In his Church Dogmatics, Barth affirms that the Father, Son and Spirit are part of the one God, but this section of CD emphasizes the uniqueness of the Father.  Barth asserts that the dignity, lordship, and even the superiority of Jesus is subordinate to the “theos”.

In the so-called Synoptic Gospels this approach is especially prominent. It almost sounds like a false note, and is certainly an enigma, when even and precisely in these Gospels Jesus is called Kyrios. For what is Jesus here but a single pointer to the Lord whose kingdom (not His own) Jesus announces and declares by word and deed in a way that hardly distinguishes Him either formally or materially from John the Baptist, in relation to whom as the only One who is good (Mk. 10:18) Jesus associates Himself with His disciples in the address: Our Father!, whose will He very definitely differentiates from His own (Mk. 14:36), to whom He prays, as is repeatedly emphasised, and obedience to whom seems to be in the last resort the whole meaning of His calling and work. He is thus called the (ἅγιος) παῖς* of God like David and the Servant of the Lord of Isaiah 53…

Barth concludes that jesus’s authority and lordship was only a manifestation of the Father’s.

Looked at along these lines the lordship of Jesus as the Son of God is obviously only a manifestation, exercise and application of the lordship of God the Father. The essence of the deity ascribed to Jesus is to make clear and impart and give effect to who God the Father is, who God is in the true sense, and what He wills and does with man. It is to represent this God the Father.

Barth seems to define the nature of Father through the lens of the Son. Most significantly, Barth sees that the most important aspect of God the Father is that his “fatherhood” goes beyond the analogy of human parentage, but that the Father, through the death and resurrection of the Son, is the Lord of both life and death for all creation. Let me close then with a summaratoin from Barth’s own words.

God our Father means God our Creator (cf. for this Deut. 32:6 and Is. 64:7). And it should be clear by now that it is specifically in Christ, as the Father of Jesus Christ, that God is called our Creator. That God is our Creator is not a general truth that we can know in advance or acquire on our own; it is a truth of revelation. Only as that which we know elsewhere as the father-son relation is transcended by the Word of Christ the Crucified and Risen, only as it is interpreted by this Word, which means, in this case, only as it acquires from this Word a meaning which it cannot have of itself, only in this way may we see what creation means. But in this way we can see. The Father of Jesus Christ who according to the witness of Scripture is revealed in Jesus His Servant has the qualities of a Lord of our existence. The witness to Him leads us to the place where the miracle of creation can be seen. It bears witness to the holy God, the God who alone is God, the free God. It is this witness that we have to understand with the help of the basic statements of the doctrine of the Trinity.

For Barth, uniqueness of God the Father, and Creator, is only manifest as our father because he is first the Father of Jesus the Son and we come to the knowledge and experience of the Father through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

FOOTNOTES

All quotes from Karl Barth, Geoffrey William. Bromiley and Thomas F. Torrance, Church Dogmatics, Volume I The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1, 2d ed. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2004), 384-cf.

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for emerging leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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