God's Ever Presiding Grace
I'd like to briefly follow up my post on Barth and the gospel before the law. For when the piece is taken without context, it can seem if Barth is simply flipping the Lutheran dichotomy with his own particularized dialectic.
The lectures of The Faith of the Church occurred in the 1940s. In the mind of Hans Urs von Balthasar, this was in the concluding time of Barth's theological conversion to "analogy of being" as the center of his theology (The Theology of Karl Barth, pg. 86-113). As Barth's theology become more consistent in its Christological basis, Barth's understanding of anthropology shifted in a positive sense. He saw man as God's covenant partners.
"Man comes on the stage as a Christian first, in the catechism, and not as a rational being, then as a simple creature, next converted, next Christian, etc. In other words, baptism is more important than our birth. Man, for Calvin in the New Testament alike, exists by virtue of his baptism and not by virtue of his birth. Anything interesting to be said of man is what can be said of him in fellowship with Christ: He is, in some degree, a little king, a little priest, a little prophet. After that you'll see the beast in him and his defects! But first, he is the image of the Son of God." (70)
Barth's anthropology finds itself echoing Christ as the "new man," or a Paul states in Ephesians the "mature manhood" of "stature of the fullness of Christ" (Eph 4:13). In Christ (and reconciliation with Him), man finally becomes man. This is because God made man to be covenant partners with Himself. Anything prior to covenant partnership (aka rebellion against God) is man denying his manhood (Rom 1:18 — "by their unrighteousness suppress the truth"). They actively deny what they know (Rom 1:25 — "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie"). As I've written previously, Barth and Calvin saw sin as being anti-human.
"The essence of creation, then, is defined by its capacity for perceiving and excepting the word of God and for being the stage for the event the incarnation Of the Son… For he did not describe nature's disponability to God's revelation as an inherent property, power, potentiality, as a point of contact that it possessed. Rather, nature's disponability was described as a 'presupposition' decreed by and derived from the word of God itself. In this way, Barth outflanked the danger that lies in these of this concept." (165)
For Barth, on the basis of God's eternal work in Jesus Christ, God has bestowed eternal grace upon mankind. This look at Barth's anthropology helps us understand his full meaning of gospel before law.