Adam Neder on Barth on History
The following is from Neder’s discussion of Church Dogmatics 3.2.
Adam Neder, Participation in Christ: An Entry into Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, Columbia Series in Reformed Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009): 33.*UPDATE* Since I wrote this post, I had the chance to meet Adam at the most recent Barth conference, and am only sorry that I did not get to spend more time in his company.
“[H]istory occurs as a being in a state is encountered by a different kind of being and when the being thus encountered responds correspondingly with an action that is not within the range of its own inherent possibilities. The different between a history and a state is not that the latter is not dynamic or involves no change, cut rather that the movement that takes place within a state is generated from within that state, is intrinsic to that state, whereas for an even to be ‘historical’ it requires a transcendent action that intersects and interrupts the state. Furthermore, if this is the case, if a being in a state has such a history, then the nature of that being is located within the history itself. It has no nature in and for itself, because its existence is not isolated, but rather occurs in relationship with the transcending factor. A being with a history is as this history occurs, and its nature is therefore located wholly within the history.
After offering these rather technical definitions, Barth proceeds to show that they derive directly from the existence of Jesus Christ. Indeed, apart from him, all extant beings could be fully described within the concept of a state – as beings variously described according to the inherent limits of their own possibilities. In Jesus Christ, however, we are ‘forced’ to apply the concept of history.”