Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Barth on Personal Conversion.

I found the following passage from this blog today and decided to look up the excerpt for myself. It is really encouraging. Barth's unwavering and unprecedented soteriological objectivism makes many evangelicals nervous since he seems to make personal conversion experiences irrelevant. In some ways, I think they are irrelevant to the objective reality that takes place in Christ. Still, even though I might be hesitant to fully embrace his soteriological objectivism (since I'm not ready to throw the subjective experience out the window though I don't think he does either!), I think it is a helpful corrective to the obsession that the evangelical Church has with one's own subjective conversion experience.

"It is said that H. F. Kohlbrugge once answered the question: When was he converted? by the laconic reply: On Golgotha. This answer, with all its fundamental implications, was not the witty retort of an embarrassed and unconverted man, but the only possible and straightforward answer of a truly converted Christian. The events of faith in our own life can, in fact, be none other than the birth, passion, death, ascension and resurrection of Jesus, the faith of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, its journey through the desert, its entrance into the land of Canaan, the outpouring of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost and the mission of the apostles to the heathen. Every verse in the Bible is virtually a concrete faith-event in my own life. Whether this is actually the case, whether with my own life I have been present at this or that event here testified to me, this and this alone is what I am asked by the Word of God which bears witness to me of God's revelation in and through all this, and in every single verse of Scripture. In comparison with this, what can be the value of the various more or less reliable insights which, apart form these testimonies, I may have on myself? Is there a miracle story that I can relate from my own life, which, especially if it is genuine, will not be totally dissolved in this divine miracle story, and which therefore will hardly be worth relating in abstracto? Have I anything to testify about myself which I cannot testify infinitely better if I make my own the simplest ingredient of the Old Testament or New Testament witness? Have I experienced anything more important, incisive, serious, contemporary than this, that I have been personally present and have shared in the crossing of Israel through the Red Sea but also in the adoration of the golden calf, in the baptism of JEsus but also the denial of Peter and the treachery of Judas, that all this has happened to me here and now? If I believe, then this must be the right point of view. If this is the right point of view, what other faith-events in my life should I and could I wish to seek? What, then, becomes of the bold assertion with which I claim first this and then that crisis and turning-point, and then gradually my whole life, as a sacred history? And what becomes of the defiant and shrinking doubt and despair about all exalted and exalting moments, and finally about my whole life? However high may rise or however deep may fall the waves of life's events, as they are perceptible to us form within and below, the real movement of my life, the real events in which it is clear to me that in the whole dimension of my existence I belong to God, both at the flood and ebb, are secured from the other side, by the Word of God Himself."

- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II.2, 709-710.

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