Friday, December 9, 2016

Hate the sin but love the sinner

"We can indeed say that God hates sin but does not cease to love the sinner [(Gott zwar die Sünde haßt, den Sünder zu lieben aber nicht aufhört)]. But it is only as we see God in Jesus Christ that we can really say this. The faithfulness of God alone is the guarantee that in spite of that alienation and failure and aberration, man does not perish and is not destroyed. The grace of God alone is the power which can bring him back out of that alienation and aberration and failure. What man himself does is totally and exclusively a contradiction of the faithfulness and grace of God. This is the truth of sin which we cannot compass in its frightfulness. Man is the good creature of God, and nothing can change the fact that he is this and that God is faithful and gracious to him as such. But he has made himself this alien and stranger, he himself, within the limits set for him, who is not a second god, by the faithfulness and grace of God. So, then, there is no place for any distinction between himself as the neutral doer of sin, and sin as his evil deed [(jener Unterscheidung zwischen sich selbst als einem neutralen Täter der Sünde und der Sünde als seiner bösen Tat)]. It was for him that Jesus Christ entered the lists, for him as the creature that God had not forgotten or abandoned or given up or lost, but for him himself who in sin as his own deed and therefore as the doer of it does everything [(ihn selbst, der in der Sünde als seiner Tat und also als ihr Täter Alles tut)] to bring about his own destruction. He came to take up that case which without Him, without the faithfulness and grace of God, would be lost, to liberate the one who is altogether guilty before God from his guilt and its consequences, to maintain God's right against the one who is wholly in the wrong and in so doing to restore the human right which he had forfeited. Man himself is 'in his sins.' What help to him is their forgiveness if he himself is not helped? He himself needs renewal. He himself—this is how he is helped—is the new man who has appeared in the obedience of Jesus Christ. But for this very reason he himself is also the old man who has been judged and put to death and removed, who has disappeared in the death of Jesus Christ; he himself is the one who contradicts and opposes God; he himself is the one who thinks and speaks and acts against his Creator and therefore his own creatureliness; he himself is the one who by himself has estranged himself from himself. This is the truth of sin. It does not consist only in the accusation: Thou hast done this, but in the disclosure which comes to every man and points to the most inward and proper being of every man: Thou art the man. We can, of course, evade the accusation. The tissue of lies which enables us to do so can be sustained. And where man is measured, or measures himself, by some other law, then even in the best of cases the only result will be the accusation which he can and certainly will evade. But this disclosure is something that we cannot evade. Now that Jesus Christ has come, to represent the person of man in His own person, to restore and renew the person of man and therefore man himself in His own person, we are all of us disclosed as the man who in his own person is the man of sin [(derjenige, der in seiner eigenen Person der Mensch der Sünde ist)]."

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, 406-407 =KD IV/1, 450-451.  This occurs in the first subsection of §60, i.e. "1. The man of sin in the light of the [(im Spiegel des)] obedience of the Son of God", and the context is Barth’s long-running insistence that the fact that "man is evil, that he is at odds with God and his neighbor, and therefore with himself" (359-360) can be known "from the Word of God" (361) alone, from "the death of Jesus Christ on the cross" (360) and ultimately nowhere else.  All other sources of the knowledge of sin issue in a self-justifying attempt to absolve the man of the sins he commits.  Only from the Word of God on the cross is it possible to learn that the man is a sinner.  And so the effect of Barth’s approach is actually to lay much greater stress than wielders of the maxim typically do on the sin so profoundly characteristic of both poles of the distinction:  2) the sinful acts we must abominate, to be sure, but also 1) the sinfulness of the being or person (and also metaphysical and collective "man") we must love, the "man of sin", the one who is, to the very core of his being (and therefore inescapably), a sinner.  The fact that he was created in the image of God must never become one of those "great truths" "behind" which "man usually conceals the truth, or rather conceals himself from the truth" (403), which is that he doesn’t just commit sins; he is "the man of sin".  Again, "the truth of sin. . . . does not consist only in the accusation:  Thou hast done this, but in the disclosure which comes to every man and points to the most inward and proper being of every man:  Thou are the man" (407, italics mine).  To take refuge in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (which stresses rightly that the maxim is not an offensive weapon to be directed primarily at others) is to miss this point.  For the Publican recognizes what the Pharisee does not:  that "actions are not merely external and accidental and isolated.  They are not, as it were, derailments.  A man is what he does. . . .  They are his wicked works and by them he is judged.  As the one who does them, who produces these wicked thoughts and words and works, he is the man of sin" (405, italics mine).  In all of these ways and more, Barth, it seems to me, actually radicalizes the maxim.

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