Saturday, October 29, 2011

Die mens se soeke na eenwording met God (5. Slot)

In hierdie laaste blog oor mistiek as die eenwording met God, wil ek weer kyk na hoe Barth daaroor praat. Nadat Barth beklemtoon het dat dit Christus is wat die gelowige met Hom verenig (sien vorige blog), gaan hy in ‘n laaste deel in op die belangrike, insiggewende gedagte dat die gelowige ook soek om eenwording met God. Die onderstreepte gedeeltes het veral my aandag getrek. 

Dit is boeiend om te sien hoe Barth worstel met die een belangrike boodskap van die Nuwe Testament dat daar ‘n unieke, noue, lewegewende verhouding tussen God en mens is wat juis ook daaruit bestaan dat die mens gedurig en steeds op soek moet wees na eenwording met God. 

Hier is die lekker, lang gedeelte:

In the reality and power of the union of Christ with the Christian, however, their fellowship has also the meaning and character of a union of the Christian with Christ. Their fellowship would not be complete if their relationship were actualised only from above downwards and not also from below upwards, if it were not reciprocal. A justifiable concern for the unconditional predominance of he freedom, grace and decision of Jesus Christ which establish the relationship should hot mislead us into suppressing or minimising the fact that His action has its correspondence in an action of the Christian. According to the guidance of the New Testament the declaration concerning the communication of Christ with the Christian necessarily includes a complementary declaration concerning the communication of the Christian with Christ.

That Christ links Himself with the Christian settles the fact that the latter, too, does not go alone. To do justice to Christ as his Counterpart he is not directed to believe in Him and to obey and confess Him on his own initiative or resources. He is certainly summoned to believe, obey and confess. And both as a whole and in detail this will always be the venture of a free decision and leap. It will always be a venture in which no man can wait for or rely on others, as though they could represent him or make the leap for him. Even in the community and therefore with other Christians, he can believe, obey and confess only in his own person and on his own responsibility. But does this mean on his own initiative and resources? No, for the act of the Christian is not to be described as a leap into the dark or a kind of adventure. We have only to consider what kind of a free decision or leap is involved to see that, if there is any action which is well-grounded and therefore assured in respect of its goal, it is the faith, obedience and confession of the Christian. The Christian undertakes these things as through the Spirit he is called to do so by the risen One in whom he believes and whom he obeys and confesses. And in the knowledge given him with his calling, he is not merely required but empowered to do it. In Jesus Christ he knows and apprehends himself as a member of the world reconciled to God in Him, as a man who is justified and sanctified in Him in spite of his sin, as a legitimate partner of the covenant fullilled in Him. Believing in Jesus Christ and obeying and confessing him, he simply does the natural thing proper to him as the man he is in Christ and therefore in truth. He simply realises his true ­ the only truly human ­ possibility. He simply exercises the freedom given him as the man he is in Christ and therefore in truth. The decision or leap of his faith, obedience and confession consists in the fact that he takes himself seriously as the man he is and recognises himself to be in Jesus Christ instead of immediately forgetting his true self (who and what he is in Christ), like the man who looks at himself in a mirror and then goes on his way (Jas.1:23f.). It consists in the fact that he begins to act on this basis, i.e., on the basis of Jesus Christ and as the man he is in Him. He believes, obeys and confesses as, now that Christ has united Himself with him, he unites himself with Christ, giving himself to the One who first gave Himself to him, and thus choosing Him as the starting-point and therefore the goal of His thinking, speech, volition and action, quite simply and non-paradoxically because this is what He is, because there is no other starting-point or goal apart from Him, because in truth he is not outside Him but within Him.

Here again, however, we must consider the opposite side and therefore add that as the Christian unites himself with Christ it is also settled that he cannot part from Christ. In his relationship with Him He alone is the One who gives, commands and leads, and the criterion of the genuineness of all the faith, obedience and confession of Christians will always necessarily consist in their allowing Him alone to be what He alone is, neither openly nor secretly trying to subject Him to their own dominion, in the exercise of which their faith would at once become unbelief, their obedience, disobedience and their confession denial. This does not mean, however, that they can refrain from immediately and directly recognising their own cause in His cause, i.e., in the occurrence of His prophetic work in the world. For as they recognise Him, they can and should recognise themselves in Him, what they themselves are in truth. Except by the self-deception of Jas.1:23f., how could they break their solidarity with Him? As those they are and know themselves to be in Him, as members of the world reconciled to God in Him as justified and sanctified sinners, they cannot possibly leave Him in the lurch instead of following Him. In the freedom given them as those they are, they have only one option, namely, to believe in Him, to obey Him and to confess Him, and in so doing, in making this movement, to unite themselves with Him as He in His turning to them, in calling them and making Himself known to them, unites Himself with them. Called, illumined and awakened by His prophetic Word, for this Word they can only be in truth the men they are. What other can they do, then, as those to whom Christ has given Himself, than to give themselves to Him, to exist as His, and therefore continually to seek and find their life in Him, in whom it is their truest life?

The New Testament gives us every reason to draw very distinctly this line from below upwards. For rather strangely, but quite unmistakeably, it is not merely no less but much more noticeable in the New Testament than the opposite line which is original and must thus be regarded as decisive in our description of the whole relationship. It certainly receives more frequent mention. While the authors of the New Testament presuppose the being of Christ in the Christian, with no fear of injuring the supremacy of the divine initiative they do in fact look more in the opposite direction, namely, to the being of the Christian in Christ. The whole emphasis of the speech concerning the vine in Jn. 15:1f. is obviously laid on the fact that, as the branches can bear fruit only as they abide in the vine, so the disciples, if they are to be what they are fruitfully, must abide in the One who speaks to them. This is brought home in many different ways, and it is impressively repeated in the First Epistle of John (3:6,9; 4:16). For "Apart from Me ye can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5). That they are called to abide in Him presupposes that the free and responsible participation of Christians in their status is envisaged in the description of the fellowship between Christ and them. It presupposes that they are already in Him, and obviously because first and supremely He is in them and has made their being a being in Him. "I in you" (Jn.14:20), comes first, but secondly and on this basis it must also be said: "Ye in me." That Christians are in Christ, that their Christian existence is everywhere realised in the fact that it unites with His in which it has its origin, substance and norm, is the insight which in the New Testament dominates especially the thinking and language of Paul, though it also finds expression in the First Epistles of Peter and John. The statement usually has an indicative character. But we have to remember that even indicatively it speaks of the history in which the union of the Christian with Christ takes place, so that we need not be surprised that it may become the imperative so characteristic of the Johannine passages. Christians are now quite briefly described as "those in Christ Jesus, or usually even more simply as "in Christ" or "in the Lord" (Rom. 8:1; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:13; I Pet. 5:14). And they are described in this way because they are in Him (este, I Cor. 1:30, 9:1, 2; esmen, I Jn. 2:5). And they are in Him because Christ has adopted them into unity with His being (Rom. 15:7), which means that in virtue of their baptism they have put Him on like a covering garment (Gal. 3:27), and must continually do so (Rom. 13:14). This historical being in Christ is decisively determined, of course, by the fact that first and supremely God was "in Christ" reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19). It is thus determined by their election made and revealed in Christ (Eph. 1:4, 9; 3:11), by their redemption accomplished and manifested in Him (Col. 1:14), by the grace of God addressed to them and recognisable in Him (I Cor. 1:14), by His love (Rom. 8:39), by His peace (Phil. 4:7), by the eternal life of which they are assured in Him (Rom. 6:23). As they are in Christ, they acquire and have a direct share in what God first and supremely is in Him, what was done by God for the world and therefore for them in Him, and what is assigned and given to them by God in Him. But their being as thus determined by God is a concretely active being. In the one reality "in Christ", God and man do not confront each other abstractly as such. On the contrary, there is a direct and concrete confrontation of the divine and corresponding human action, the former kindling the latter and the latter kindled by it. Conscious of being a "man in Christ" (2 Cor. 12:2), Paul is very definitely activated as an apostle. He can be absolutely certain of his convictions "in him," as in respect of the distinction of meats in Rom. 14:14. He can have "in him" the joy with which he confidently makes his request of Philemon 1:8). He can be sure "in him" of speaking the truth both from God and before Him (Rom. 9:1, 2 Cor. 2:17). "In him," too, he can be quietly confident in respect of His communities (2 Thess. 3:4, Gal. 5:10) and thank God that He always causes him to triumph in Christ and to spread abroad the savour of His knowledge (2 Cor. 2:14). Nor does Paul ascribe here to himself anything that he does not also basically ascribe both indicatively and imperatively to all Christians and to the whole community. "In him" he makes his boast in respect of them (I Cor. 15:31). Has not he Paul as an apostle begotten them again in Christ Jesus through the Gospel (I Cor. 4:15)? Called "in Christ," are not all Christians "in him" saints (Col. 1:2) and believers (Col. 1:4, Eph. 1:15), hoping "in him" (I Cor. 15:19) and "in him" called to obedience in their own particular situation (Eph. 6:1f.)? "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Lord who is the Spirit," without whom it would be impossible (2 Cor. 3:18f.). Hence Paul can see in one or another his fellow-labourer (Rom. 16:3) or fellow-servant (Col. 4:7) " in Christ," and in Epaphras his fellow-prisoner "in him " (Philem. 23). They are all light "in the Lord" (Eph. 5:8). They can and should all glory "in the Lord" (I Cor. 1:31, 2 Cor. 10:17; Phil. 1:26). They can and should all rejoice "in the Lord" (Phil. 3:1, 4:4, 10). The apostle greets them "in him" in his letters (I Cor. 16:19, Phil. 4:21). And "in him" he also admonishes them, here too presupposing that they are "in him," that as Christians they are within and not without, so that they have only to be told to continue to walk "in him" (Col. 2:6, I Pet. 3:16) and to be reminded of the mind which is self-evident "in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5) and of that which is "fit in the Lord" (Col. 3:18). To what can those who are in Him be meaningfully admonished, invited and summoned but ­ in a rather different expression ­ to stand as who and what they are (I Thess. 3:8; Phil. 4:1)? In relation to the historical character of this being of theirs, however, it is indeed meaningful to admonish, invite and summon them to do this. How could they be what they are in Christ if they did not continually become it?

This is not by any means a full list of the New Testament references to "being in Christ". To give such a list it would be necessary not only to mention and co-ordinate many others, but also to introduce a series which we have left aside, namely, the passages which, without any basic alteration of meaning, substitute "through Christ" or "in the name of Christ" for "in Christ". But we have certainly adduced sufficient to show what powerful witness there is in the New Testament to the union of the Christian with Christ which is our present concern.

It is perhaps relevant to our purpose to add a brief linguistic enquiry into what has been said both materially and in the biblical discussions concerning the two aspects of this union, i.e., that of Christ with the Christian and that of the Christian with Christ. What is meant by the word "in" when we say that Christ is in the Christian and the Christian in Him? Is this a mode of expression which demands demythologisation because of its evident localising? We may confidently reply that the word certainly has in all seriousness a local signification. If, in the fellowship between Christ and the Christian and the Christian and Christ, it must be maintained ­ for this is the limit beyond which there can be nothing more to demythologise ­ that we have an encounter in time between two personal partners who do not lose but keep their identity and particularity in this encounter, then the "in" must indeed indicate on both sides that the spatial distance between Christ and the Christian disappears, that Christ is spatially present where Christians are, and that Christians are spatially present where Christ is, and not merely alongside but in exactly the same spot. Hence we say that Christ is in Christians and they in Him. Yet while this is true, it has surely become obvious both in our material presentation and in our survey of the biblical evidence that in this context the word "in" transcends even though it also includes its local signification.

The first statement, namely, that Christ is in the Christian, has the further meaning that Christ speaks, acts and rules ­ and this is the grace of His calling of this man ­ as the Lord of his thinking, speech and action. He takes possession of his free human heart. He rules and controls in the obedience of his free reason (2 Cor. 10:5). As a divine person it is very possible for Him to do this in the unrestricted sovereignty proper to Himself and yet in such a way that there can be no question whatever of any competition between His person and that of the Christian, whether in the attempt of the latter to control His person, or conversely in its suppression or extinction by His person. It is very possible for Him to do it in such a way that the human person of the Christian is validated and honoured in full and genuine freedom, in the freedom of the obedient children of God. That Christ is in the Christian means, then, that as the Mediator between God and man He does not exist merely for Himself and to that extent concentrically, but that in His prophetic work, in the calling of His disciples and Christians, with no self-surrender but in supreme expression of Himself, He also exists eccentrically, i.e., in and with the realisation of the existence of these men, as the ruling principle of the history lived by them in their own freedom.

The second statement, namely, that the Christian is in Christ, has not only the local but also the higher meaning that his own thinking, speech and action has its ruling and determinative principle ­ and herein it is the work of his gratitude corresponding to grace ­ in the speech, action and rule of Christ. His free human heart and reason and acts are orientated on Him, i.e., on agreement with His being and action. In the power of the Word of God which calls him, and therefore in the power of the Holy Spirit, this orientation is his only possibility, already in process of realisation. Again, there is no rivalry between the human person and the divine. There is thus no danger that the former will be overwhelmed by the latter. There is no danger that it will necessarily be destroyed by it and perish. Rather, the human person, experiencing the power of the divine, and unreservedly subject to it, will necessarily recognise and honour it again and again in its sovereignty, finding itself established as a human person and set in truly human and the freest possible movement in orientation on it. That the Christian is in Christ means mutatis mutandis for him, too, that as one who is called by the one Mediator between God and man in the exercise of His prophetic office he cannot exist for himself and to that extent concentrically, but that, without detriment to his humanity, awakened rather to genuine humanity, he also exists eccentrically, in and with the realisation of his own existence, being received and adopted as an integral element in the life and history of Christ.

This, then, is the Christian's unio cum Christo. We recall that in this high view and doctrine we are not presenting a climax of Christian experience and development in face of which the anxious question might well be raised whether we have reached the point, or will ever do so, where in respect of our own Christianity we can sincerely say: "Christ in me, and I in Christ." On the contrary, we are presenting the last and most exact formulation of what makes us Christians whatever our development or experience. We have seen that Paul particularly in the New Testament does not think of restricting his insight in this regard to himself and a few other Christians of higher rank, but that as he speaks of himself he also speaks of the generality of Christians, not excluding the very doubtful Christians of Galatia and Corinth and not excluding the doubtful nature of their Christianity. If, as we have attempted in concentric circles, we think through what it means that the goal of vocation, and therefore of Christianity as divine sonship, is always attachment to Christ, coordination and fellowship with Him, discipleship, appropriation to Him with the corresponding expropriation, life of and by the Holy Spirit, then we are infallibly led at last to the point which we have now reached and described, namely, that a man becomes and is a Christian as he unites himself with Christ and Christ with him. And we remember that from the purely material standpoint this is the starting-point for everything else which is to be thought and said concerning what makes the Christian a Christian.

From: Church Dogmatics; Vol. IV, Part 3.2, "The Doctrine of Reconciliation." Edinburgh: T & T Clark. 1988. pgs 538-549.

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