Faith is Trust
I am working my way through Karl Barth's Dogmatics in Outline. It is rather ridiculous that I am only getting around to this piece of literature at this point. But it also has me in a state of enjoying and understanding much of Barth's speech. It's like a glorious review and confirmation of many of the other things I have read.
Before walking through the Apostle's Creed in this text, Barth spends some time to address the subjects of faith and knowledge. This is ultimately very important since the opening language of all Christian creeds is "I believe." On this matter Barth say in preliminary,
"I believe in, credo in, Means that I am not alone. In our glory and in our misery we men are not alone. God comes to meet us and as our Lord and Master he comes to our aid." (16)
There are many things that can be said about this. There are many particular things that can be said against the loneliness and singleness that Barth addresses. In Christian faith, there is not one who is alone. "Alone" and "lonely" do not exist where God has become incarnate in Jesus Christ. The concept of loneliness is foreign to Christianity for Barth. This subversively affects our humanistic tendency towards individualism.
There is a uniquely anti-individualistic nature to Barth's answer. To believe means we, or individualistically I, have been addressed by God. We, neigh the individualistic I, do not exist apart from Him. In God we move, breathe, and have our life (Acts 17:28). As it is with personal-familial development, there is not "I" before "you." I cannot acknowledge/confess the true God (eg. there is no "I") without acknowledging God-for-us (eg. the "you" of God's election). In a roundabout and confessional way, there is a hint here of the Heidelberg here — "I am not my own but belong."
This is an incredibly important portion of Barth's epistemology and understanding of revelation —true Christian faith can only come when God reveals Himself. And God has revealed Himself in His Son sent to redeem us. There is no solitary knowledge of God. There is no sense in which an "I" can discover God. It is always the "we" of redemption in Jesus Christ —there is no non-redemptive knowledge of God.
"Where there is faith in the Gospel, there the word has found confidence, there the word has so let itself be heard that the hearer cannot withdraw from it." (18)
Oh, yes. This is Barth at his epistemological finest. Because of Barth's understanding on faith and revelation, he is able to speak quite sternly about the impossibility of rejecting the word of the gospel — this is the "Calvinist" in him. When God speaks, the matter is settled. The confidence we have in the Word of the Scripture is never in light of some human reasoning. It is in fact in opposition and despite all human reasoning. It is never in light of some human experience. For Barth, this is particularly because of how wholly other the True God is. Man cannot reach up in rational or emotion. God comes down in the Incarnation.This is not something said of merely the lost. The same can also be said of all humanity due to Total Depravity as it is described in the Reformed Tradition.
For instance, the Westminster Confession does say — about the Scriptures — there many "arguments whereby it does abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God" (WCF I.V). And yet, "our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit" (WCF I.V). The Scriptures, like God's Son, is only made evident by the work of the Holy Spirit. Barth's position surely lies more intimately with the later of these quotations, but it is not so far removed as to be a niche.
"Everyone who has to contend with unbelief should be advised that he ought not to take his unbelief too seriously. Only faith is to be taken seriously; and if we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, that suffices for the devil to have lost his game." (20-21)
In light of this, Barth speaks quite strongly about the foolishness of unbelief that plagues the believer. God's revelation is unquestionable. There remain no agnostics or atheist among the revelation of God.