30 August 2011

Barth on the Resurrection

The past week I have been reading Dogmatics in Outlines, a rather fascinating book based upon a series of lectures the great Karl Barth gave at the University of Basel in the post-World War II era.  Barth moves through the Apostles' Creed in a systematic manner, more or less outlining his own systematic theology.  

Now, I do not, by any means, consider myself a Barthian, or, for that matter, as comprehending on any passable level his theology.  However, Barth caught my attention with several of his statements, in particular those on politics and later those regarding the Resurrection.  His comments on politics will require some more reflection, but as I drifted off to bed last night, I found myself moved to prayer by his commentary on the Resurrection.

Barth writes:
In the resurrection of Jesus Christ the claim is made, according to the New Testament, that God's victory in man's favor in the person of His Son has already been won.  Easter is indeed the great pledge of our hope, but simultaneously this future is already present in the Easter message.  It is the proclamation of a victory already won.  The war is at an end -- even though here and there troops are still shooting, because they have not heard anything yet about the capitulation.  The game is won, even though the player can still play a few further moves.  Actually he is already mated.  The clock has run down, even though the pendulum still swings a few times this way and that. (p. 122-23)

I think it safe to say that the reality of the Resurrection is exactly what, on any given day, keeps me in religious life.  Without this guarantee, this grand gesture from God, all of what I do as a Christian seems rather pointless, a series of sad futile gestures performed by a man who has misplaced his trust and position himself for perpetual disappointment.

Add the Resurrection to the equation and suddenly anthropology takes a second place to Revelation and the world can be seen in different hues.  Perhaps even more importantly, if one -- me! -- can truly appropriate the reality of the Resurrection into prayer and action, the daily tribulations, failure and shortcomings of one's self become mere vestiges of the final shots fired by those who do not yet know that irrefutable victory has been achieved.

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