In Jesus Christ there is no isolation of man from God or of God from man. Rather, in Him we encounter the history, the dialogue, in which God and man meet together and are together, the reality of the covenant mutually contracted, preserved, and fulfilled by them. Jesus Christ is in His one Person, as true God, man’s loyal partner, and as true man, God’s. He is the Lord humbled for communion with man and likewise the Servant exalted to communion with God. He is the Word spoken from the loftiest, most luminous transcendence and likewise the Word heard in the deepest, darkest immanence. He is both, without their being confused but also without their being divided; He is wholly the one and wholly the other. Thus in this oneness Jesus Christ is the Mediator, the Reconciler, between God and man.
Karl Barth, The Humanity of God
The last word that I have to say as a theologian or politician is not a concept like grace but a name: Jesus Christ. He is grace and he is the ultimate one beyond world and church and even theology. We cannot lay hold of him. In him is the spur to work, warfare, and fellowship. In him is all that I have attempted in my life in weakness and folly.
Barth, quoted by Hauerwas
[The claim] that some think theological claims must be grounded in empirical proofs is based on the assumption that there is an essential tension between faith and reason. Even Christian theologians have sometimes underwritten the assumption that the faith of Christians cannot be rationally defended. However, the very presumption that reason is one thing and faith is another betrays a distorted view of reason. What Christians believe is not a “take it or leave it” choice, but rather an ongoing claim that all that is exists by God’s good grace. The working out of that claim is never finished.
“If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine
writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He
kindly wrote for me. Right at present this does not seem to be His policy.
I can’t write a thing. But I’ll continue to try—that is the point. And at
every dry point I will be reminded Who is doing the work when it is done &
Who is not doing it at that moment. Right now I wonder if God will ever do
any more writing for me. He has promised His grace; I am not so sure about
- Flannery O’Connor, from a journal
Quite simply, there is no formation without repetition. There is no habituation without being immersed in a practice over and over again… So it is precisely our allergy to repetition in worship that has undercut the counterformative power of Christian worship—because all kinds of secular liturgies shamelessly affirm the good of repetition. We’ve let the devil, so to speak, have all the repetition. And we, as liturgical animals, are only too happy to find our rhythms in such repetition. Unless Christian worship eschews the cult of novelty and embraces the good of faithful repetition, we will constantly be ceding habituation to secular liturgies.
What’s the meaning of life? It’s a big question, maybe the biggest of all. But Isaiah isn’t daunted by it. God’s answer lies in three unambiguous words: ‘For my glory.’ Faced with the unrelenting threat of our own death, pain, guilt, and isolation, we human beings understandably strive to make our own meaning, carve our own memorial, leave our own mark on the world. We create organizations, build edifices, have and raise children, invent products, devise theories, endow institutions, break records—all to stave off the ravages of time and hold back onrushing oblivion. But the truth is, there’s only one thing that’s eternal: God’s glory. Everything else is dust and ashes.
We believe a sacrifice has been made that has brought an end to the sacrifice of war.
Augustine and Luther thought Christians might go to war because they assumed a church existed that provided an alternative to the sacrificial system war always threatens to become. When Christians no longer believe that Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for the salvation of the world, we will find other forms of sacrificial behaviours that are as compelling as they are idolatrous. In the process, Christians confuse the sacrifice of war with the sacrifice of Christ.
If a people does not exist that continually makes Christ present in the world, war will always threaten to become a sacrificial system. War is a counter church. War is the most determinative moral experience many people have.
That is why Christian realism requires the disavowal of war. Christians do not disavow war because it is often so horrible, but because war, in spite of its horror – or perhaps because it is so horrible – can be so morally compelling. That is why the church does not have an alternative to war. The church is the alternative to war. When Christians lose that reality – that is, the reality of the church as an alternative to the world’s reality – we abandon the world to the unreality of war.
Through the Spirit, Jesus Christ the exalted one generates a new mode of common human life, the Church. To participate in that common human life, hearing the gospel in fellowship under the word of God and living together under the signs of baptism and the Lord’s supper, is to exist in a sphere in which God’s limitless power is unleashed and extends into the entirety of human life: moral, political, cultural, affective, intellectual.
We have, alas, belittled the cross, imagining it merely as a mechanism for getting us off the hook of our own petty naughtiness or as an example of some general benevolent truth. It is much, much more. It is the moment when the story of Israel reaches its climax; the moment when, at last, the watchmen on Jerusalem’s walls see their God coming in his kingdom; the moment when the people of God are renewed so as to be, at last, the royal priesthood who will take over the world not with the love of power but with the power of love; the moment when the kingdom of God overcomes the kingdoms of the world.