Jesus Christ and Time

 I’ve been reading through Karl Barth’s “Dogmatics in Outline” (for a third time now and eagerly awaiting the arrival of the complete fourteen volume “Church Dogmatics” this coming November first) as prep for Sunday nights working through the Apostles’ Creed and happened upon this wonderful extended quote dealing with Jesus Christ and time.  I just couldn’t help but to share it (from Barth, Karl. Dogmatics in Outline. tran. G. T. Thompson; Harper Torchbooks, NY: 1959, pp.130-131) and ask: “What do you think about his concept of “eternity” and “time” in comparison to the modern Evangelical notions?”

Jesus Christ’s yesterday is also His to-day and His to-morrow.  It is not timelessness, not empty eternity that comes in place of His time.  His time is not at an end; it continues in the movement from yesterday to to-day, into to-morrow.  It has not the frightful fleetingness of our present.  When Jesus Christ sitteth at the right hand of the Father, this existence of His with God, His existence as the possessor and representative of the divine grace and power towards us men, has nothing to do with what we are foolishly wont to conceive as eternity–namely, an existence without time.  If this existence of Jesus Christ at the right hand of God is real existence and as such the measure of all existence, then it is also existence in time, although in another time than the one we know.  If the lordship and rule of Jesus Christ at the Father’s right hand is the meaning of what we see as the existence of our world history and our life-history, then this existence of Jesus Christ is not a timeless existence, and eternity is not a timeless eternity.  Death is timeless, nothingness is timeless.  So we men are timeless when we are without God and without Christ.  Then we have no time.  But this timelessness He has overcome.  Christ has time, the fullness of time.  He sitteth at the right hand of God as He who has come, who has acted and suffered and triumphed in death.  His session at God’s right hand is not just the extract of this history; it is the eternal within this history….He is the Alpha and the Omega, the centre of real time, of God’s time; which is not meaningless time that passes away….’Infiniteness’ is a comfortless business and not a divine predicate, but one that pertains to fallen creatureliness.  This end without an end is frightful.  It is an image of man’s lostness.  Man is in such a state that he is precipitated into aimlessness and endlessness.  This idea of the endless has nothing to do at all with God.  A limit is rather set to this time.  Jesus Christ is and brings the real time.  But God’s time also has an end, as well as a beginning and a middle.  Man is surrounded and upheld on all sides.  That is life.  So man’s existence becomes visible in the second article [of the Apostles’ Creed]: Jesus Christ wit His past, present and future.

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2 thoughts on “Jesus Christ and Time

  1. No wonder the man wrote 14 volumes – does he always ramble like that?Up to the part about death, I'm 100% in. Or so I thought, but after that, it got a bit loopy. He went from a rational definition of God's time to a metaphorical assertion that lost souls have no time… and that God's time is not like our time. (What does that mean?) And how does he know "this time will end"? What is "the real time"?The problem is, people don't know what "time" is.Time is no thing.

  2. Yeah, he has a LOT to say about everything. Part of the problem is that he was writing in German (and they seem/ed to have a penchant for dragging things on infinitum).I think what was meant by the comments on death are the notion that time is meaningless to those who are without Christ…they have lost any grounding to the reality of time (that is existence in Christ).On "God's time", I believe he was referring to the meaningfulness and experience of time. God's time (according to his reading) should not be thought of as without time, but as having the attributes of time (which for Barth is grounded in the now eternal humanity of Christ Jesus). I don't think his understanding of the "end" of God's time actually refers to the end of God, but to the notion that time for God is actually experiencing time (or motion as your many recent posts would describe it ;-).

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