Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Barth on universalism as doctrine hope and prayer

There is no good reason why we should forbid ourselves, or be forbidden, openness to the possibility that in the reality of God and man in Jesus Christ there is contained ... the supremely unexpected withdrawal of the final threat ... If for a moment we accept the unfalsified truth of the reality which even now so forcefully limits the perverted human situation, does it not point plainly in the direction of a truly eternal divine patience and deliverance and therefore of a ... universal reconciliation? If we are forbidden to count on this ... we are surely commanded the more definitely to hope and pray for this. - CD IV/3, 478

This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before. - The Humanity of God (1961), 60.

Man can certainly flee from God ... but he cannot escape him. He can certainly hate God and be hateful to God, but he cannot change into its opposite the eternal love of God which triumphs even in his hate. [Reference?]

Thoughts? Reflections? Hate-mail?
UPDATE: Here are Augustine's thoughts on the matter.
Ten points for the first to name three controversial Sydney landmarks in this picture. Another five for naming the Sydney landmark upon which I'm standing to take this shot.

24 comments:

D.W. Congdon said...

A great quote, though it's interesting that he felt "forbidden" to count on universal reconciliation. Barth surely did not feel so constrained by the classical Reformed theology on predestination, so for him to feel constrained by a council in the sixth century is a little odd. Furthermore, as Oliver Crisp has pointed out in a very helpful article, it is disingenuous for Barth to reject universalism when all of this theology makes universalism the only valid option in the end. Barth should have gotten over his hang-ups and just proclaimed what was at least implicitly contained in his theology (and at some parts quite explicitly).

Drew said...

But praying for it would be certainly different to proclaiming it, yes? As much is suggested by your post title.

D.W. Congdon said...

By the way, where is this quote?

Drew said...

I don't think Barth is being constrained by 6th century theologians (not that I know much about him). He is constrained by his own logic - if he cannot close off the possibility of the "unexpected withdrawal of the final threat", then he likewise cannot close off the Father's rightful judgement of sin. Thus "forbidden" to count on it, and following, to proclaim it.

Interestingly, I completely missed the line on 'forbidden to count on this' on my first read - that'll teach me to skim - but as my previous comment pointed out, as much is implied by the logic he is using.

Looney said...

Hmmm. As a deluded fundamentalist, I have a problem with universalism as doctrine, but as hope or prayer ... I guess I apply universalism as hope or prayer to everyone I meet, especially my enemies (per the commands). But collectively, I have a problem. For example, I don't feel compelled to pray, "Lord, please save all the madmen". On the other hand, I might feel led to pray, "Lord, please convict Kim Jong Il of his need to accept you as his savior and may he open his coutry to the gospel". Is there any need to go further than this?

byron said...

Looney: why not pray for all the madmen? Or at least, why not pray for each and every madman (or woman) that you meet or know of?

DWC: I agree with Drew. I don't think Barth's compulsion is concilliar, but it has (as always) to do with God's sovereign freedom. No system (including universalism) is able to 'bind' God into neatly predictable responses. Ben Myers has a post discussing this. As for the missing location of the quote - well spotted. I've been searching myself for the reference. I've taken this quote (or actually, two separate quotes - the final paragraph doesn't belong with the other two) from here (see Kim's 2nd and lengthy comment) and here.

Drew: yes, it is this difference between prayer and proclamation that is the key for Barth (at least according to Ben...).

Hypnotize said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
byron said...

I deleted a comment that had nothing to do with the thread and which just advertised another site.

byron said...

I've now updated with two of the three references. Thanks Kim.

Rob said...

Great post. I'm fairly new into reading all these people (I'm only 17), but I do see Barth mentioned all over the place. I suppose Church Dogmatics has its place somewhere in my future.

byron said...

Hard to avoid it really. :-)
Not that you'd want to.

byron said...

No one has claimed the fifteen points on offer with this photo. I thought this was the easiest one so far!

Cyberpastor said...

I wonder whether Barth wasn't just squirming under pressure from his modernist friends. After all there are no end of calls to divorce the harsh and sometime cruelly arbitrary God of the OT and replace him with the God who is Love in the New Testament.

From the point of view of esoteric discussions about eternal divine decrees it does seem a nice hope that God would slip in a lovely surprise at the last minute but what would that do for our concept of justice?

Now in asking that question, I'm actually not referring to the Kantian kind of justice at the end of the world issue that is supposed to weigh up the grievances of history. As attractive as that may be, I suspect we ought to consider that the place of the Messiah eclipses our understanding of God's judgement - as with everything else. What I mean by this is that the point of the final jdugement is not that bad guys get it in the neck so much as that the truly righteous one - Messiah Jesus - is vindicated for his righteousness.

When John writes, "Whoever believes in the Son will have life but whoever does not believe in the Son will not have life because the wrath of God remains upon him," (Jn3:36) it is worth considering that for the sake of the Son's righteousness, in fact for his vindication, there will be a judgement. Shall we say that there has to be?

Now some might point out that his resurrection and enthronement at the right hand is his vindication but I am not sure that means that he does not yet deserve, "to have his enemies made a footstool." Ps.2:12

byron said...

Thanks Cyberpastor: the vindication of God's Messiah as the heart of divine judgement makes better sense than the squaring of an eternal ledgerbook.

phillip said...

Universalism is attractive but the real row is still centred on the notion of Hell and endless suffering which is completely at odds with God as Love and as a Just Judge for that matter. Throw out this absurd doctrine and acknowledge that the 'wages of sin is death' and hey what's the problem, if I choose to drink like George Best natural law will kick in sooner or later and dead I'll be, if I don't get righteous in Christ then no chance I'm entering that city partaking of the tree of life so eternal death is gonna get me. Adam was eating food before he fell so he was always going to perish but while still righteous the possibility of eternal life was present but wasn't it necessary for him to 'become like God knowing good and evil' for our second Adam to 'know to choose the good and reject the evil' which is how we all eventually are accepted and able 'to stretch out our hands and take of the tree of life and live for ever'. keep it simple Mr Ockham.

byron said...

Phillip - thanks for your thoughts. I do think that Adam's (and Eve's) life was conditional even in the garden. As for the arguments about annihilationism, I've wondered about what an annihilationist might say about the doctrine of resurrection, esp the 'resurrection to shame' of which Daniel speaks (Dan 12.3). Any thoughts?

PS Do you mean this George Best? I hadn't heard of him before.

Martin Kemp said...

Sydney landmarks...
Obviously the S.O.H.
But as for other 'controversial' landmarks...I'm not sure that the other 'controversial' landmarks in the Bridge area are actually observable in the pic. The 'Toaster' is further to the left than the pic frame, and Blues Point Tower is obscured by the bridge...Unless you have other ones in mind?

byron said...

Marty - yes, the opera house is certainly one of the three. Though now world famous, non-Sydneysiders mightn't realise the furore that surrounded its design and construction back in the late 60s/early 70s. And while the Blues Point Tower and 'Toaster' were also controversial, as you correctly point out neither are clearly visible in this picture. There are still two more landmarks that have had a history of significant controversy.

byron said...

But no points until someone gets all three... hmmm, maybe five if you can get two.

Martin Kemp said...

I guess the SHB was controversial. Wasn't there a big fuss over how long it took to actually get the bridge in place in the first instance? Certainly its opening was controversial with Captain de Groote (methinks that was his name) cutting the ribbon before Jack Lang could. And I think there was some argument over the final design.
Could the other landmark be Luna Park? You can just see its ferris wheel under the Bridge. The ghost train fire was a tragic event, but 'controversial'? Maybe it brought up public safety issues. Certainly in more recent years the park's roller coaster was at the centre of a noise pollution dispute between its opperators and local residents.

byron said...

Yep - Bridge and Luna Park. Ten points. You hit the lead!

Martin Kemp said...

Location: Mrs Mac's Chair

byron said...

Marty, you're correct, but unfortunately, I'd already awarded the points to Steve Thompson, who gave the answer back in comments to the more recent post in which I put all the links to the pics up.

byron smith said...

"Before all else, it is Love that judges. God, who is Love, judges through love. It is Love that demands purification, before man can be made ready for that union with God which is his ultimate vocation and destiny. Perhaps this is enough." - John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.