This week I’ve had the pleasure of re-reading one of my favourite bits of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics — Section 59.1 in IV/1: ‘The Way of the Son of God into the Far Country’.
Barth’s at his best here as he thinks Christmas and Easter — incarnation and atonement — into each other, teasing out the implications for how we view God. It’s dense, demanding, invigorating, and uplifting … often all at once!
Take this, for example, where Barth pivots to the question of how you distinguish the true God from the idols we manufacture mirroring our pride (pages 158-159):
In being gracious to man in Jesus Christ, God acknowledges man; He accepts responsibility for his being and nature. He remains Himself. He does not cease to be God. But he does not hold aloof. In being gracious to man in Jesus Christ, He also goes into the far country, into the evil society of this being which is not God and against God. He does not shrink from him. He does not pass him by as did the priest and Levite the man who had fallen among thieves. He does not leave him to his own devices. He makes his situation His own. He does not forfeit anything by doing this. In being neighbour to man, in order to deal with him and act towards him as such, He does not need to fear for His Godhead. On the contrary … God shows Himself to be the great and true God in the fact that He can and will let His grace bear this cost, that He is capable and willing and ready for this condescension, this act of extravagance, this far journey. What marks out God above all false gods is that they are not capable and ready for this. In their otherworldliness and supernaturalness and otherness, etc., the gods are a reflection of human pride which will not unbend, which will not stoop to that which is beneath it. God is not proud. In His high majesty He is humble. It is in this high humility that He speaks and acts as the God who reconciles the world to Himself.