Welcome back to Wednesdays With Barth! I hope you enjoyed some reading this week!

“If we are seekers of God, and to that extent lovers of God, this can be definitely and unequivocally proved and maintained of the children of God only by the one thing: that in all circumstances and in every connexion they rejoice if their seeking is not in vain, if therefore the One whom they seek allows Himself to be found by them, if in that way He confirms the fact that He has sought and found them, before they ever sought Him. How can they not rejoice when God really confronts them, when the One whom they loved loves them again and anew, as He had already loved them before, when He is therefore present to them in His Word, in Jesus Christ, when He speaks with them, and acts on them? Is He not a faithful God, because He does so? And how can they not rejoice that He is so faithful? But we have every reason to think that it is not self-evident that we should rejoice.” (The doctrine of the Word of God, Part 2 (Vol. 1, pp. 392–393)

imagesI think God goes further than allowing himself to be found. I think God wants to be found.  As a soft-determinist/libertarian concerning free will (former hard-determinist) I believe God desires or wants to share his Love with His creation. Why? I have no clue. Barth also makes this statement in The doctrine of the Word of God, Part 1 (Vol. 1, p. 407)

“Over and above the reality of God’s lordship over our existence it implies God’s lordship in the fact that He turns to us, that indeed He comes to us, that He speaks with us, that He wills to be heard by us and to arouse our response. It signifies the reality of an intercourse which He has established between God and us. God does not just will and work. In His revelation in Jesus Christ He discloses to us His will and work. He does not treat us as dust or day, even though we are this as His creatures. He does not just subject us to His power as Creator or cause us to be controlled by His power as Creator so as to fulfil His purpose in us. He seeks us as those who can let themselves be found. He converses with us as those who are capable of hearing, understanding and obeying. He deals with us as the Creator, but as a person with persons, not as a power over things.”

In my opinion it is this “person with person” aspect of God’s dealing with us that moves me away from the overly simplistic position of determinism. Why? Because, His dealings with man in Scripture are more than person to person but human to human. The concept of love and the mystery of the incarnation should not cause us to think God is needy but it should cause us to consider that God wants to share with us something of Himself. Want even implies need. Wow did I just say that? I think the person and life of Jesus makes room for us to consider that God allowed himself (mysteriously) to experience some form of need in a human way. This is the aspect of God’s participation  with humanity in Jesus Christ that we must take in if we are indeed to consider Jesus fully human as well as divine. I consider Mark 9:30-32 a wonderful example of this.

Mark 9:30–32 (NLT) 30 Leaving that region, they traveled through Galilee. Jesus didn’t want anyone to know he was there, 31 for he wanted to spend more time with his disciples and teach them. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.” 32 They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.

The ESV says… Mark 9:30–32 (ESV) 30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

The ESV does something different in its translation with the Greek word γάρ (gar). Choosing to translate the word in a way that seems to indicate that he didn’t want anyone to know what he was teaching the disciples while the NLT seems to translate γάρ in a way that reinforces Jesus desire to teach the disciples and be with them (anyone who reads Mark understands that the thick headed disciples could use all the teaching they could get). I think the NLT pics up on the use of the word ἀγνοέω (agnŏĕō) later on in the passage as well as Jesus desire for alone time with the disciples (Mark 6:31). I don’t think Mark is alluding directly to the Messianic secret here as much as he is putting on display the disciple’s inability or lack of capacity for the cost of discipleship. Jesus really did want to share time and information concerning who He is and what it means to follow Him. He wanted this for his disciples because He loved them and He wants this for us because He loves us. For God to express his love toward us as a real person as a human it must imply need and want or it is not human. So it does not seem to me that Jesus needed my love but I can see clearly in the Gospel accounts that Jesus needed to share, demonstrate or proclaim the love of God to the children of Adam. As far as motive concerning this need I can’t even begin to speculate. I don’t want to make the foolish and prideful error in rejoicing that God needs me. But I do want to rejoice that God is desperate to tell me something. I want to rejoice that He wants to spend time with me and share with me what it means to follow Him. The real mystery and beauty of this “want” that I am trying to describe is not found so much in His person but His participation in and with humanity as an actual human.


Question: What is your view concerning free will? Are you a Hard determinist, Soft determinist or libertarian.

Here is something to help you with the terminology…

“Free Will The claim that some human choices are not coerced or determined either by outside forces or by one’s genetic makeup. Free will is typically defined as the ability to do otherwise. For example, when faced with a choice to eat an apple, one is free only if one can choose the apple or can refrain from choosing the apple, or can choose the apple or an orange instead. If one is coerced (say, one’s hands are tied and the apple is forced into one’s mouth), then one’s actions are not free-the one who is coercing the choice has removed the person’s ability to do otherwise. There are three prominent conceptions of the human person that are concerned with the problem of free will: hard determinism, soft determinism, and libertarianism.

Hard determinism holds that all human actions are determined, either by our genetic inheritance, our social upbringing (or both heredity and environment), or by the decrees of *God.  Hard determinism denies that there are any real choices and so denies free will. One cannot do otherwise than what one’s heredity and environment have programmed one to do or that God ordains that you will do. A significant problem for determinism is that free will seems a prerequisite of moral responsibility. If a person is not free, then it is difficult to see how she could be blamed for her actions.

Soft determinism is still deterministic: it holds that all human actions are determined, but differs from hard determinism because it claims that some human actions are free. This view is sometimes called “compatibilism” because of its claim that determinism and free will are compatible. Since determinists deny that humans have the ability to do otherwise, soft determinists redefine free will. They do so by contrasting a free action with an unfree action. Free actions are those that a person wants to do and coerced actions are those that a person is forced to do. *Augustine made a signal distinction between “freedom of choice” and genuine “free will.” The sinner, according to Augustine, can choose many different options of sin; but because of the corruption of the will, he cannot choose the highest *good. As such, the sinner has freedom of choice but not genuine free will. In contrast, the redeemed person is empowered by grace to choose the good, and thus has genuine free will.

The libertarian rejects determinism, claiming that humans sometimes have the ability to rise above their heredity and environment and make free (i.e., uncaused) choices (hence, it is sometimes called “indeterminism”). Many libertarians believe that there is a nonphysical part of persons (soul, agent) that is not a slave to the *cause-and-effect conditioning of the body. It is this part of the person that stands above one’s desires, heredity, and environment, and thereby freely makes its choice in the face of genuine alternatives. Christian theologians, with their robust notions of human responsibility, usually fall within the compatibilist or libertarian camps. Many Augustinian Calvinists are compatibilists who believe in the strongest forms of sovereignty and providence: everything that happens, including human actions, are willed by God. Since they are soft determinists, they also claim that such actions are free. But how can human actions be free if they are the result of a causal chain, over which we have no control or choice, which terminates in God? Arminians deny that soft determinism adequately preserves the notions of free choice and moral responsibility and are, therefore, more inclined toward libertarianism. See also Aquinas, Augustine, Cause/ Causality, Human Nature, Justice, Mind/ Soul/Spirit, Theodicy.”
(Kelly James Clark;Richard Lints;James K. A. Smith. 101 Key Terms in Philosophy and Their Importance for Theology (Kindle Locations 721-742)


Reading schedual for Church Dogmatics Book I.2 in 7 weeks.
Dates in bold represent posting/discussion days.

  1. December 30, 2013 pp v–xiii, pp 1–25
  2. January 01, 2014 pp 26–69
  3. January 03, 2014 pp 70–106
  4. January 06, 2014 pp 107–146
  5. January 08, 2014 pp 147–198
  6. January 10, 2014 pp 199–232
  7. January 13, 2014 pp 233–279
  8. January 15, 2014 pp 280–318
  9. January 17, 2014 pp 319–361
  10. January 20, 2014 pp 362–416
  11. January 22, 2014 pp 417–449
  12. January 24, 2014 pp 450–495
  13. January 27, 2014 pp 496–533
  14. January 29, 2014 pp 534–574
  15. January 31, 2014 pp 575–628
  16. February 03, 2014 pp 629–664
  17. February 05, 2014 pp 665–703
  18. February 07, 2014 pp 704–756
  19. February 10, 2014 pp 757–796
  20. February 12, 2014 pp 797–840
  21. February 14, 2014 pp 841–885, pp 895–905

Wednesdays with BarthLearn more about Karl Barth here.
Buy his Church Dogmatics in LOGOS here.

*Reading list generated by Logos Bible Software.