Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Barth and godlessness

I've been trying to read as much Barth as my mind is capable, and in IV/2 §65 (The Sloth and Misery of Man), he talks a little bit about "godlessness" (I think it's appropriate to put it in quotes insofar as I understand Barth to be saying that such a thing really is not possible in the absolute sense). At this point in my venturing into Barth, some parts are still inexplicable to me, but today I read a little bit which I thought was very insightful (and true to Barthian form I'd say):

Without the knowledge of God, which the stupid man despises, there is no meaningful companionship between man and man, no genuine co-operation, no genuine sharing either of joy or sorrow, no true society. But work which is not co-operation is busy indolence. Joy which is not shared is empty amusement. Sorrow which is not shared is oppressive pain. The man who is not the fellow of others is no real man at all. And a society composed of men like this breaks up as soon as it is formed and even as the most zealous attempts are made to build and maintain it. But the stupidity of man calls for this. Even in its noblest forms humanity without the knowledge of God has in it always the seed of discord and inhumanity, and sooner or later this will emerge. From the vacuum where there is no “Glory to God in the highest” even the sincerest longing and loudest shouting for peace on earth will never lead to anything but new divisions. This is the first thing which all the concealment of human folly can never alter.

The line that struck me (if I understood him alright) is that in some way, an insistence on atheism is a betrayal (or even dehumanizing?) of our own humanity. That is an interesting take on atheism.

3 comments:

nearemmaus said...

That would seem to be in line w. Paul's argument in Rom. 1 where the refusal to acknowledge God as God leads to idolatry of various sorts (and atheism is merely the idolatry of worshiping one's self) leads to humans forsaking the "glory of God" (which I take to be the imago Dei of Gen 1.) for the image of birds, beast, etc.... Losing God's glory results in subhuman activities and characteristics which 1.18-32 outlines.

Mike S. said...

Brian: Yeah, that seems about right... though I guess the hard thing for me with Barth is he doesn't give too many Scriptural citations. I guess he knew his Bible inside-out...

Mike S. said...

*Oh, and what I meant to add was I couldn't tell if Rom. 1 was where Barth was going with his statements about absolute/relative godlessness.