Friday, October 9, 2009

A distinctly Christian hope for the future

Here is another quote from chapter 20 of Karl Barth's Dogmatics in Outline, which gives an detailed analysis of each phrase of the Apostle's Creed.
`... To judge the quick and the dead.' If we wish to understand aright here, we must from the start repress certain pictures of the world-judgement, as far as we can, and make an effort not to think of what they are describing. All those visions, as the great painters represent them, about the judging of the world (Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel), Christ advancing with clenched fist and dividing those on the right from those on the left, while one's glance remains fixed on those on the left! The painters have imagined to some extent with delight how these damned folk sink in the pool of hell. But that is certainly not the point.

Question 52 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: ` What comfort hast thou by the coming again of Christ to judge the quick and the dead?' Answer: `That in all my miseries and persecutions I look with my head erect for the very same, who before yielded Himself unto the judgement of God for heaven...' A different note is struck here. Jesus Christ's return to judged the quick and the dead is tidings of joy. `With head erect,' the Christian, the Church may and ought to confront this future. For He that comes is the same who previously offered Himself to the Judgement of God. It is His return we are looking for. Would it had been vouchsafed to Michelangelo and the other artists to hear and see this!
I find this helpful and challenging. It shows our innate tendency to self-righteousness and puts the focus on Christ and what he accomplished on the cross. The hope it highlights connects past, present, and future.

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