Barth and Altizer on Nothingness and Evil


“Nothingness is the past, the ancient menace, danger and destruction, the ancient non-being which obscured and defaced the divine creation of God but which is consigned to the past in Jesus Christ, in whose death its has received its deserts, being destroyed with this consummation of the positive will of God which is as such the end of His non-willing. Because Jesus is Victor, nothingness is routed and extirpated” (CD III/3, 363).

“But it no less true that this divine opus alienum, the whole activity of God on the left hand, was fulfilled and accomplished once and for all, and therefore deprived of its object, when it took place in all its dreadful fullness in the death of Jesus Christ. Nothingness had power over the creature. It could contradict and oppose it and break down its defences. It could make it its slave and instrument and therefore its victim. But it was impotent against the God who humbled Himself, and Himself became a creature, and thus exposed Himself to its power and resisted it. Nothingness could not master this victim. It could neither endure nor bear the presence of God in the flesh. It met with a prey which it could not match and by which it could only be destroyed as it tried to swallow it. The fullness of the grace which God showed to His creature by Himself becoming a threatened, even ruined and lost creature, was its undoing” (CD III/3, 362).

It was an interesting section, and I enjoyed reading his critiques of Sartre and Heidegger. I looked up Altizer’s book on Godhead and the Nothing to read his comments on Barth and nothingness. Hopefully, I’ll return to this book in the future to read it in full. Here are some choice quotes I found:

“Now it precisely evil as evil that disappears in every such affirmation, so that Barth could maintain that as a consequence of the resurrection damnation is impossible, and impossibility which is the impossibility of nothingness, or the impossibility of nothingness in that apocalypse which is the resurrection…It is as though the very affirmation of God is not only inseparable from but identical with the denial of nothingness, and the deeper the affirmation of God the deeper the denial of nothingness” (Godhead and the Nothing, 48).

“If our only freedom is to know that nothingness has finally been destroyed, that freedom is faith itself, a faith in which an actual opening to nothingness is impossible, and impossible because now nothingness is absolutely unreal. This impossibility and this impossibility alone is what Barth could know as apocalypse, an apocalypse which is an eternal election, and an election which is creation itself” (Godhead and the Nothing, 47-8).


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