Barth continues his discussion of the human response to God’s revelation. We here bits and pieces of his debate with Emil Brunner about the possibility of a natural theology or a point of contact between man and God. The fact that humans were created in the image of God does not change this for Barth. The image of God has been so radically shattered by the intrusion of sin that man only has capacity for knowledge of God by faith.  So, a person’s knowledge of God is not dependent on analogy of God in his/her being, but in faith. But, a person’s faith is not dependent on the person’s self determination. Faith is a person’s act, the person in the subject but, it is bracketed as the predicate in which God is the subject.  A person’s capacity for faith is totally dependent on God’s gracious self-revelation.

There are a lot of implications from this section. He holds in tension the ideas that knowledge of God is truly a possibility for man yet, not apart from God’s gracious imitative. There is no natural “point of contact” from humanity to God. Notice the direction. Barth asserts Christ is a sort of point of contact but, the direction is from God to humanity (downward). This makes me think of the issue of translatability. Part of the evangelical (not just evangelicalism as a movement but, evangelism) enterprise is moved by the idea that the church is to find connecting point between the needs of culture and the message of the Gospel. I think Barth would say that this is a problem because it assumes that human culture has a capacity for understanding its true needs apart from the Gospel. To conform proclamation of the Gospel this way runs the risk of distorting its message. A persons needs (especially a person’s understanding of his or her sinfulness – Dogmatics 4/1) can only be understood retrospectively in light of receiving God’s gracious revelation.

Two questions:

1. Does Barth stifle evangelism by asserting that their is not point of contact from which the church can seek to reach others? or…

2. Does this give more credence to the idea that true evangelical work is done by prayer, hospitality, preaching the gospel plainly, attending to the task of the churches witness rather than strategy and vision?

Obviously my answers are hidden in the questions…


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