Barth’s “nevertheless” of God’s faithfulness

Last week my students and I were reading the sections on Jesus Christ in Barth’s Dogmatics in Outline. Until rereading it, I had completely forgotten the vividness of this little paragraph on divine faithfulness in chapter 11, “The Saviour and Servant of God” (regarding the picture, I simply prefer the older, grandpa Barth to his younger self):

There is a grace of God in the midst of judgment. And of this the Old Testament also speaks, not as a continuity of Israelite man, but as a ‘nevertheless’ of God. Nevertheless, there are in the history of this nation recurrent testimonies which begin with the words, “Thus saith the Lord . . .” They sound out as the answer of such hearers, as the echo therefore of the ‘nevertheless’ of God’s faithfulness. [. . .]

Revelation culminates in the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. He comes out of Israel, born of Mary the Virgin, and yet from above, and so in His glory the Revealer and Consummator of the covenant. Israel is not a sick man who was allowed to recover, but One risen from the dead. By his appearing, over against the verdict that man pronounced on himself God’s verdict comes into view, to remove all human self-condemnation. God’s faithfulness triumphs in this sea of sin and misery (Dogmatics in Outline, p. 80. Emphasis mine).

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2 thoughts on “Barth’s “nevertheless” of God’s faithfulness

  1. I can remember being briefly attracted to Barthes, when he was considered intellectually hot property, as late as c. 1955-60. For many of us raised on strict, fundamentalist adherence to every word of the Bible, but who desired a little more intellectual breathing room, Barthes offered up a few precious words – like his “nevertheless” – that seemed to open things up a bit. That functioned like variables, or gateways, to recognition of a few options, even in the Bible itself, to extremely strict dogmatism. And to the Fundamentalist, absolutely firm, lawmaking GOD, who seemed to offer no flexibility at all.

    Since that time so long ago – c. 1955 – to be sure, many have moved on to far, far bolder statements, and to far more involved and convincing, scholarly departures from Fundamentalism. No doubt though, Barthes’ writings might continue to provide a first, subtle, shy and allusive step, into a broader world of critical theology. For those escaping a too-restrictive background.

    At the same time to be sure, I feel scholarly theology has long since moved into much bolder – and truer – territory. And I am therefore more supportive of your interest in say, Pannenburg (SP?).

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