§1.6.4: Faith and the Faithful One

Jason Micheli —  April 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

Myers Karl Barth painting 1 In 1.1 §6.4 of the Dogmatics, Barth lines up nicely with our sermon series through Paul’s Letter to the Romans.

As I’ve posted about previously, Protestant thought sometimes so prioritizes ‘faith’ that Christianity becomes a religion solely about a human disposition rather than about the Word of God, Christ, to whom our faith is directed.

In fact, this is an issue behind disputes between present-day interpreters of Paul like NT Wright, on the one hand, and John Piper on the other. In question:

How does faith as the disposition of my heart relate the Christ event (‘the Righteousness of God’ Rom 1.17) as as the means of salvation?

Whereas Protestantism since Luther has tended to assume Paul’s primary theme in Romans is our faith- as in, our faith in Christ- NT Wright has insisted that, read within the context of 2nd Temple Judaism, Paul’s chief subject is the faith of Jesus Christ, or Jesus, the faithful one.

In Church Dogmatics 1.6.4, Karl Barth hashes out the relationship of faith to the word of God. And when “word of God” means, Christ the word of God. So for Barth it’s a question of the relationship between Christ as the object of our faith and our own faithful response to that Word.

Just as he does in his reflecting of the meaning of “word” and our “experience,” when it comes to ‘faith’ Barth wants to insist that what is true about how God is at work in the world is never true in and of itself, but only as a ongoing act of God.

Barth begins with one of his terrific small-print excursions, this one on faith, pistis, as firstly the faithfulness of God (Rom 3) and then through Christ’s work, the human response, our faith.

When talking about faith as the our response to the gospel, Barth draws us to a reality that faith is not ‘natural’ or inherent in us automatically.

It is not, despite what liberal theology holds, a dimension of our createdness.

True faith is defined and determined by its object, God, not by an inherent human disposition.

For the Christian, faith is not merely a one-time experience.

It must be exercised anew continuously.

From faith to faith as Paul says in Rom 1.17.

Faith is real, Barth says, because God, who is real. God has disclosed to us his Word, Jesus Christ, and we have seen and heard him. And faith is real for it is lived and experienced anew by the Spirit’s work.

Now that he’s established the knowability of God’s word, Barth is ready ready to move on to the project of his Dogmatics itself.

 

Jason Micheli

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