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Built to last

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1.14

The flip-side to Karl Barth's teaching on the eternal significance for human freedom of God's election of humanity through Christ, is the impact of Jesus' historical humanity. Here again there are negative and positive implications. Negatively Jesus' life, death, resurrection and ascension frees us from sin. Positively, that same life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus frees us for life - as image-bearers of the one whose decision in our favour elevates humanity for its/ our divine likeness and calling.

In unpacking what that means, Barth effects another somersault: this time turning to John 1 rather than Genesis 1 as the reference point for our being created in God's image. It is in God's election of Jesus and our recreation in Christ that we find our divine likeness as earthlings made in the image of God. Thus everything, including the Old Testament, must be re-interpreted in the light of God's coming - and indeed his coming again - in the person of Jesus.

This divine likeness finds expression in 3 particular ways: our relationship to God and our fellow creatures, the asymmetrical inter-dependence of body and soul and the constraints we inhabit. Through insisting that God's grace overwhelms the part played by human decision in effecting a person's salvation, Barth establishes the highest dignity for each and every person. Yet, at the same time, he strikes a blow at post-modern man's autonomous "I am", in favour of our identity as relational beings, transformed by the saviour whose image we bear and whose mission we share.



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