Karl Barth – The Great Positive Possibility

Continuing with his Romans 13; v8- 14 commentary. If subjection to the authorities in this world is the negative possibility that one conformed to God must endure with its ‘not-doing’ of rebellion, then what is the flip side? The great positive possibility, continues Barth, is love. Love conquers evil and in the words of Jesus “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” is the law by which Christian must live. This means that to every man we should owe love. It is not permitted to excuse ourselves for the absence of love by saying that since we live in the shadowy region of evil, we can only bear witness to the coming world by ‘not-doing’. Love of one another ought to be undertaken as the protest against the course of this world.   Quoting Barth directly: “We are thinking of a general ethical way of behaving – not just a single act. By love we do the ‘new’ by which the ‘old’ is overthrown and we breach the wall of the incomprehensible ‘not-doing’. Love is the outpouring of the Spirit, that reality by which men know God and lay hold of Him as the Unknown Hidden God. Love is thus human religious impossibility apprehended as the possibility of God. Love is the fulfilling of the law. To love thy neighbour in practical terms means that Thou shalt not kill; Thou shall not steal; Thou shall not covet… That men should thus be confronted by other men is the riddle that is presented to us. If we in the unknowable neighbour, apprehend and love the unknown God then who then am ‘I’? Be thyself the neighbour and there is no need for any further question. Love is the good work by which evil is overcome. Love is that denial and demolition of the existing order that no revolt can bring about. If therefore, as a protest against the course of this world, I cease to love, I therefore simply do not love God. We spend our years as a tale that is told – this is the secret of time which is known as the ‘Moment’ of revelation, in that eternal ‘Moment’ which always is, and is not. Time is the irrevocable way of the past and the relentless approach of the future. Facing, as it does, both ways, each moment in time is a parable of the eternal ‘Moment’. Every moment in time thus bears within it the unborn secret of revelation, and every moment can be thus qualified – This do, knowing the time. And so, the known time – apprehended and comprehended in its transcendental significance – provides the occasion for the incomprehensible action of love. Wherever a moment in the past or in the future has been qualified by the Now of revelation that lies in the midst between the two, there is the opportunity for the occurrence of love – for its ‘living regiment’ (Kierkegaard). And faith which sees revelation is the fulfilling of the law. Love as the great possibility has become a command!”

April 1962 Edition
Great and timeless Mr. Barth!

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