Genesis and Apocalypse – Chapter 10

by

The Apocalyptic Christ

Altizer believes that Barth’s Church Dogmatics is a response to the death of God and Nietzsche’s vision of eternal recurrence. What Altizer most appreciates in Barth’s theological system is his doctrine of election. For Barth, Christ is the “Elector and Elect, and again the one Rejector and Rejected” (149). Barth’s doctrine of election is one in which Christ Himself is damned by God. He is forsaken and suffers, Christ becomes a curse for us. This is radical because now “Christ is the only one rejected, the only one who has suffered the damnation of Hell” (151). However, this damnation of Christ is the very ground of our redemption. If “it was Nietzsche who must fully proclaimed the death of God in the modern world, it was Barth who most fully proclaimed that death as the very essence of the gospel, for that death is the actualization of an eternal election, and thus for Nietzsche and Barth alike the death of God is an absolute Yes and Amen” (151). While Barth’s theology was relentlessly Christocentric so Nietzsche’s philosophy was entirely grounded on the death of God. Again we see that Nietzsche’s Yes-saying to eternal recurrence is repeated in Barth’s celebration of God’s gracious double predestination. Although Altizer realizes that Barth opposed apocalyptic theology, he believes Barth’s Christology is unique and radical. It is radical and apocalyptic because the No-saying of Christ in inextricably linked to the Yes-saying, a Yes-saying that is finally apocalyptic because it affirms the absolute end of damnation itself.

Damnation is unique to Christianity. This is manifest because damnation is wholly absent from the Hebrew Bible but absolutely pervasive in the Greek Bible. Damnation of the crucified would become interiorized in Augustine’s negative will and in Nietzsche’s ressentiment. This damnation in Christianity is the forsakenness of God the Son by the God the Father. “This is the gospel or good news of Jesus Christ, a gospel in which the damnation of one is the salvation of all” (156). Barth recognized that we can only know God by knowing His absolute grace, that “grace is the rejection of damnation of God by Himself’ (156).

The “sacrifice of God by God and a sacrifice of God to God, a sacrifice which Christianity in its very beginnings knew as atonement, an atonement occurring through the sacrificial death of the Lamb of God” (158). Christ must bear the weight of sin and suffer the wrath of God alone. This damnation is our salvation, and “[g]uilt becomes grace when it is the guilt of God, or the guilt which God ascribes to Himself in Christ” (159).

“Accordingly, an apocalyptic condemnation is absolutely No-saying and absolute Yes-saying at once, and if it can be known interiorly and individually only as No-saying or guilt, it is known or realized universally only as the Yes-saying of grace, a grace that is an apocalyptic grace, and is an apocalyptic grace because it is all in all. But is all in all only by being the damnation of God in Christ, a damnation which is an apocalyptic damnation, and is an apocalyptic damnation because it and it alone actualizes the election of all…the apocalypse of Christ, an apocalypse in which guilt has wholly passed into grace, and in which the Almighty has wholly passed into Christ” (159-160).

[After reading this chapter I’m really looking forward to reading more of CD, especially Volume II. I’m dragging my feet at the end of CD I/2. Fortunately, I’m still on pace, and I’ll be beginning Volume II starting next week]

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