Barth's "Göttingen Dogmatics" - §3: Deus Dixit (“God has spoken”)

We return to Barth’s first dogmatics lectures, and to the elaboration of one of his key theological concepts – both in this earlier period as well as throughout his later Church Dogmatics, although there it recedes into the background a bit despite continuing to be of foundational importance: Deus dixit, God has spoken.

Karl Barth, The Göttingen Dogmatics: Instruction in the Christian Religion

This is part 4 of a multi-part series, and you can find the series index here.

I begin the audio recordings by reading Barth’s Diktatsatz, so I will begin reproducing that here as well. The bold is mine and indicates where I find emphasis:

Christian preachers dare to speak about God. The permission and requirement to do so can rest only on their adoption of the witness of the prophets and apostles that underlies the church, the witness which is to the effect that God himself has spoken and that for this reason, and with this reference, they too must speak about God. This assumption can arise only because they take it that God’s address is directed to them as well. It means that with fear and trembling they recognize God as the true subject of the biblical witness and their own proclamation.

What follows are some brief quotes from my commentary on Barth’s text:

“Speaking about God is not something that human beings can or would do without provocation.”

“Barth through this section makes a minimal distinction between preachers and theologians.”

“Barth is underscoring that God has an objective reality, but that objective reality is nonobjectifiable.”

“God’s relationship to everything that is not-God is noncompetitive. … [This] is a really important conceptual tool in [Barth’s] theological toolbox.”

“At no point is this resolved in any kind of permanent way. There is only the encounter with the ‘Deus dixit’ in the ‘Paulus dixit’ in the event of faith.”

“As soon as you resolve the paradox away, you’ve turned the living words of Scripture into a form of idolatry.”

“Just like you can’t climb up a conceptual ladder to God’s revelation, so you cannot climb up an historical ladder to God’s revelation.”

“Barth is saying that if you are encountered by the ‘Deus dixit,’ all of that kind of bourgeois self-satisfaction goes out the window.”

Pictured: the author standing outside the theology building at the University of Göttingen, December, 2019.


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