, who hastens towards the resurrection of the flesh and eternal life […] His faith is the victory which has overcome the world.  But that it is this victory does not rest with [the believer], but solely with Him in whom he [may] believe.’ [i]

Human commitment is empowered by God’s grace to be lived out. That humanity is empowered  towards commitment means that whilst God’s act of grace is immutably superimposed, it is not forcefully imposed. We are simply shown the creation and opening of a door where there was none before. God has an exit plan. He spells it out with the letters e.n.l.i.s.t. This is the response to the call of grace: ‘grateful obedience’ (Barth, 2/1 p.229). The commitment of the ‘free man to the free God.’ (Barth, 2/2 p.561) is empowered by God’s revolution; a revolution no man or woman can lie about to control or trump.

This is confronted by God’s act and claim on humanity, to humanity, for humanity vs. humanity’s self-justification and rejection in its counter-claims about God.

“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men and women by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12, ESV)

No other can lay claim to being this truth; fact; Christ event: God’s revealing of Himself in Jesus Christ. No other can lay claim to being the source of goodness; ethics, right and wrong. No other can claim to be the sole hope and promise of our future. Come Nero, hashtag riot, Hillary, Trump, unjust law, illness, closet-oppressive utopian idea, rainbow ideology or Hitler,

“The subject of theological ethics is not the Word of God as it is claimed by humanity, but the Word of God as it claims humanity. It is not man as he is going to make something of the Word of God, but the Word of God as it is going to make something of man* […]The grace of God is always this: Jesus Christ. It is from what God has done for us that we must learn to read what God wants with us and of us. We must seek the command of God only where it has itself torn off the veil of all human opinions and theories about the will of God**” [ii]

This is the chief reason for why we Christians call the Gospel, Good News. God lives and He speaks!

‘A Christian is one who knows that God has accepted him in Jesus Christ, that a decision has been made concerning him in Jesus Christ as the eternal Word of God, and that he has been called into covenant with Him by Jesus Christ as the Word of God spoken in time.’ [iii]

Summed up by Barth, in true Barth fashion:

‘We hear the Gospel as we obey it. For Jesus Christ is the basis in which we may believe in God, the Word in which dwell the light and force to move us to this event. He Himself is the Gospel. He himself is the resolve and the execution of the essential will in which God willed to give Himself to us. The grace of God, of the God in whom we may believe, is this. In Jesus Christ the eternal Word became flesh. Without ceasing to be who He is in Himself, God became as one of us.’ [iv]

As Karl Barth repeatedly remarks, God wills to be with us & wills that we should not be without Him:

‘Death could not hold Him [Jesus Christ], & therefore it cannot hold us. In the midst of death we have in Him no future but that of resurrection and eternal life. The grace of God decides and has already decided concerning our human existence. What then does it mean to be human now that this decision has been reached by the grace of God? It means to be one who stands and walks and lives and dies within the fact that God is gracious to us, that He has made us His own.(Gal. 2:19)’ [v]

The human response to the question of God’s grace, is ‘our answer to this Word. It is a free action bound by commitment’ (Barth, 2/2:546 paraphrased).

In other words, life with God, begins with, God with us.

Jesus Christ is the Gospel (Barth). He is the author, recipient and standard of both the Shema Yisrael and Lord’s Prayer:

“Hear O, Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy, 6:4-5, ESV)

 


References:

[i] Barth, K. 1942 The Basis of the Divine Claim, CD 2/2 Hendrickson Publishers (p.559)

[ii] Ibid, p.546* & pp.560 & 559**

[iii] Ibid, p.547

[iv] Ibid, pp.557 & 558

[v] Ibid, pp. 558-559

[the words wrapped in parenthesis are my own]

Originally published 7th November 2016.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

If Australia’s Prime Minister is serious about fairness, he’ll preserve the right to a conscientious objection to SSM; the right for people to hold the view, and teach their kids that marriage is between a man and a woman; and that those children have a right to equal access to their biological father and mother.

As I have hopefully made clear in the written contributions I’ve made to this national debate, I see the issues as a matter of social justice. The “no” vote has been about defending truth, liberty, fraternity, science, and even equality, from unbalanced ideological servitude.

The State wants the church to stay out of politics, but the Church is being encroached on by the State. The people want the church to stay out of politics, but it paints their political slogans on church walls, violently interferes with gatherings and misuses the Bible to manipulate or bash Christians into submission. The people want the church to stay out of politics, but they bring politics into the church, demanding a pledge of allegiance to systems that perpetuate hatred and inequality, behind a veil of tolerance, love and equality.

None of this is new, it’s the very same thing that was perpetuated by Nazis and Communists, as French theologian and Marxist scholar, Jacques Ellul noted:

‘But I’ve heard such talk a thousand times, from fascists as well as Stalinists: “You have no right to judge from the outside; first you must join up, sympathize totally with our aims, and then you can talk.” BUT that is just when one can no longer say anything! The experience of those who looked horrified, in hindsight, on Hitler’s or Stalin’s time confirms this: “How could we have taken part in that?” they ask.’
(Ellul, Jesus & Marx 1988:146)[i]

It’s a clear double standard when the LGBTQ and their supporters can freely criticise and push others to refuse service to those who disagree, then turn around and deny those in disagreement, the right to the same free speech and freedom of conscience. That’s not equality.

The line is blurring. Christians who support SSM have confused love of God with love of neighbour, and as such have compromised their neighbour, through a false [Marxist/materialist] claim that says we should place love for neighbour over and above God.

This is what is called horizontal theology. It is grounded in the errors and perversity of natural theology; the implicit claim that by blindly loving  our neighbour we can reach God through our neighbor. This encourages me to treat my neighbor as though that neighbor was a second revelation of God. The kind of ideas that lead to the false worship of Kings, rulers, prophets and objects throughout history. In short, the creature is worshipped in place of the Creator, because the Creator has been confused with His creature.

We are to be Christlike in our treatment of our neighour; have Christ in mind when we go to serve our neighbour, but we are grossly mistaken if we think that Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40 “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me”, means that our neighbor replaces Christ.

This misunderstanding leads is to works-righteousness. It leads us away from the righteousness of God that is graciously placed on us by the dynamic love of God. Grace that is active, free and sufficient, in the work carried out by the obedience of Jesus Christ.

We reject grace, when we reject Christ and put our neigbour in His place. This is because we reject God’s invitation to relationship. It denies God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, “who is the way, the truth and the life”[ii] it denies the fact that life with God, begins with, God with us. Christless Christianity is an oxymoron.

Love is not love, God is love. That “they will know us by our love”[iii] is true, but that love involves the freedom to give both a reasoned “yes” and “no”. The alternative view confuses love with niceness, sloth and indifference.

What this does is turn Christianity into a numb universal ethic of niceness – a lukewarm empty shell; a stoic idol built to reflect and cater to the feelings of men and women.

The ethic of universal niceness is false and incompatible with a thinking faith that commands us to have no god before God; to “test all things, and hold fast to the good[iv]”; to discern and ultimately lean not “on our own understanding, but on God.’’ (Proverbs 3:5-7). To lean not on an abstract or vague idea of God, nor on a god created by human imagination, but on the tangible gracious grip of God, as the One who grasps us and testifies to us about Himself, in space and time, through covenant and in Jesus the Christ.

Faith seeks understanding.

Our response to this is found in prayer and gratitude. Actions; grounded in word, deed and attitude that reciprocates God’s selfless movement towards us, in covenant, manger, cross, empty tomb and beyond.

Being super nice has the veneer of Christian love, but it’s moral therapeutic deism at best, practical atheism (Christian in name only) at worst. This is the kind of thing that fed the blood and soil ideology of Nazism, and the Marxist ‘deification of the poor, over against THE POOR One’ (Ellul, 1988), through the dictatorship of the proletariat. Not that we should ignore the poor, but that we shouldn’t deify them to further the self-interests of those who take it upon themselves to designate who the oppressed and the oppressors are. For all have fallen short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23).

For those who voted “no” in 2017, there will be a need to take time to carefully consider the way forward.

If we are to be true to this “no” and the love behind it, this will involve having to rise and once again say to the world that we refuse to surrender or kneel before anyone but God, and His revelation in Jesus Christ.

To once again say to the world that love of neighbour is not love of God, nor should we confuse the two. For to do so is to make a god of our neighbour, and make love for neighbour, the means of salvation. Love of neighbour is grounded on and in our love of God, without the latter we are not free and therefore, we cannot truly do the former. We will be doomed to serving our own selfish interests.

Jesus is the way, tolerance isn’t. Jesus is the way, love is love isn’t. Jesus is the way, means that no man or woman, good work or intention, super niceness, or feeling is or can be. The true path to freedom, the only path to salvation is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. This cannot be reversed. It is decisive. The path is set.  #bewaretheauctioneers

In light of the changes to come, Christians are to do what they are called to do, centre everything in Jesus Christ. To lay every issue before the cross, following Paul’s words in Romans 12, clinging especially to those which encourage us to ‘…rejoice in hope, be patient in trial, be constant in prayer.’

This is bolstered by Karl Barth’s reminder:

‘The Church is either a missionary Church or it is no church at all. Christians are either messengers of God [with or without words] to both Jew and Gentile, or else they are not Christians at all.’ [v]

Far too many churches, ministers and Christian scholars are staying silent, waiting to see who wins what society calls “the culture wars”, so that they can back the winner. That’s a coward’s gamble. It’s an action that they may one day come to regret. Now is the time. Speak life. Speak truth in love. Set your eyes towards Christ, because inhaled grace ignites.

Kyrie Eleison.


References:

[i] Ellul, J. 1988 Jesus & Marx: From Gospel to Ideology Wipf and Stock Publishers

[ii] John 14:6, ESV

[iii] John 13:35 & Matthew 7:16 ESV

[iv] 1 Thess. 5:21, 1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 John 4:1 ESV

[v] Barth, K. Church Dogmatics 3.3, The Divine Preserving (p.64)

(Updated and edited from an article posted in November, 2017, called, To Everything There Is a Season: Deifying Our Neighbour Isn’t One of Them. Also published on The Caldron Pool, 20th November, 2018.

Photo Credit: Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018.

Respected theologian, Pastor and author, Will Willimon, recently wrote an article citing a bishop who  changed his mind about homosexuality.
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Here is the brief response I posted in the comments section:
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Unlike so many who will no doubt applaud this, I won’t. As was pointed out above [in another comment], a lot of the reasoning appears emotionally based. Surrendering to the man-made god of love, is not surrender to the God who is love. The LGBT church can hardly be called a Christian church, any more than the German Christians, who watered down theology and surrendered themselves and their theology to the ideological overlords of their day.
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As Karl Barth noted, we must not confuse love for God, with love for neighbour, for if we do, we end up deifying our neighbour. It neither helps them, loves them, or is an example of walking in the footsteps of Christ. I admit, this is a complex issue, but if beloved family cannot respect, tolerant and be inclusive of a loving “no”, built on convictions drawn from biblical truth, tried and true healthy tradition, and biological science. Then I would question whether appeasement of them; and a happy ignorance of the consequences such as the fatherless and motherless children who will come after them (among other things), was only self-serving, and not truly loving.
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I fear this appeasement is a surrender to Natural Theology, and as such, I am reluctant to applaud those well-respected and esteemed theologians who, not only sign onto it, but take its oath in servitude to it.