Many Barthians, non-Barthians and anti-Barthians alike like to quote and debate the so-called ‘impossible possibility’ in conversations about soteriological universalism and about das Nichtige. But a more pressing ‘impossible possibility’, for Barth, concerns the fact that the Word of God might be unveiled ‘through the foolishness of our proclamation’ (1 Cor 1.21). I was reminded of this again recently while reading Barth’s wonderful chapter on ‘The Task of the Ministry’ in The Word of God and the Word of Man wherein Barth sums up the pastor’s dilemma thus: ‘As ministers we ought to speak of God. We are human, however, and so cannot speak of God. We ought therefore to recognize both our obligation and our inability and by that very recognition give God the glory. This is our perplexity. The rest of our task fades into insignificance in comparison’ (p. 186). I am also reminded of the ‘impossible possibility’ when I read Arnold Kenseth’s poem ‘Sunday’s Hour’:
Comes Sunday’s hour, and speech hangs itself
On God’s red tree. Preacher, word-monger, I
Defy the interdict, naming dark Yahweh, taking Him
And His fire in vain. O havoc, cry havoc! Sigh
His deep blue breath into phrases and praises.
Still, it is impossible. He will not dwell half
Or anywhere in my capture. Yet I must draw home
The net, try to catch somehow His graces.
For it is by grace we live, and all the people
Must be told. So I could wish my body more
Contained Him, that my walks more shaped, here
And there, His amble. How ill beneath a steeple
I incarnate! Despite me, then, come now,
Let His enlightening strike us row by row.