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Posts Tagged ‘freedom’

Have you ever thought about what surprises God? Perhaps we take it for granted that God’s omniscience undercuts any possibility of catching God off guard. Still the Bible describes two instances where Jesus (fully God and fully man) is “surprised” or “amazed”. In Mark 6:5-7, it says:

[Jesus] was not able to perform any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was greatly surprised, because the people did not have faith. (Good News version)

Then in both Matthew 8:9-11 and Luke 7:8-10, a Roman centurion tells Jesus not to come to his house to heal his servant, but appeals to Jesus’ authority and only “say the word”:

When Jesus heard this, he was surprised and said to the people following him, “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this.” (Good News version)

The obvious thing to note is that both instances are in regards to faith–either the great lack of it or the great exercise of it. Jesus seems to expect that he can heal at least some people wherever he goes, but that some active show of power is needed to help people along. (more…)

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Section 29 is uncharacteristically short at only 54 pages long, though there is quite a bit of the small text to make up for that. Here, Barth is looking to talk about God’s “perfections” which elsewhere may be called “virtues” or “attributes”. His word choice reflects that he is again emphasizing that these characteristics are unique to God. Categorically, these are different from the attributes of anything or anyone in creation.

“God lives His perfect life in the abundance of many individual and distinct perfections. Each of these is perfect in itself and in combination with all the others. For whether it is a form of love in which God is free, or a form of freedom in which God loves, it is nothing else but God himself, His one, simple, distinctive being.” –Karl Barth (CD II.1, p.322)

Then Barth takes some time to define what God is not: creature, sin, death. He also discusses who God is as “One who is many” and “many who are One”, “Father, Son, and Spirit” who “loves in freedom”.

Most importantly, Barth zeros in on the fact that God is not only “the Lord” but “the Lord of glory”, and all glory is the “glory of the Lord”. Every bit of glory in Heaven and on Earth belongs to God. In fact, glory without God behind it is very dangerous as we shall soon see. Scripture plays an important role in making the connection: (more…)

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“The question of why evil exists is not a theological question, for it assumes that it is possible to go behind the existence forced upon us as sinners. If we could answer it then we would not be sinners. We could make something else responsible…The theological question does not arise about the origin of evil but about the real overcoming of evil on the Cross; it asks for the forgiveness of guilt, for the reconciliation of the fallen world.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I come across blog posts rather frequently about “The Problem of Evil”. Often, atheists will use the discussion as a “proof” against Christianity. Meanwhile, Christians will take their best shot at providing a rational solution to the question.

Actively living and writing in Hitler’s Germany, Bonhoeffer was certain that evil was not a good reason to doubt God’s existence. The evil present in that time demanded a response. Without God, what was left to condemn it.

It is important to move beyond the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” An alternate question might be, “How can a good and loving God expunge evil from the people and Creation He loves without destroying them?” Answers to these questions are not as easy and obvious as some atheists might like to believe, nor are they for anyone else.

For me, these issues were further put in focus after reading Evil and the Cross (IVP) by Henri Blocher many years ago. As a result, I developed a talk used many times that my students endearingly referred to as “The Evil Talk”. What most unsettled and interested students in their love-hate relationship with the discussion is that many dearly held apologetics are overturned before a more reasonable answer can be found. (more…)

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Section 28 begins a new chapter for Barth on “The Reality of God”. The discussion shifts from the knowledge of God (noetic or epistemological) to the being of God (ontic or ontological). Core to the nature of God’s being is His action in love and freedom. Love will point us to freedom and freedom will in turn direct us back to love.

“God is who He is in the act of His revelation. God seeks and creates fellowship between Himself and us, and therefore He loves us. But He is this loving God without us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in the freedom of the Lord, who has His life from Himself.” –Karl Barth (CD II.1, p. 257)

Barth does not surprise us by starting the discussion with love and freedom. Nor is it surprising that he will end by saying that this revelation finds its focus in the person of Jesus Christ. In between, however, he will wreak havoc on some commonly held views, not only by people outside the faith, but by mainstream Christians throughout history. (more…)

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