What’s Barth Got to do With it?
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death…”
Hebrews 2:14 (NIV UK)
You might not expect to see a theologian on the cover of TIME magazine, but in April 1962, that’s exactly where you found Karl Barth. For anyone who doesn’t know, Barth was lauded by many as the most important theologian of the last century. And for us here at GCI, his work was instrumental in helping us grow in our knowledge of the loving Triune God.
But what was so great about Barth?
As John the Baptist, so he pointed us back to Christ. His life’s work, The Church Dogmatics, gives us a comprehensive and cohesive theology that aims to synthesize all of biblical revelation—and to assist the church today as it more faithfully understands, articulates and lives out its faith. Barth also rightly believed that Christ was the ultimate expression of God. And it was in him that mankind could come to know and trust their Saviour and Redeemer.
In addition, he pointed us to an understanding of Christ as more than just the Son of God, a divine ruler who came to Earth to be crucified before returning to heaven. Instead, Barth argued that Jesus in the New Testament was really and actually one with us in our humanity. Remaining the divine Son of God, he was also fully human. He didn’t remain superior and apart. Instead, through Christ, he joined with us—and is with us still, rooting for us and with us in our human condition.
And that connection didn’t stop at the end of his earthly ministry. Barth grasped the profound mystery proclaimed in the book of Hebrews, that Christ was and is, and will always be, an advocate, a brother, a high priest and the pursuer of mankind. As the church has always recognised, Jesus was resurrected and ascended with our humanity. He didn’t leave it behind. He ascended bodily and will return as he promised bodily, as one of us—one with us. He is cheering for us—leading, transforming and living alongside us for all eternity. He is our Lord and Saviour from inside our humanity, as one of us.
See how Barth puts it in his work The Humanity of God: “In his oneness Jesus Christ is the Mediator, the Reconciler, between God and man. Thus He comes forward to man on behalf of God calling for and awakening faith, love and hope, and to God on behalf of man, representing man, making satisfaction and interceding. Thus He attests and guarantees to God’s free grace and at the same time attests and guarantees to God man’s free gratitude.” Barth’s theology can be incredibly useful for the maturing believer. But like Barth, we should always remember that in all we do, let us point back to our brother, our Saviour and our Lord—Christ Jesus, the one who has sought us out fully to reveal our loving Triune God to mankind—that we might live daily in union and communion with him.
Father, Dad, thank you for your son and his joining with us in our humanity the better to understand our weaknesses and brokenness. We ask for this vision of your Son, fully man and fully God, to be so deeply seated in our consciousness that we never lose sight of your love for us. In Jesus’ name we pray.
Study by Joseph Tkach
About the Author:
Joseph Tkach is the President of Grace Communion International (the Denominational name of The Worldwide Church of God UK), and resides in California, USA.
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