In one of his essays, Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968), generally regarded as the greatest Protestant thinker of the modern era, dives deep on the nature of God’s intrinsic, relational and free personhood. It’s unraveling my brain, and brought excitement to my heart.
Allow me to share some quotes! For Barth, the nature of God in three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the foundation from which we enter our relationship with God and can even begin to comprehend our purpose. God is fellowship within Himself, complete and perfect love. God cannot be understood outside of His relationship with Himself, by virtue of the fact God that all He does flows from this ongoing relationship. As Andersen puts it, God’s relationship as Father, to the Son, through the Spirit is the “inner logic of all ministry.”
Ok, let’s get to some Barth! I can feel myself ready to type too much.
“In God’s own freedom there is encounter and communion; there is order and consequently, dominion and subordination; there is majesty and humility, absolute authority and absolute obedience; there is offer and response. God’s freedom is the freedom of the Father, and the Son, in the unity of the Spirit.”
“God’s own freedom is trinitarian, embracing grace, thankfulness, and peace. It is the freedom of the living God. Only in this relational freedom is God sovereign, almighty and Lord of all.”
“The well known definitions of the essence of God and in particular of His freedom, containing such terms as ‘wholly other,’ ‘transcendent’ or ‘non-wordly’ stand in need of thorough clarification if not fatal misconceptions of human freedom as well are to be avoided. The above definitions might just as well fit a dead idol. Negative as they are, they most certainly miss the very center of the Christian concept of God, the radiant affirmation of free grace, whereby God bound and committed Himself in His Son, a man of Israel and brother of all men, appropriating human nature into the unity of His own being.“
“As a gift of God, human freedom cannot contradict divine freedom. Human freedom is not realized in the solitary detachment of an individual in isolation from his fellow men. I am only a man in relation to my fellow men. Only in encounter and in communion with them may I receive the gift of freedom. God is pro me (for me) because He is pro nobis (for us).”
I love how Barth moves from the Triune nature to what he calls the ‘causa Dei” (cause of God) which today missiologists refer to as missio Dei (sending nature of God). Essentially, our participation, or co-laboring with Jesus on earth is rooted in the relational loving nature of God – All three (Father, Son, Spirit) personalities of God are at work clearly in Scripture in the Gospel, from Creation, to the Incarnation, Baptism, Death and Resurrection of Christ – the gift of the Spirit now as a deposit in our hearts towards the inheritance to come. A few more quotes!
“God wants man to be His creature. Furthermore, He wants him to His partner. There is a causa Dei in the world. God wants light, not darkness. He wants cosmos, not chaos. He wants peace, not disorder. He wants man to administer and receive justice rather than to inflict and to suffer injustice.. He wants man to live and not die. God declines to be alone, without man. God insists on man’s participation in His reconciling work. He wants man, not as a secondary God, to be sure, but as a truly free follower and co-worker, to repeat His divine “Yes” and “No.”
“For this service of thankful obedience, for this participation in the causa Dei, God has set man free. God wants man to be His creature and His partner. Even more, He wants him to be His child. God is not content with man living as a reverent creature before Him, or as a grateful partner alongside Him. He wants him to be a man with Him and to enjoy the glorious assurance of belonging to God.
God is free. Relational. Perfect Love. He’s opened Himself up to creation, the Father sending the Son, the Father and Son sending the Spirit, the Spirit empowering us towards union in God, and with one another in the ekklesia (called out/people/church) of God.
“Ministry, then, is not so much asking Christ to join us in our ministry as we offer him to others; ministry is participating with Christ in his ongoing ministry as he offers himself to others through us.” Seamands