Sunday, 28 January 2018

von Balthasar on the Creator/creature distinction and relationship, and the incarnation

     The object of contemplation is God.  We listen to God’s word only because it is God’s.  We contemplate the life of Jesus only because it is the life of the Son of God.  Whatever we pay attention to in salvation history—the form and language of creation, the prophets of the Old Covenant, the apostles, the Church with its saints and prayers, its pronouncements and sacraments—we do so only because it is through these things that God’s salvation is brought to us.  We cannot contemplate God apart from these pathways which lead to him, and reveal him to us, for it is thus that he manifests himself, it is thus that he confronts us.  Even in the ‘unveiled sight’ of eternity we shall never see God in any other way but in his sovereign, incomprehensible self-revelation, in which he gives himself, stepping forth out of his unapproachable Being and bridging the infinite chasm which separates us from him.  Everything is possible to the creature except one thing: it cannot be God.  The creature is in root and marrow fundamentally different from him and will remain so for ever.  And the nearer man approaches him in terms of will and knowledge, the more he experiences the abyss which separates him from the One who is “all”…. The creature is a perpetual question addressed to God.  To the extent that it is spiritual, it cannot do other, when exercising its act of being, than continually distinguish and differentiate itself—and hence relate itself.  Fundamentally, God is the “Other” in every possible way, and so he is the answer to the question which I am.  Only by looking at him can I have any ultimate hope of salvation.  To understand this, read and pray the Psalms:  “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?...My heart says to thee, ‘Thy face, Lord, do I seek.’  Hide not thy face from me….Teach me thy way, O Lord; and lead me on a level path….I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!”  Every awareness of existence turns into a looking up to him, a word addressed to him, a thought of him; every situation is clarified through being related to him.  It is man’s anguish and his glory, his weakness and his dignity, that he must and may relate himself to God in this way; he can only be himself through God, and he can never be God.  He can only affirm himself, and only then his whole environment and his fellow creatures, by uttering the stupendous No and Yes which are built into the very foundations of his being:  No, I am not God; Yes, I need God as my beginning and my end.  No relative being is Being, but none is apart from Being, and each only exists in relation and as a pointer to Being (p. 155-57). 
-  Balthasar says that only God is and has Being (necessarily) whereas all else, people included, are relative beings, contingent on God for our existence.  The fact that we die reminds us of this.  He goes on: 
There was only one way out of this impasse, namely, that infinite, eternal Being should utter its own self in the form of a relative being.  That in this epiphany and parousia it should actually become present and give an authoritative interpretation of itself.  Then we could hear the infinite Word in the finite, and see the eternal, imageless archetype in the finite form.  Now, our contemplation consists of a cautious approach to the mystery of the hypostatic union: the two natures having become one in the Person of the divine Son.  Not only with the intention of creating a fellowship in which Being is Being-together, but explicitly so that eternal Being may manifest itself, express itself, interpret and represent itself for the benefit of temporal beings.  By hearing, seeing and touching a human form, within the world, we are to cultivate acquaintance with the eternal “Word of Life” who is with God and is God (p. 157-58). 
-  In other words, God revealed himself to his creatures, his image bearers, by taking upon himself our own nature and flesh in the person of Jesus.  God became flesh and dwelt among us so we could see what God was like.  Being put on being; ultimate Being put on contingent, relative being; divinity put on humanity.  We could not comprehend God in his infinite nature, so God put on flesh to speak the world’s vernacular; Creator put on creaturehood to speak to creatures on our level, to reveal himself to us, and ultimately to save us so we could be united to him.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Bavink on consumation of redemption

In the second place, Christ’s redemption is not a second, new creation but a re-creation.  Things would have been much simpler if God had destroyed the entire fallen world and replaced it with a completely new one.  But it was his good pleasure to raise the fallen world up again and to free from sin the same humanity that sinned.  This deliverance consists in the reality that Christ delivers his believing community from all sin and from all the consequences of sin, and therefore causes it to completely triumph over death as well.  Death is the last enemy to be annihilated.  And the power of Christ is revealed in the fact that he not only gives eternal life to his own but in consequence also raises them on the last day.  The rebirth by water and Spirit finds its completion in the rebirth of all things (Matt. 19:28).  Spiritual redemption from sin is only fully completed in bodily redemption at the end of time. Christ is a complete Savior: just as he first appeared to establish the kingdom of heaven in the hearts of believers, so he will one day come again to give it visible shape and make his absolute power over sin and death incontrovertibly manifest before all creatures and bring about its acknowledgment.  ‘Corporeality is the end of the ways of God.’ 

    - Herman Bavink, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, p. 694

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The Son, grace, and contemplative prayer

    What empowers us to embrace a contemplative faith which listens, which beholds, is fundamentally grace; grace as our election, calling and justification by God the Father, and the resultant faculty and liberty to gaze openly into his truth made manifest.

    But the manifest truth of the Father is the Son.  In the Son, the Father contemplates us from before all time, and is well pleased.  It is in the Son that the Father can predestine and choose us to be his children, fellow children with the one, eternal Child, who, from the beginning of the world, intervenes as sponsor for his alienated creatures.  It is in him that the Father justifies us, viewing and valuing us in the context of his Son’s righteousness which pays all our debts; he ascribes the Son’s righteousness to us; he gives it to us as our very own.  Finally, it is in the Son that the Father glorifies us, by permitting us to participate in the Son’s resurrection and finally, by grace, setting us at his right hand, the Son’s rightful place.
                                                       - Hans Urs von Balthasar, Prayer, p. 51