I have been doing some cramming for tomorrow’s exams and one of my topics was Barth’s take on Providence. I came across a comment about creation and it brought to mind a previous discussion on the goodness or fallen-ness of creation. Barth was making the point that creation was good enough – good enough to allow God’s grace to work and good enough to enable the lordship of Jesus Christ.
I liked that because it stood in contrast to some earlier reading on Augustine who was convinced of humanity’s utter depravity.
Both allow for God’s grace. In fact, for Augustine, it’s an absolute necessity otherwise there is no hope whatsoever for humanity. We are, without God’s aid, utterly incapable of choosing Him. Barth doesn’t diminish the need for God’s grace but there’s an overall more hopeful image from him. Perhaps that reflects his universalist leanings. I confess I don’t know enough about the rest of his theology. But I liked the idea that creation is allowed to be messy and untidy and imperfect, just as we are as individuals. And yet, despite this, there’s room for God to work. In fact, one might argue that without it, there’s no need for God.
But the other interesting thing about Barth is that God’s work of grace in this messiness is to turn us to Him and, in His creation, reflect something of His glory. I don’t get that sense of ‘improvement’ with Augustine. Ultimately all we end up doing in his scheme of things is avoid slipping back into the mire. With Barth there’s the sense of liberation not oppression. And there’s the true sense of Christian hope – that creation is being saved as part of God’s covenant promise as we see its outworkings in God’s providence.
The world isn’t perfect, but it doesn’t have to be. Just as well really.