Barth & God's Glory
The Lord has blessed me with a working relationship with Fortress Press. And recently they have been publishing some outstanding materials on Barth. While my full review on JinHyok Kim's book will eventually appear via GraceForSinners, I couldn't help but write about a particular section in the fourth and final chapter of this excellent book (I'm almost done!!!).
Barth's theology of beauty is relatively unknown to me. In this chapter, I have been learning things with each and every sentence that I read. And what has been even more amazing is how many direct quotes from Barth have simply rocked my world. Beauty is not something that Reformed people talk about often. In fact, I can't recall the beauty of theology or theology in beauty being discussed in my general proximity.
Almost with a sleight of hand Karl Barth has convinced me to focus on God revealing "God-self" and thus ultimately beauty as found in the glory of God's freedom to love. Phew. That is a packed sentence.
“If we can and must say that God is beautiful, to say this is to say how He enlightens and convinces and persuades us. . . . It is to say that God has this superior force, this power of attraction, which speaks for itself, which wins and conquers, in the fact that He is beautiful, divinely beautiful, beautiful in His own way, in a way that is His alone, beautiful as the unattainable primal beauty, yet really beautiful."
God's beauty cannot be ripped apart from His divine act to reveal Himself. Not in some natural way, but in the unveiling of that which cannot be known by men. God revealing God-self pushes so strongly on those whom receive the revelation that God's beauty is divine beauty, true beauty and incomparable beauty.
“[W]e cannot overlook the fact that God is glorious in such a way that He radiates joy, so that He is all He is with and not without beauty. Otherwise His glory might well be joyless. And if a different view of His glory is taken and taught, then even with the best will in the world, and even with the greatest seriousness and zeal, the proclamation of His glory will always have in a slight or dangerous degree something joyless, without sparkle or humour, not to say tedious and there finally neither persuasive nor convincing.”
God as ultimate joy. That is definitely something that I have not read from the lips of many Reformed authors or pastors. God's glory is such that it radiates His joy. It is only in the pervasiveness beauty of God's glory and joyfulness that the world can succumb to the gospel. The whole world is full of His glory right (Isa 6)? But do we see this? And why don't we see this?
It was here in the realm of Barth's teaching on the glory of God that some thoughts became clear. God's sovereignty has been pushed by the Reformed. It has been pushed even more strongly by the Young, Restless and Reformed (YRR). But this has been a joyless sovereignty. This hasn't made it incorrect. Just incomplete. God's glory as He reveals God-self in such a pervasive and convincing way must provide beauty and joy. This is a Reformed God the peoples of the world would stream to see as the prophets foretold. A God who in revealing God-self brings people to their knees in beauty, glory and joy is the God of Karl Barth.
“In the fact that He is glorious He loves.”
This is it. This brought me too my knees. It is in the glorious truth of God's glorious being that He reveals God-self in His love for His creatures. Jesus Christ stands at the center of this glory. Jesus Christ stands at the center of Barth's theology. And He needs to be returned to the church in all of His glory, beauty and joy.