What should the church do in light of its inconsistencies in its doctrine of God? Karl Barth suggests we renew the struggle of Nicaea and of the Reformation and adopt their old truth, “God’s revelation is God Himself, the one ever-present eternal and living God”. Both Karl Barth and T F Torrance set about undertaking this task on a double front.
On the one front, they argued that we must not take any ideas outside of what is disclosed to us in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. There is no place for any human being to draw conclusions from the natural environment and use it to express who God might be. Outside of what is seen and heard in Jesus Christ and the witness testified in Scripture is the place where God loses His Godness. By separating God from the content of Revelation, humanity has grown steadily more and more arrogant to think they are able to infer the things of God within their own minds and what they perceive from their own environment. With the very being of Jesus Christ detached from the very being of God, Jesus Christ’s Godly expression in Himself was undermined and diminished. Therefore the Christian values established in the very being of Christ was replaced by humanity’s own idea of what was good and right, and projected onto who they thought God might or might not be and what He is able and not able to do. As a result, Christianity became more and more secular in either a liberal way or in an overly religious way. Torrance and Barth even argue Fundamentalism and Liberalism are bedfellows in their common approach to the undermining of the reality of God revealed in the Man Jesus Christ.
This leads onto the other front so rife in fundamentalism. On the one hand we have God established through conclusions drawn from rigid propositional truths deduced from Scripture into articles of beliefs and teachings. On the other hand, there is a break between who God is and the God revealed in Jesus Christ. What God gives in Jesus Christ is not the same God as Jesus Christ. Furthermore, what God gives in the Holy Spirit is detached from who God is in Jesus Christ as well as the Father also revealed in Jesus Christ. The seamless flow of the revealing and dynamic God in the Bible from the Old Testament and the uninterrupted flow into God’s self-giving in Jesus Christ and in the Spirit is cut up into categories that are almost foreign to each other. Rather than standing along with the writers of the Bible and try to see what they saw and hear what they heard and allow themselves to be changed and likewise conform, human beings involved themselves in the process and drew meanings that had nothing to do with the overall message God intended for humanity. They committed the ultimate sin of not taking the consubstantiality of Christ seriously, and allowed themselves to be guided by their own folly. The final results are sets of doctrines and teachings not grounded on revelation but the fruit of the darkened logical deductions from a dark mind gone way off the rails.
If the church is so way off the rails regarding their understanding of revelation, the same can be said for reconciliation. If revelation does not begin with the very person of God Himself in Jesus Christ, then it is operating outside of God in some dark abyss. If revelation is in a dark abyss rather than operating in the Light of Christ, then soteriology is also in the same dark abyss and not in the light of the humanity of Jesus Christ. We are now getting to the very heart of the Latin Heresy where the atoning exchange is supposedly out in the open for all of us to see. If it is claimed we can see this and understand it, then we are still so blind and foolish. The atonement is behind the curtain of Jesus’ humanity. The mystery is locked inside the very humanity of Jesus Christ where even the angels are not privileged to see into. With the content of revelation contained in God we also have the content of reconciliation in God in Christ. The hypostatic union of the divine and human displayed as the Man Jesus Christ is the outward visible manifestation of reconciliation. It was forged in the incarnation and battled throughout His life through to the resurrection and ascension. The revelation of God brought to us the God-Man Jesus Christ who stood in our place and on our behalf paid the price for our going way off the path to Him in order to reconcile us to Himself. He became precisely what we are in order to put into action reconciliation from the side of God and the side of humanity. In this one conciliating act in our history we have an indivisible movement of the Father, Son and Spirit displayed in Jesus Christ God’s act of self-revealing and self-giving.
If we maintain a distance between the Father and the Son as the Arians tried to do, then the work of Jesus Christ never touches us. God has not intervened in our affairs and has not made our lost and damned human condition any part of Himself. The grounding of Jesus life becomes one of a moral interpretation of someone who, in the face of adversity, provides an example of some kind of moral, religious teacher whose teachings, and likewise example of His love, justice and consciousness, exercises a commanding influence that transforms people. Jesus Christ on the cross is seen as the supreme model for suffering love in solidarity with us in our struggle for justice. Jesus Christ is determined the finest human being on social and moral grounds where this becomes the spiritual influence on others. As Jesus is pushed further and further away from His divinity and our humanity He just becomes the best man of all men rather than the God-Man who touches us from the inside out.
We must be reminded time and time again of the nature of the humanity of Jesus Christ. In Athanasius’ letter to Epictetus (Ad Epict., 7) he says, ‘The Saviour having in truth become man, the salvation of the whole man was brought about . . . Truly our salvation is no myth and does not extend to the body only – the whole man, body and soul has truly received salvation in the Word Himself.’ He wrote in a similar way to the Antiochenes (Ad Ant., 7) : ‘The body possessed by the Saviour did not lack soul or sense or mind, for it was impossible when the Lord became Man that His body should be without mind; nor was the salvation effected in the Word Himself only of the body but also of the soul.‘ As Torrance would say, the Incarnation was an organic union where the very divinity of God assumed our humanity in every sense, where He even assumed our curse of corruption and death into Himself and achieved an overwhelming victory over it. There is no choice but to stand firm against anything that dares to undermine this ground of knowledge based on the union of beings as well as the union of the saving work of God in Jesus Christ who is also in eternal union with the Father.