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212 § 27. The Limits of the Knowledge of God 2.

The Veracity of Mans Knowledge of God 213


on ourselves into our mouth. But the claim is issued—and in this it than he could do before. But he is taken up by the grace of God and
shews itself to be a true claim—in spite of our powerlessness. It is determined to participation in the veracity of the revelation of God.
disclosed to us that we do not view and think of God, that we cannot In all his impotence he becomes a place where his honour dwells—not
speak of H i m ; and because this is disclosed to us, it is brought home his own, but God's. As a sinner he is justified. B u t because it comes
to us that the very thing which has to happen, no matter what the to pass in the truth of the revelation of God, this justification is not
circumstances, is that we must not fail to do it. It is the one charac- an illusion or a game. It is a real and effective justification of the
teristic of the revelation of God attested in the Bible that when it is views and concepts in which man is responsible to himself, and of the
issued it is impossible for man not to proceed to think of God, or to words in which he is responsible to others, on the ground of the divine
be silent about God. When it is issued, man is convicted of his in- claim issued to him. In the sanctification which comes to him through
ability to think of God and to speak of God. And when it is issued, this claim his sin is neither ignored nor excused. Nor is it simply
it- is required of man that in spite of inability, and even in his inability, set aside. But it is forgiven, and this means that in his sinful position
he should still do both. On the ground of this requirement, thanks to and behaviour he is the object, and also the instrument, of the divine
the truth of God in it, there is a true knowledge of God on the part good-pleasure. In relationship to this divine good-pleasure, both his
of man. The human knowledge of God is true in so far as it does not sin, which is of course disclosed and taken very seriously, and also
evade this requirement, but fulfils it in obedience. the sinfulness of his thinking and speaking, no longer have any power
B u t we must go still further. We have seen that to the will of of their own, any definitive power. At the same time, however, they
God to reveal Himself corresponds His power to do so, and as there cannot and must not be asserted against the divine claim as an argu-
is no contradiction against His will, so also there is no real hindrance ment of the unprofitable servant and therefore of disobedience. The
against His power. And when we say this, we are saying that the veracity of the revelation of God, which justifies the sinner in His
claim made upon us by His revelation does not demand anything Word by His Spirit, makes his knowledge of God true without him,
impossible, and therefore that it is not an impotent and ineffectual against him—and yet as his own knowledge, and to that extent
claim. If God commands, it is so. And in the present context this through him. By the grace of God we may view and conceive God
means that, if He will have it so, we shall think of Him with what are and speak of God in our incapacity. And we ought to do so. We
certainly (from our standpoint) impotent views and concepts, and that must not neglect to make use of this permission. We must not neglect
we shall speak of Him what (again from our standpoint) are certainly it, even though our incapacity cries to heaven for such neglect. When
impotent words. I t means that God Himself, with His will to reveal we are obedient, according to our capacity and even our incapacity,
Himself and therefore His claim upon us, takes our place, and therefore we have the promise that God Himself will acknowledge our obedience
that, with His power to reveal Himself, He does not ignore or eliminate in spite of our capacity or even incapacity, and this means that He
but fills up the void of our impotence to view and conceive Him. will confer upon our viewing, conceiving and speaking His own veracity.
Our inability to perform by our action what is demanded of us is The obedience to the grace of God in which man acknowledges that
not at all H i s inability to cause what is demanded to happen by our he is entirely wrong, thus acknowledging that God alone is entirely
action. What we of ourselves cannot do, He can do through us. If right, is the obedience which has this promise.
our views and concepts and words are of themselves too narrow to Again, for the sake of the veracity of our knowledge of God, the
apprehend God, it does not follow that this sets a limit to God Him- veracity of the revelation of God will necessarily make us humble.
self, that it is impossible for God to take up His dwelling in this By the grace of God we shall truly know God with our views and
narrowness. If no heaven or earth or even eternity is too great to concepts, and truly speak of God with our words. B u t we shall not
allow them to be His sphere of sovereignty and action, why should be able to boast about it, as if it is our own success, and we have
our views and concepts and words be too small for God to be in them performed and done it. It is we who have known and spoken, but it
in all His glory ? It is not a question of a power to receive this guest will always be God and God alone who will have credit for the veracity
being secretly inherent in these works of ours. They have no power of our thinking and speaking. In the true knowledge of God, it will
to do this, just as all the heavens are not able to contain Him. But necessarily be true and known again and again that God is true and
there is a power of the divine indwelling in both the broad and the all men are liars. But this cannot mean that we are again plunged
narrow which our works cannot withstand for all their impotence. into nothingness and resignation. Resignation is not humility but
This indwelling does not involve a magical transformation of man, the pride which as such does not want to accept the grace of God
or a supernatural enlargement of his capacity, so that now he can and the justification of the sinner. And humility is not at all resigna-
do what before he could not do. He cannot do it afterwards any more tion. Humility accepts grace in judgment. Humility, therefore, does
214 § 27. The Limits of the Knowledge of God 2. The Veracity of Man's Knowledge of God 215
not let itself be driven by judgment into a despair which as despair and again faith in H i m , forms its goal. Its own veracity consists,
of God can only be the rebellion of a supreme human self-consciousness. however, in the fact that it is on the way from this beginning to this
On the contrary, humility allows itself to be driven by judgment goal and therefore participates in the veracity of this goal within the
into the saving unrest (grounded in a final rest) of a continual enquiry limitations imposed upon it by its beginning.
concerning God, namely, God in His revelation. And this means There still remains for us the task of denning more precisely the
concretely that as we, who are claimed by God's true revelation, form character and bearing of this participation of our knowledge in the
our views, concepts and words according to our ability (or inability), veracity of its goal. What we have said is that our knowing has its
we cannot confine ourselves to any one of these works, as if we have veracity from its goal, but its determination and limit from its begin-
already thought of God and spoken of God, and we have only to repeat ning. These statements can, of course, be reversed. The very fact that
our concepts and words to attain and express again the knowledge it proceeds from the hidden God guarantees its veracity, and the very
of God. The veracity of our knowledge of God can easily die of this fact that it goes towards the true God gives it its determination and
kind of repetition ; for it docs not possess in itself the knowledge of limit. In both cases the reference is to God's revelation. As God veils
God ; it comes to it from the veracity of the revelation of God. The Himself in His revelation, He also unveils Himself. And as He un-
success of our undertaking stands or falls with the fact that we are veils Himself, He also veils Himself. Not the veiling, however, but the
on the way ; that therefore any goal that is attained becomes the unveiling is the purpose of His revelation, the direction of His will.
point of departure for a new journey on this way, on which the revela- In our knowledge of Him we certainly cannot affirm His unveiling
tion of God and its veracity are always future to us. A repetition of without at the same time acknowledging His veiling. And, on the
our work can mean that we no longer tread this way and therefore other hand, in our knowledge of Him we certainly cannot affirm His
that we no longer stand under the promise of its goal and therefore veiling without at the same time thanking Him for His unveiling. Yet
of success. That Gocl in His grace w i l l take up His dwelling in the these two moments in His revelation and in faith are not equally bal-
confines of our thinking and speaking cannot mean that He has sur- anced. There is not a mere uniformity between them. Nor is there
rendered Himself to us as our prisoner. He dwells where our thinking the relationship of a monotonous and in a sense not obviously necessary
and speaking about Him take place in obedience : in obedience to alternation and reversal. If it is understood in this way, we are still
His grace, which is His grace, which as such, whether we repeat our- under the spell of a formal logic raised to metaphysics, which is actually
selves or not, needs continually to be bestowed upon us, and therefore exploded and given the lie by the fact of the revelation of God, and
continually to be sought by us. A repetition of our work can mean therefore also of faith in Him. God indeed acts towards us and with
that we want to master God, that we are therefore no longer obedient us in His revelation, and therefore faith in Him also consists in an
to His grace. The humility which is not only demanded but induced action, namely, in our following His action. B u t in the preceding
by the veracity of His revelation can certainly allow us to repeat our divine and the subsequent human action we do not have either a
way, but it will accompany any such repetition with the warning uniformity of veiling and unveiling, or a continual alternation between
and summons that, whether in repetition or in a new form of our the two, but, while the two always go together, they are also distin-
work, we must reach out and explore for its object, i.e., for the grace guished as the starting-point and the goal of the way on which God
of His revelation, from which alone it can ever become and be true. precedes us and we may follow Him, as the mode and meaning of His
The decisive thing about the veracity of human knowledge of revelation. God reveals Himself in the mode of hiddenness ; but the
God is undoubtedly said when we remember the veracity of the revela- meaning of His revelation is His veracity. He unveils Himself to us
tion of God. The human knowledge of God becomes and is true in and through His veiling and to that extent beginning with His
because God is truly God in His revelation ; because His revelation veiling. B u t He does unveil Himself: it is for this reason and to this
is true as such ; because in it he truly claims human thinking and end that He veils Himself and to this extent that His unveiling is the
speaking ; because in it He truly justifies human thinking and speak- goal of His way and ours. To this extent, in our definition of the
ing ; because by it He upholds us as those who think of Him and speak terminus ad quern of our knowledge of God, while we do not forget or
of Him in humility before Him. Because this happens our human deny its terminus a quo, and are therefore determined and delimited
undertaking to view and conceive God and to speak of Him is an by the recollection of God's hiddenness, we have good grounds to ask
undertaking that succeeds. The grace of the revelation of God, which Particularly about the veracity which is proper to it by reason of its
we came to know as the terminus a quo of our knowledge of God, goal, in virtue of its participation in the truth of the revelation of God,
is therefore also its terminus ad quern. Just as the hidden God, and in virtue of the divine unveiling as the goal of God's way and ours.
therefore faith in Him, forms its beginning, so also the true God, What sort of a participation is it ?
2i6 § 27. The Limits of the Knowledge of God 2. The Veracity of Mans Knowledge of God 217
1. We can understand it only as participation in God's revelation. mendation and dignity which these works claim for themselves and
It is, therefore, right and proper that among our more detailed defini- which they apparently possess. It will have only the goodness which,
tions we should give priority to the fact that basically it can consist where God's revelation is not known and acknowledged as the goal
only in the offering of our thanks. In this respect our knowledge of and object of the human action, cannot be seen and understood as
God stands under the same ordinance as our human work in general, goodness at all. It will have only its hidden excellence in its character
which may be a response to the work of the Word and Spirit of God. as response to the Word which in this instance has not been heard.
If it really does respond ; if it really is response to this work ; if it In this case—which continually recurs—the knowledge of God will
really is the work of our following of God on the way on which He have to be content to be revealed before God in its excellence as a
precedes us, from His veiling to His unveiling, then it has for its title : good work. It will take place as such. It will be a witness, question
" On the Gratitude of Man." and summons to all other works. But it will not enter into competi-
But this means, first of all, that it does not have its necessity in tion and strife with them. Gratitude cannot desire strife : either
itself ; it does not happen on its own account ; but it is evoked by against other gratitude or even against ingratitude. Gratitude can
an object. Nor does it have its necessity in us who do this work ; only take place. It has its goodness only in the goodness which it
we do it, not because we are forced by an inner compulsion or enabled reflects. It is only a receipt, not a security either to the giver or to
by an inner desire, but because the demand for us to do it is imposed any third party. Its necessary strife as a witness, question and
upon us from without, because God is God in His revelation, because summons takes place merely because it is gratitude and exists as
it is His true revelation and because we are truly claimed by it. There such. Of course, a struggle takes place where the undertaking to view
is no other basis for the knowledge of God, for the undertaking of human and conceive God and to speak of God is in progress. In this struggle,
viewing, conceiving and speaking in regard to Him. This undertaking however, it is not we who are the strivers, either for or against anyone,
has only this basis outside itself and outside ourselves. But this basis but God Himself strives in this struggle—against all and for all. In
is sufficient. It is sufficient to incite us to take this work in hand, to this struggle there cannot be a commendation of some and a dis-
expel from us the fear of our insufficiency, to prevent us from wearying crediting of others. For it is God who in this struggle commends
in its performance, to maintain our courage in all humility. If God in Himself and maintains His dignity.
His revelation is this basis outside ourselves, the permission posited Our participation in the veracity of God consists in the offering
with this basis—the " permission to have Him as the basis of our of our thanks. But this means further that it can consist only in an
actions "—is as such so great and strong that it becomes in us an acknowledgment of the revelation of God. It cannot consist, then,
imperative which breaks through all indolence and dilatoriness. in a requital, in a work which is comparable in nature with the work
Our knowledge of God as participation in the veracity of His of God, in an adequate reply to what has been said to us by God
revelation consists in an offering of our thanks. But this means further about God. True knowledge of God does not need to be called to
that from the very first our work can claim only one recommendation order by any critical theory of knowledge to remember the inadequacy
and dignity, namely, that it is simply a response to God's revelation. of all human views, concepts and words in relationship to this object,
I f , then, it takes its place with other—and in their way good—works because as the work of gratitude it cannot try to be requital and
of man, it cannot try to commend itself as compared with them. I f , therefore a reply in equal terms to what had been said to man by God.
and so far as, these other human works are also a response to God's Where man repays like with like, there is no question of thanksgiving
revelation, then it is indeed commended as compared with them, and but only of a transaction : we are at the market which is ruled by
its goodness shines out among them, although there is no question of the mutual adjustment of supply and demand, value and price. The
mutual competition. For how can works of gratitude be at strife with giving of thanks for anything can only be acknowledgment, and the one
one another ? The work of the knowledge of God as man's participation who acknowledges places himself and his action consciously and ex-
in the veracitv of the revelation of God certainly involves a witness, a pressly under the giver and his gift. Even the richest gift given in
question and a summons to all other works. But it takes place as such, return as a mark of thanks will then—if it does not spring from the
as human work, with the same unpretentiousness with which they must wrong intention of discharging the thanks—be designed only to empha-
all take place, and alone can take place as good works. If they try to be sise the acknowledgment of the giver and the gift and the subordination
anything else but response to God's revelation, and therefore anything of the recipient to the giver in accordance with the very nature of
else but works of gratitude, in a very strange and exposed and defence- thanks. Basically, then, the undertaking to know God in human views,
less way this work, the work of the knowledge of God, will make of concepts and words belongs to the category of sacrifice, and what is
itself an exception. It will obviously lack the inner-worldly recom- more, to sacrifice in the biblical sense of the term. For in the Bible
218 § 27. The Limits of the Knowledge of God 2. The Veracity of Man's Knowledge of God 219
sacrifice does not mean that the Godhead is enlisted and reconciled and reminding us of their mutual delimitation, and their common delimita-
placated by an action equivalent to His own goodness and to that extent tion by their object. A l l this takes place in the sphere of our humanity.
satisfying. On the contrary, it is a question of attesting the Godhead as In it all we are not passive, but active. It has all been put in our
Godhead by an action which does not conform in the very least to His hands. But this does not mean that it is given over to us. Because
goodness or claim to satisfy Him, by a gift which does not even re- it is put in our hands it is expected of us that the work of our hands
motely correspond to the Giver, and of which He does not stand in will be accomplished as responsibility towards this object and there-
the slightest need ; of attesting Him as the Lord, to whom man owes fore towards this object of our gratitude.
everything, to whom he owes himself with everything that he is and There is one final point. The knowledge of God as participation
has, to whom he owes it to give the glory which belongs to Him in in the veracity of the revelation of God is a work of gratitude. But
the sphere of our humanity, the glory which He can receive if we do this means that it cannot take place except in joyfulness. There can
the best we can in His service. As sacrifice in this sense, our under- be no acknowledgment of the revelation of God unless we ourselves
taking to know God is a sacrifice which is well-pleasing to Him. are involved. But, involved in this way, we are placed strictly under
It participates in the veracity of His revelation, the veracity of the rule of the object and become obedient. This obedience, however,
the fact that He Himself has bestowed Himself upon us with all His can only mean that we are ourselves requisitioned to be doers of this
riches. work. If the revelation reaches us, if it becomes for us the necessary
Our participation in the veracity of the revelation of God is the basis of our knowledge, this does, of course, mean that it approaches
offering of our thanks. But this means further that as the acknow- us from without, but it also means—how else can it reach us ?—that
ledgment of His revelation our knowledge of God is put under the it does actually come to us and therefore into us. It does not cease
measure, order and rule of His revelation. It takes place in the sphere to transcend us, but we become immanent to it, so that obedience
of our humanity and claims our very best—and therefore our best to it is our free will. But because God remains transcendent to us
thinking and speaking to this end. But this does not mean that it is even in His revelation, the subjectivity of our acknowledgment of
abandoned to our arbitrary selection of this best according to our own His revelation means our elevation above ourselves. It is this that
choice and pleasure. Purposeless or arbitrary thanksgiving, the thanks- of necessity makes our knowledge of God a joyful action. A gratitude
giving in which the giver is guided either by chance or by his own that consists in an involuntary, mutinous and therefore forced and
humour, fancy or obstinacy, is not thanksgiving at all. For basically unjoyful action is not thanksgiving. A tribute to tyranny, however
it will either not be occupied with the acknowledgment at all, or if paid, is not thanks. A sacrifice offered in dread and constraint is not,
it is, it will be more occupied with the acknowledgment than with in the biblical sense at least, a real sacrifice. Sacrifice and thanks are
what it is trying to acknowledge. True acknowledgment cannot come only what is offered gladly. And the basis which makes the true
about in this way. True gratitude enquires—and it does not enquire knowledge of God necessary is in itself the basis of knowing God
in a soliloquy, but it enquires after Him to whom it wants to show gladly. But " gladly " means in the joy of the elevating of man
gratitude. Certainly it does not claim to be sufficient for this task. above himself, in the exuberance of the movement in which he cer-
Certainly it does not think that it should even try to requite Him. tainly remains with himself and yet at least as a sign reaches out
But it enquires after Him, and enquiring after Him, it acts : not above himself, in which he certainly remains a man and within the
arbitrarily, not according to its own discovery of gratitude, but in sphere of his human capacitv and yet, in this very sphere of his human
such a way that the One to whom it would be grateful is the law of capacity, witnesses to what transcends all his possibilities, because he
its action. This means that in the true knowledge of God we are not can witness to it on the basis of his present. In this sober exuberance
left to ourselves, whether in the form of chance or of the wilfulness there takes place the true human knowledge of God and the under-
of our own general or individual nature, thinking and speaking. It taking to view and conceive God humanly and to speak of Him in
is always a question of acknowledging God's revelation. This definite human words. It is not the undertaking of a slave but of a child.
object rules our thinking and speaking. It claims an affirmation It is childlike even in the restrictive sense of the term, but in such a
here, a negation there. It establishes connexions here, distinctions way that the very limitation of that which is childlike is also the
there. It reveals relationships here, and does not reveal them there. earmark of the peculiar freedom here bestowed upon man. In this
It brings into relief specific distinctive possibilities of view and con- exuberance, which has nothing to do with conceit and presumption,
cept, and the specific words which correspond to them, suppressing in the exuberance of the worship of God in the heart and mouth of the
other words and possibilities. It brings before us the possibility and sinful creature, human knowledge of God is an act of gratitude and
necessity of various perceptions and conceptions, at the same time therefore partakes of the veracity of the revelation of God.
220 § 27. The Limits of the Knowledge of God 2. The Veracity of Mans Knowledge of God 221
2. Now if the participation of our knowledge of God in the veracity If the mouth and the tongue and lips of man become the instruments by
of His revelation consists in the offering of our thanks, we shall have w h i c h God and H i s truth and righteousness and glory are praised, and H i s W o r d
to go rather further back and say that it will always be also an act of is proclaimed, then, according to Holy Scripture, this is never a self-evident
occurrence, or a success which man m a y attribute xo himself. F o r first of all
wondering awe. We have not been able to speak of gratitude without there has taken place at God's hand the overcoming in relation to which the
already touching in many wa} s on what is meant here : the necessary
r
man who uses these instruments, and is himself the instrument, always stands as
consciousness of the inadequacy of man as the recipient in relation an awed spectator conscious of his own failure. Prototypical in this respect is the
to the knowledge of God as the gift and God Himself as the Giver in form and attitude of Moses, as it is described in, inter aha, E x . 4 - : " O my L o r d ,
10f

I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy
the relationship established by revelation. The knowledge of God servant : but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. A n d the L o r d said unto
will obviously not be an act of gratitude if it does not happen in this him, Who hath made man's mouth ? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the
consciousness and in the attitude characterised by this consciousness. seeing, or the blind ? have not I the L o r d ? Now therefore go, and I w i l l be with
In our knowledge of God, whether in thought or speech, we always t h y mouth, and teach thee w h a t thou shalt s a y . " T i i i s is repeated i n the confes-
use some kind of views, concepts and words. They may be taken over sion of Isaiah : " Woe is me ! for I am undone ; because I am a man of unclean
Hps, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips : for mine eyes have seen
from others or fresh minted by ourselves. But as human productions the K i n g , the L o r d of hosts," and in what happens to him when in the vision
they do not stand in any real relationship to this object, nor have the seraph takes a live coal w i t h the tongs from off the altar : " A n d he laid it
they any power to comprehend it. As there is a general incongruence upon my mouth, and said, L o , this hath touched thy lips ; and thine iniquity is
between God and man, there is here a particular incongruence between taken away, and thy sin purged " ( I s . 6 - ) . i t is repeated in the call of Jeremiah:
5fr

" A h , L o r d God ! behold, I cannot speak : for I am a child." " Then the L o r d
God as the known and man as the knower. If there is a real know- put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the L o r d said unto me, Behold,
ledge, from our side, it is in this incongruence, and, therefore, in the 1 have put m y words in thy mouth " (Jer. i " - ) . I t is repeated in Ezekiel : " B u t
6

overcoming of this incongruence. But it cannot be overcome from when I speak w i t h thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them,
man's side. The overcoming is therefore from the side of God as the T h u s saith the L o r d God " ( E z e k . 3 " ) . It is drastically repeated in Daniel :
A n d when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground,
known. It takes place in the grace of His revelation, and it is known and I became dumb. And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men
by us only in the grace of His revelation. As it is performed by God touched my lips : then I opened my mouth, and spake " (Dan. i o ^ - ) . " I create1

and known by us in faith, this event of the overcoming of the incon- the fruit of the lips . . . saith the L o r d " (Is. 5 7 ^ ; cf. Heb. 13 ). " I w i l l put my
15

gruence between H i m as the known and us as the knowers is the object words in his mouth ; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command h i m , "
of the awe which to some extent forms the test of the genuineness of says Deut. 18 of the prophet of the last days. " T h e L o r d God hath given me
18

the tongue of the learned, that X should know how to speak a word in .season to
our knowing, and to that extent of the genuineness of our participa- him that is weary " ( I s . 50-*). A n d therefore we must pray : " O L o r d , open thou
tion in the veracity of His revelation. How do we come to think, my lips , and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise " (Ps. 5 1 ) . And we must
15

by means of our thinking, that which we cannot think at all by this not forget Num. 22 , where even the mouth of B a l a a m ' s ass is opened (as if
28

means ? How do we come to say, by means of our language, that which incidentally to show that the divine possibility involved does not have a limit,
let alone a condition, in h u m a n i t y ) . A n d if in the New Testament men have
we cannot say at all by this means ? The fact that we do actually tongues to confess Jesus Christ as Lord, the power is again to be found in the
think it and say it is the sure promise in which we are placed by God's miracle of E a s t e r (Ac. 2 -) behind them and the miracle of the future parousia
31

revelation, which we may and shall apprehend in faith ; the event, before them ( P h i l . 2 " ) . " It shall be given you in that same hour w h a t ye shall
which is continually before us, of real knov/ledge of God. B u t how speak. F o r it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which -peaketh
111 you " (Mt. i o ' ) . Are we not forced to the express conclusion that the repres-
1 9 t

do we come actually to think and say it ? How do we come to our


sion of human speech, to which there is universal reference, and its divine over-
participation in the veracity of His revelation and therefore in His coming, are not simply a question of technical imperfections and their removal,
own veracity ? In face of this terminus ad quern of our knowing of nor of the ordinary difficuitv of human communication, as if the biblicai witnesses
God we can only be amazed and, indeed, amazed only in awe. It did not know how to express themselves properly ? No, the difficulty, and indeed
can never be a question of amazement at ourselves, at the force of our the impossibility, to which reference is made, is a basic one. It is that of the
object of which they have to speak, and on which, as sinful and weak men, they
thinking and language. However great this force may actually be, can only make shipwreck with their words. It is that of the object which obvi-
we shall not seize the kingdom of heaven with it. B u t if our thinking ously can find force and expression only in the shipwreck of their words, conferring
and language in this matter are not without object, if our undertaking suitability upon their words, which are impotent as such.
to know God succeeds by these means of knowledge, it is because the In this respect we must scrutinise carefully the statements of the fathers when
kingdom of heaven has come to us. Therefore the amazement, without they refer to the inadequacy of a l l human words to express this object. F o r
which we cannot put this act into effect as an act of gratitude, will what is the factor which really motivates them ? Is it the magic of the ineffable
One and A l l of the Greeks, i.e , the ineffabile of man ? Or is it really reverence
necessarily be amazement at the kingdom of heaven which comes to
for the God of Israel who w i l l be known only in His grace and therefore only in
us, and therefore the amazement of awe. acknowledgment of the impotence of our own works and therefore also of our
222 27. The Limits of the Knowledge of God 2. The Veracity of Man's Knowledge of God 223
own words ? T h e y knew almost too well and said almost too eagerly that we involved in this case is an incongruence which exists within the world and can
speak of God humanly and therefore inadequately when we do so in sensible therefore be overcome within the world. A n d in contradistinction to the amaze-
expressions, when therefore, e.g., we speak of H i s mouth, H i s arms and hands, ment expressed in the biblical passages the amazement at the f a c t of this over-
His remembering and forgetting, His pity, w r a t h and repentance. The danger coming which was certainly not foreign to the fathers necessarily has in it more
is pressing, and has even become acute, that we may over-emphasise the impro- of amazement at the ineffabile of man, or at the final power of human thinking
priety of what are in the narrowest sense to be called " anthropomorphisms," and speech to overcome all obstacles, than the amazement of awe at the omni-
ascribing in contrast a kind of moderate impropriety to abstract concepts like potent miracle of the divine condescension. We must, however, give the fathers
the being, wisdom, goodness and righteousness of God, and a genuine propriety due credit for their attention to the biblical passages about the inadequacy of
only to negative concepts like incomprehensibility, immutability, infinity, etc., all human language about God and its divine overcoming, and also for their
and therefore thinking that we can speak only uncertainly of the acts of God in emphasis on the fact to which these passages refer. A n d there is no doubt that
H i s revelation, as if they were merely images and accommodations, and that they did aim to interpret this truth of revelation as attested in the Bible. B u t
we must say rather less in order to find safety on what is supposed to be the surer while we acknowledge this fact, we shall have to underline at any rate more
ground of these generalities and especially these negations. It is evident that clearly than they did the basic character of the incongruence and the revelational
this very prejudice against what are in the narrower sense to be called anthropo- character of the congruence reconstituted when it is overcome.
morphisms can also provide a basis and occasion for the p i t i f u l transition from
theology to philosophy, or f r o m the theology of revelation to natural theology. We say awe, having previously said thanksgiving, and having
T h e further we move away from the witness of the H o l y Scriptures to the sphere referred finally to the necessary joyfulness of the knowledge that parti-
of general conjectures about God, so much the purer, we think, is the air of thought,
i.e., so much the less do we need the anthropomorphisms which are found to be
cipates in the veracity of the revelation of God. But as in the case
particularly suspect. B u t , if it lets itself be guided by its object, theology ought of thanksgiving, and therefore joyfulness, we have to say awe of
to t r y to evade these anthropomorphisms least of a l l . And there is an obvious necessity. Awe refers to the distance between our work and its object.
error when it is said that they are particularly suspect. " Anthropomorphism " is This distance is certainly overcome. But it is still a distance which
not merely " the application of expressions which are borrowed from the human,
is overcome only by God's grace, the distance between here and there,
material and corporeal to define the divine and the spiritual " (thus J. B r a u n ,
Handlex. derkath. Dogm., 1926, p. 18). F o r spiritual—i.e., abstract—concepts are below and above. In awe we gratefully let grace be grace, and always
just as anthropomorphic as those which indicate concrete perception. As a charac- receive it as such. We never let reception become a taking. Our
terisation of human language about God " anthropomorphic " necessarily has the knowledge of God is always compelled to be a prayer of thanksgiving,
comprehensive meaning of that which corresponds to the form of man, and does penitence and intercession. It is only in this way that there is know-
not, therefore, correspond to God. When the fathers dig deeper, they too know
this well enough. T h e difficulty, explains Athanasius, lies in the f a c t that we can ledge of God in participation in the veracity of the revelation of God.
say of man that he creates, he is, and that we can only say the same of God,
although God's being and creating is not like that of man but very different (aAAtuy, If it does not come to pass in this amazement of awe, if we do not see the
er4pu>$) (Ep. de deer. Nic. syn. 11). T h e same is also true, however, of concepts distance between our work and its object, if we ascribe to ourselves the capacity
like the vita, intelligentia, substantia, existentia of God : Non proprie nominamus
to overcome it in our own strength, if we claim this overcoming as, so to speak, our
nec appellamus, but a nostris actionibus nominamus actiones Dei (Marius Victorinus,
own act, and t r y to perform and master it as such, if we evade the school to
De gen. div. Verbi 28), On the wisdom, life and power of God there comes at once which the prophets and apostles submitted when they spoke about God on
a ovvTawttvaiots when we speak of H i s wisdom, H i s l i f t and H i s power in accord- the basis of H i s revelation, then, on the basis of the revelation of God, we can,
ance w i t h what we know as such. F o r our nature is transient, our life short, our of course, arrive at a more or less wonderful theological systematisation of divine
power weak, our word fickle. And conversely, by the actuality of the divine truth, but we shall have our reward, for from the very first the worm of a human
nature, when it encounters us, everything that we can say of H i m is raised rapacity and encroachment w i l l be at work in the timber of such a structure.
ovv€77aip€Tai (Gregory of Nyssa, Or. cat. 1). Aliter bonum Deum appellamus,
And sooner or later we shall have to observe that the veracitv of the revelation
aliter hominem. Aliter iustum Deum appellamus, aliter hominem (Augustine,
is to be had only as the veracity of H i s grace, and that we, by rejecting and
De off', minist. I l l , 2, i r ) . When we speak of God, we speak in relation to the denying it as the veracity of grace, must also lose it as the veracity of H i s
world created by H i m , its beauty and goodness and being. B u t : Nec ita pulchra revelation, and that God cannot really be known otherwise than by God.
sunt, nec ita bona sunt, nec ita sunt, sicut tu conditor eorum, cui comparata nec
pulchra sunt, nec bona sunt, nec sunt (Conf, X I , 4, 6). If we could only be sure that To the question how we come to know God by means of our
this nec ita or aliter, this aAAa>? or hdpojs, does not refer only to a superlative of thinking and language, we must give the answer that of ourselves
unlikeness, but to a basic difference between God and the creature, and therefore we do not come to know Him, that, on the contrary, this happens
between the divine being and creaturely views, concepts and words ! If only the only as the grace of the revelation of God comes to us and therefore
above-mentioned specific critique of anthropomorphisms in the narrower sense
did not shew in w h a t direction they think they have to seek the incongruence
to the means of our thinking and language, adopting us and them,
of the divine being and human language, namely, in the distinction between the pardoning, saving, protecting and making good. We are permitted to
spirituality of this being and the sensuousness of our speech ; and in what make use, and a successful use at that, of the means given to us. We
direction they seek the congruence of both as reconstituted in the knowledge of do not create this success. Nor do our means create it. But the grace
God, namely, in a process of spiritualisation, to which creaturely views, con- of God's revelation creates it. To know this is the awe in which our
cepts and words can be not altogether unsuccessfully subjected ! F o r what is
knowledge of God becomes true.
2. The Veracity of Mans Knowledge of God 225
224 § 27. The Limits of the Knowledge of God
Ought we, then, to speak of a disparity of content and meaning
3. But just what this permission means for the act of our cognition
when we apply a description to the creature on the one hand and to
we must now submit to even more detailed investigation. If we pre-
God's revelation and God on the other ? When we speak of God as
suppose that everything said so far is agreed and acknowledged, what
being, spirit, sovereign, creator, redeemer, righteousness, wisdom and
is to be said about the relationship between the views, concepts and
goodness, but also apply to Him such words as eye. ear and mouth,
words used by us on the basis of the means we are given and God as
arm, hand, love, wrath, mercy, patience, do they mean something
their object ? There is no doubt that, on the basis and according to
different from when we use them to describe the creature ? We must
the measure of the presuppositions now clarified, this relationship is
be careful what we are affirming if we wish to affirm this. There can
to be regarded as a positive relationship, i.e., one in which there exists
be an all too human exaggeration of that awe in the knowledge of God,
a real fellowship between the knower and his knowing on the one
by which we do not praise God but deny Him. This kind of disparity
hand and the known on the other. If it is regarded as negative, and
necessarily means that in fact we do not know God. For if we know
this fellowship is denied, God is not revealed to man. His grace is
Him, we know H i m by the means given us ; otherwise we do not know
not grace. Man's faith is not faith. Or else God's revelation is not
Him at all. The fact that we know Him must mean that, with our
true. That is, either He is not truly God in it, or He is not truly
views, concepts and words, we do not describe and express something
revealed as God. Or again, man's knowledge of God does not take
quite different from Himself, but that in and by these means of ours
place in participation in the veracity of the revelation of God. The
—the only ones we have—we describe and express God Himself.
way of human cognition of God has no goal at all, no terminus ad quern,
Otherwise, without this relationship, under the presupposition of a
which means that it probably has no beginning, no terminus a quo.
simple disparity, there cannot possibly be any question of the veracity
It is simply a fiction, resting on an illusion, that we are on this way
of our knowledge of God. The whole relationship will have to be
at all. But if this fellowship is not to be denied, in what does it con-
regarded as simply negative, as a relationship of mutual exclusion.
sist ? Where do we find the veracity in which we apply to God human
There will not then be in fact any fellowship between the knower and
words which as such are inadequate to describe Him, as we all do
the known. God's revelation will simply be a veiling, and it cannot
at every point when we speak directly or indirectly about God ?
therefore be understood as revelation. The impossibility of the thesis
Does there exist a simple parity of content and meaning when we of a parity between our word and the being of God must not press us
apply the same word to the creature on the one hand and to God's into the counter-thesis of a disparity between them. On the basis
revelation and God on the other ? We are aware, or we think we are of the same presupposition the latter is just as impossible as the
aware, of what being, spirit, sovereignty, creation, redemption, former.
righteousness, wisdom, goodness, etc. mean when we use these terms
In this perplexity the older theology accepted the concept of
to describe creatures. We are also aware, or think we are aware,
analogy to describe the fellowship in question. Bv this term both
what we are saying when in the sphere of the creature we say eye, ear,
the false thesis of parity and the equally false thesis of disparity were
mouth, arm or hand, or love, wrath, mercy, patience and such-like.
attacked and destroyed, but the elements of truth in both were re-
Does ail this mean the same thing when we also say it about God ?
vealed. It could therefore be claimed as the correct definition of the
Is, has and does God all these things as we see creatures are, have
matter. In distinction to both likeness and unlikeness " analogy "
and do ? Obviously we cannot affirm this, nor can the veracity of
means similarity, i.e., a partial correspondence and agreement (and,
our knowledge be found in a likeness of this kind between our know-
therefore, one which limits both parity and disparity between two or
ledge and Him as the known. For this would mean a denial of God's
more different entities). The term is "(cf. above, pp". 75 ff.) burdened
hiddenness, and His revelation would no longer be understood as an
by its use in natural theology, and it needs specific clarification in this
unveiling in veiling. A parity of this type would mean either that
respect. But at this point it is as such unavoidable. If in this fellow-
God had ceased to be God and become merely a creature, or that man
ship there can be no question of either parity or disparity, there
with his capacity had become a God. Therefore this parity means
remains only what is generally meant by analogy : similarity, partial
necessarily that the knower and the known are related either as two
correspondence and agreement. We shall have to reserve for the
creatures "or as two gods. If we are dealing with the creature on the
moment what is to be said about the origin and constitution of this
one hand and God on the other, and if the grace of the revelation of
correspondence and agreement as such, and also about the meaning
God is the alpha and omega of the positivity of that relationship, this
of " partial." But the object itself—God's truth in His revelation as
positivity cannot be understood in this way, and there can be no
the basis of the veracity of our knowledge of God—does not leave us
question of a likeness between our word, which as such refers to a
any option but to resort to this concept.
creaturely being, and the being of God which it is used to describe.
8
226 § 27. The Limits of the Knowledge of God 2. The Veracity of Mans Knowledge of God 227
It is to be noted that this procedure is itself an illustration of the matter of truth is that man with his human word " similarity " participates in the (as such)
which we are speaking ; or, rather, that this procedure as such brings us at once incomprehensible similarity which is posited in God's true revelation, so that in
to the very heart of the matter. We are enquiring into the relationship between it God participates in man and his human word. If we are not disobedient but
what we may say about God with our words which in themselves describe only obedient to the truth of this revelation in taking up this particular word ; if
the creaturely, and what God is and therefore what must be said of H i m in words our decision for the concept of analogy is not arbitrary ; if it is not self-grounded
which are not at our disposal. We can also say what is to be said about this upon a secret prejudice in favour of an immanent capacity of this concept, but
relationship only with our words which have reference to the creaturely. Parity, occurs under the compulsion of the object ; if it is not, then, a systematic but an
disparity and analogy are all equally such creaturely words, and therefore quite exegetical decision, for this reason and to this extent it was and is a right decision.
insufficient in themselves to say what is to be said at this point where we have to We have been analysing the procedure by which the term analogy is selected
do with God and the creature. Nevertheless, a selection has to be made. The words to describe the relationship between what we say of God and what God is. B u t
parity and disparity have to be rejected and the word analogy preferred. With at bottom we have to do with the same procedure in the relationship itself. If
what right ? Merely regarding the words as such, the one is actually as insufficient we can presuppose that the term analogy or similarity is " correct " in the
as the others to be used in this way. In all three words the co-existence of com- sense explained, the correctness of what we say about God, in its relationship to
parable objects is obviously presupposed. Only under this presupposition can what God is, is everywhere based on the fact that God's true revelation comes
they be described as alike, unlike or analogous. But God is not an object com- from out of itself to meet what we can say with our human words and makes a
parable to other objects. Supposing, however, that the relationship between selection from among them to which we have then to attach ourselves in obedience.
God's being and human words really consists in God's true revelation, because What we say in this attachment we say rightly, and in it—as the terminus ad
this revelation mediates true knowledge of God to us ? Supposing the know- quern of our knowledge of God—we participate in the truth of H i s revelation.
ledge of this relationship also belongs to this true knowledge and there is therefore Its terminus a quo, God's hiddenness, will not be annulled by it, or denied by
a word to describe this relationship ? Whatever may have to be said about the us. B u t we will also not deny that it has pleased and does please God in H i s
insufficiency of the words parity, disparity and analogy to be used in this way, true revelation to make Himself comprehensible to us, without prejudice to His
are we not driven into the sphere of these three words (not on account of a secret hiddenness and therefore within the limits of our comprehension.
capacity of the words, but on the strength of the Nevertheless of the true
revelation of God, in which God posits Himself as a comparable object) ? It is
still the case that we are not concerned with the words as such. In a sense we Between our views, concepts and words, and God as their object,
simply turn our back on them. We look to the true revelation of God. And by there exists, on the basis of the revelation of God, the relationship of
it we are pushed away from the words parity and disparity. For the relationship analogy, of similarity, of partial correspondence and agreement. On
posited in God's true revelation does not bear either description, although in the basis of this similarity there is a true human knowledge of God and
themselves both terms, like the word analogy, can be, and in other contexts (as,
for example, the doctrine of the Trinity) actually are, instruments to be used in therefore the human knowledge of God reaches its goal. But how
this way. In this case, however, to answer the concrete question posed by does this partial correspondence and agreement arise ? If it does so
revelation, they obviously cannot be used. They are, therefore, incorrect. And, only partially, then, as a presupposition of this event, we must affirm
pressed again by the true revelation of God, we are pushed on to the word that, as and before it occurs, as and before our word comes to partici-
" analogy." In itself and as such it is no better than the words parity and
disparity. Indeed, in other contexts (as, for example, to describe the relationship
pate in it, it obviously subsists in God Himself as the Subject and Lord
between God and Christ) it would be quite out of place. It is not, therefore, who in His revelation reveals Himself to us, and as the Creator who
correct in itself, even in this context. It becomes correct in this context because in His revelation controls His own work. In Himself He is quite dif-
the relationship (posited in God's true revelation) which we have here to express ferent from what He is in our work. Therefore the relationship be-
in some sense attracts this word to itself, giving it in the sphere of our words, tween what He is in Himself and what He is in our work is only a
which are insufficient to be used in this way, the character of a designation for
the divine reality of this relationship. It is not a relationship either of parity or relationship of similarity. Yet while this is true, it is also true that
of disparity, but of similarity. This is what we think and this is what we express both in Himself and in our work He is not Another. And because in
as the true knowledge of God, although in faith we still know and remember that our work He is this One on the basis of His revelation, because His
everything that we know as " similarity " is not identical with the similarity revelation in its relationship to us is grace, we shall have to say that
meant here. Y e t we also know and remember, and again in faith, that the
similarity meant here is pleased to reflect itself in what we know as similarity and
He is this One first of all in Himself, and on this basis He is it secondly
call by this name, so that in our thinking and speaking similarity becomes similar (not as Another, but in another way) for us, in our work grounded
to the similarity posited in the true revelation of God (to which it is, in itself, not in His revelation. Our work consists in applying to God human views,
similar), and we do not think and speak falsely but rightly when we describe the concepts and words which as such can be applied only to the creaturely.
relationship as one of similarity. It is not a deification of man and of a human This work of ours, grounded on God's revelation, can become a success-
word if we ascribe this correctness to it and consequently take it upon our lips.
W e are not trusting in a power of apprehension and therefore of correctness
T ful work. Our views, concepts and words, grounded on God's revela-
immanent in us or in this word. We know that it cannot have this in and of tion, can be legitimately applied to God, and genuinely describe Him
itself. B u t we trust in the true revelation of God coming to us and therefore to fcven in this sphere of ours and within its limits. For all their unsuit-
these words as well. For the sake of God's revelation man and his human word ability, they can still be correct and true. But if this is the case, the
cannot be abandoned to a nothingness of fundamental godlessness. B u t the
capacity does not rest on a lie in which black is called white. In
228 § 27- The Limits of the Knowledge of God 2. The Veracity of Man's Knowledge of God 229
other words, we do not attribute to our views, concepts and wordb in error, and yet in such a way that even in error, doubly hidden from
a purely fictional capacity, so that the use we make of them is ourselves (by our creatureliness and our sin), and therefore in a double
always hedged in by the "reservation of an " a s i f . " But because sense without any possibility of reclamation, we live by His infallible
God, who is always God in this relationship, takes the part of man, truth. W i t h our views, concepts and words we have no claim on H i m ,
there is genuine correspondence and agreement. Indeed, it is not that He should be their object. He Himself, however, has every—the
the case that when He authorises and commands us in His revelation best founded and most valid—claim on us and on all our views, con-
to make use of our views, concepts and words God is doing something, cepts and words, that He should be their first and last and proper
so to speak, inappropriate, because, if they are to be applied to Him, subject. Therefore, He does not annul His truth or deny it, nor does He
our views, concepts and words have to be alienated from their proper establish a double truth, nor does He place us in the doubtful
and original sense and usage. No, He takes to Himself something position of an " as if " cognition, when He allows and commands us in
that already belongs originally and properly to H i m . Although His His revelation to make use of our views, concepts and thoughts to
action is pure grace, He does not perform a ^erd^am? els aXXo yevos. describe Himself, His Word and His deeds. On the contrary, He
He is righteous in ail His works and therefore in this work too : He establishes the one truth, His own, as the truth of our views, concepts
" comes unto His own." Creatures who are the suitable object of our and words. B u t again, this is not because they are appropriate for
human views, concepts and words are actually His creation. But our it or because they originally mean Him apart from this one truth.
thought and our language in their appropriateness to this object are As our own they simply do not do this. When He claims them, He
also His creation. Therefore the truth in which we know this appro- does not confirm Himself but us. But in them He does in fact confirm
priate object in the way appropriate to us is His creation, His truth. Himself. For the truth is that, as they have His creation for object,
It is His truth in a very different way from what it is ours—with all and as they are themselves His creation, in them all God the Creator
the distinction of the Creator from the creature. It is obviously His has knowledge of Himself, so that by them all, as by the existence of
truth originally, primarily, independently and properly, because creation generally, God describes and proclaims Himself. For this
creatively. It is our truth only subsequently, secondarily, dependently reason He, the Creator, claims us and therefore them in His revelation.
and improperly, because creaturely. Obviously, again, we know our Thus He does not perform a violent miracle, but exercises a lawful claim
truth only as ours and not as His. A reversal of the relationship, a and makes a restitution, when, in His omnipotence, He causes the
control of God by man, is, therefore, excluded and impossible. That miracle to happen by which we come to participate in the veracity of
which follows cannot possibly precede. His revelation, and by which our words become true descriptions of
Himself. Our words are not our property, but His. And disposing
F o r this reason it is not at all the case t h a t w i t h our t h i n k i n g and speaking
in its creaturely reference, while we do not, of course, grasp the thought and t r u t h of them as His property, He places them at our disposal—at the dis-
of the Creator, we s t i l l think and intend to conceive at least the idea of God be- posal of our grateful obedience—when He allows and commands us
yond our t h i n k i n g and speaking and perhaps even to realise it at least in terms of to make use of them in this relationship too. The use to which they
feeling. Our supposed idea of God, the object of our most intimate feeling, w i l l are put is not, then, an improper and merely pictorial one, but their
a l w a y s be the idea of the world and in the last resort of m a n . I t w i l l a l w a y s be
our own reflection, the hypostatisation of our thought and speech. I t w i l l be
nroper use. We use our words improperly and pictorially—as we can
this the.more f u l l y if we follow the teaching of A. R i t s c h l , w h i c h was Augustine's now say, looking back from God's revelation—when we apply them
before h i m , and unite it w i t h the idea of a supreme value or good We cannot within the confines of what is appropriate to us as creatures. When
even mean God of ourselves. B u t He not only means us but knows about us. we apply them to God they are not alienated from their original object
" T h o u understaudest my thought a f a r o f f " ( P s . 130.'). H i s t r u t h is not our
t r u t h . B u t our t r u t h i s ' H i s t r u t h . T h i s is the u n i t y o f t r u t h i n H i m who i s
and therefore from their truth, but, on the contrary, restored to it.
the t r u t h .
For example, the words " f a t h e r " and " son " do not first and properly have
The activity involved in our knowledge of His creation, to be I r
t r u t h at the point of reference to the underlying v i e w s a n d concepts in our
realised in views, concepts and words, has its truth, hidden from us, thought and language, i.e., in their application to the t w o nearest male members
in God as its and our Creator. In the first instance, whatever is said m the succession of p h y s i c a l generation of m a n or of a n i m a l creation generally.
I h e y have it first and properly at a point to w h i c h , as our words, they cannot
by us was, is and will be said truly in Him. It will be said in Him r t ' f e r at a l l , but to w h i c h , on the basis of the grace of the revelation of God, they
in a truth which is original, primary, independent and proper truth ; HKty refer, and on the basis of the l a w f u l c l a i m of God the Creator they e v e n n i u s t
by us in a truth which is subsequent, secondary, dependent and 'vti>r, and therefore, on the basis of this permission and compulsion, they can a c t u -
improper. It will be said in Him infallibly, by us (for we are not a l l y r e f e r — i n their application to God, in the doctrine of the T r i n i t y . I n a way
u
h i c h is incomprehensible and concealed f r o m us, but in the incontestable
only creatures but sinful creatures who have fallen from Him) always priority of the Creator over the creature, God H i m s e l f is the F a t h e r atid the Son.
230 § 27. The Limits of the Knowledge of God 2. The Veracity of Mans Knowledge of God 231
If we apply these words to God, we do not withdraw from them their original visional understanding. As the encounter precipitated entirely by
meaning, nor do we speak " as if." On the contrary, we speak in the original God, it can only be the first, which our knowing must follow and cannot
truth of these words. And, in the same way, " lordship " is not first and properly
what we know as the exercise of power by man over man, but the KvpLo-rqs of God
precede. The reflection of His truth in our truth follows it. The
exercised and revealed in Jesus Christ. In the same way, " patience is not proper use of our words in the employ of this knowing follows it. It
primarily the crumb of virtue which we do, or do not, practise under this name, follows it because truth and propriety are placed by Him at the disposal
but the incomprehensible being and attitude of God which is shown in the fact of our words. God has to make Himself object to us in the grace of
that He gives us time to believe in Him. In the same way, the truth of what His revelation. He has, therefore, to bestow truth upon our knowing
" love " means may be read from what we know as the desire, surpassing natural
self-seeking, of the one for the other, only in the light of what happens between that is directed to creaturely objects—the truth of similarity with Him.
God the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit, or in the light of the fact that Without this bestowal our words have truth in Him but not for us.
God has loved the world in His Son. In the same way also, words of such simple In our mouths they are words which denote the creature but not God.
content as " arm " and " mouth "—which to us are as such incomprehensible— Indeed they cannot denote Him. This possibility of theirs stands or
declare their truth only in the place (and therefore in the very place where the
spiritualisers think they must find excuses for themselves or the Bible) where the falls with the reality of the fact that they are enlisted by God's revela-
reference is to the arm and mouth of God, His deeds and words. " He that planted tion to participate in His truth, that they are in a certain sense raised
the ear, shall he not hear ? he that formed the eye, shall he not see ? " (Ps. 94°). from the dead. The fact that this does happen to them at the hands
" Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion of God's revelation, that He gives to them the thing which by nature
on the son of her womb ? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee "
(Is. 49 ). " If ye, then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unt© your
15 they cannot have—in their creatureliness the character of an analogy
children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to Himself as the Creator—is, of course, something which is not to
to them that ask him ? " (Mt. 7 ). In sayings such as these where is the proper
11
be denied.
and where the improper use of our views and concepts ? Their proper use obvi-
ously consists in the fact that they point away and beyond themselves, taking on This giving is originally intended by the doctrine of analogy in natural
a new pregnancy, referring to that to which they cannot refer at all as our views theology, at any rate so far as it thinks it can call itself Christian natural theology
and concepts. and the cognition of the Church. Its error is that it makes out of the " He " an
" it," out of the becoming a being, out cf the coming to us by God's revelation
Now, it certainly does not lie in our power to return our words something existing and capable of proof even without revelation and otherwise
to their proper use. There is a deep error here in the misused applica- than in faith. This static instead of dynamic understanding of the analogy
between our word and God must, therefore, be expressly repudiated if we
tion which the concept of analogy is ordinarily and continually given are to adopt the term. When we make this repudiation, when we understand
in natural theology. In His revelation God controls His property, that the analogy has its basis in the being of God as He may be comprehended
elevating our words to their proper use, giving Himself to be their by creation and is therefore a mode—the mode which particularly concerns our
proper object, and therefore giving them truth. Analogy of truth knowledge of God—of His revelation, and the work of His grace, the peculiar
overweighting of the concept, and the danger which its use incontestably involves,
between Him and us is present in His knowing, which comprehends is eliminated. We have no grounds for saying No where God has said Yes in His
ours, but not in ours, which does not comprehend His. But in our revelation. But it all depends upon our saying Yes where—and only where—God
knowing, this analogy of truth comes into being in virtue of the has first said Yes in His revelation.
decision of His grace, which is to this extent the grace of His revelation.
It is not the case that we can anticipate or handle this divine control, We cannot open our mouths to speak about God without appro-
elevating and giving ; that even prior to God's decision, or without it, priating the promise that we shall speak the truth in the analogy of
we can understand our truth as secondary to His and therefore His His truth itself. But everything depends on our doing it with a good
truth in the reflection of ours, our words as inexhaustible, as words conscience ; and, indeed, everything depends on our actually appro-
that properly mean God. It is not, then, the case that by means of a priating His promise and therefore not using our human words without
clarification of the meaning and understanding of our words as such the permission and command of His revelation, on the basis of a pro-
we can press forward to a provisional meaning and understanding of visional understanding, but on the basis of the decision made in His
their use in relation to God. The provisional meaning and under- revelation. In this use our words then possess the entire veracity
standing to which we can, of course, press forward by this kind of which they have in God Himself, in which God the Creator, who
clarification is the provisional meaning and understanding of our places them at our disposal, knows about Himself, and with which
understanding of the world, and finally of our self-understanding as it He describes Himself. In this use God Himself lives and speaks in
may actually come to pass in our encounter or supposed encounter them. In this use the human word becomes God's own word the
with one of the gods of this world. Our encounter with the God who is human word receives the momentum, the parresia, the certainty and
the Creator and forgives sins cannot be preceded by this type of pro- authority, which distinguishes genuine preaching from a mere speaking