Inconceivable Grace

God’s remarkable response to our impossible situation. /

Karl Barth was certainly the greatest theologian of his era (1886–1968), and he's making somewhat of a comeback today in evangelical circles. One reason is his electric writing on the theme of grace. The following passage, which has been condensed and edited (with a paraphrase or two as well), comes from his Church Dogmatics, Vol. 4.1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation. Barth explains one dimension of the rich biblical phrase "God with us" (Matt. 1:23). —The Editors

The situation of man is this: He occupies a position quite different from that which God intended for him. God gave himself to be man's partner in redemptive grace, but man does not conduct himself as a partner. He has turned his back on the salvation that actually comes to him. He does not find the fulfillment of his being by participating in the being of God, which comes as a gift of God.

Instead, he aims at another salvation, one found in the sphere of his creaturely being and attained by his own effort. His belief is that he can and should find self-fulfillment. He has himself become his own end.

This is the man with whom God is dealing in this particular redemptive history: the man who has made himself quite impossible in relation to the redemptive grace of God. In doing this, man who has made himself quite impossible; he has cut the ground from under his feet; he has lost his whole reason for existence.

What place has he before God when he has shown himself to be so utterly unworthy of that for which he was created, so utterly inept, so utterly unsuitable? What place is there for his being as man, when he has denied his goal, and therefore his beginning and meaning? Despising the dignity with which God invested him, ...

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