Barth on God’s patience

patienceI’ve never understood the charge that Barth is difficult to read. If one rejects the notion that the reader doesn’t have to do some work as well as the writer, and avoids the secondary literature and just reads the man himself, then, while one may certainly miss the odd nuanced or not-so-nuanced point here and there, there are few passages that do not break open to the persisting reader the great realities. In fact, there’s nothing quite like a dose of Barth to do just that. Here he is on the nature of divine patience:

‘We define God’s patience as His will, deep-rooted in His essence and constituting His divine being and action, to allow to another – for the sake of His own grace and mercy and in the affirmation of His holiness and justice – space and time for the development of its own existence, thus conceding to this existence a reality side by side with His own, and fulfilling His will towards this other in such a way that He does not suspend and destroy it as this other but accompanies and sustains it and allows it to develop in freedom’. – Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1 (Edinburgh : T&T Clark, 2004), 409.

Might this not also constitute what patience means for those created imago Dei? The giving of ‘space and time’ for the development of the others’ own existence, accompanying, sustaining and allowing it to develop in the freedom who is Jesus Christ. This, it seems to me, is a deeply important word for those in the Church to hear, on both sides of the pulpit.

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