It is alleged that following a lecture at the University of Chicago in 1962 Barth was asked to sum up his theology in a single sentence. His, I guess half joking, reply was to quote a children’s hymn; “Jesus loves me, this I know, because the Bible tells me so.” Whether the story is true or not is open to question, but that line perhaps does succeed in summarising Barth’s theology. For all the Church Dogmatics’ 9,000 pages and 6,000,000 words Barth is prepared to admit: “Dogmatics has no more exalted or profound word – essentially it has no other word – than this; that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.” C.D. II.2 pp.88f For Barth the beginning, middle and end of Christian theology is the affirmation of God’s choosing us to be his people and himself to be our God. We can only ever speak about God or say anything about any other aspect of the divine being or the divine work because of this prior decision of God.
Loving God, you were in Jesus Christ reconciling the world to yourself. That is the height and depth of your action, and our knowledge of you. Without it we could say nothing about or to you as creator or reconciler or redeemer. Until we acknowledge that we can say nothing or your being and your perfections. Help us always to be mindful that you have chosen us to be your people, and yourself to be our God. And help us always to point to this, your divine word of decision, as the beginning of all our knowledge of you. Amen.
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