Naughty or Nice?
Are we naughty or nice? It would help us to consider two different approaches to humanity and "the Fall" that even Barth, very late in his life, regretted not addressing more clearly. In a climate of what he felt was a naive "I'm okay, you're okay" theology, he taught loudly and clearly about the wholly otherness of God and the depravity of humanity. Later in life though, he wished he'd been less "God against humanity/ God's NO to humanity", and more "God for humanity/ God's YES to humanity". Even a theologian whom the Pope called the greatest since Aquinas (and I agree), adjusted his theology and embraced a broader and more charitable position towards all people. I quote Barth on the event of his 70th birthday:
While once man apparently had no place in my theology, I think that over the years I have learned to speak of God the Creator and his relationship with man as his creature in a way which allows man a greater prominence. I think that now I can put things better by saying that man also has true freedom through the power of the free sovereign grace of God: freedom for obedience, the freedom of the children of God. I think that today I can understand and reverence more than before the wise patience of God, the outpouring and the renewing work of his Word and Spirit in man and in mankind.Again, on his 80th birthday, he communicated with his giant theological arch-rival Emil Brunner:
... tell him, "Yes", that the time when I thought that I had to say "No" to him is now long past, since we all live only by virtue of the fact that a great and merciful God says his gracious "Yes" to all of us.All of us! When you consider the Fall, which I think symbolically explains our condition, you can focus on the Fall as the starting point, or Creation as the starting point, for humanity. Some emphasize the Fallenness of humanity, some emphasize the good creation of humanity. We can look at ourselves as bad, or we can look at ourselves as something inherently good gone bad. I agree with Reformed theology that we are fallen, broken, wounded, alienated... all those delicious words. But I also agree with Reformed theology that insists that this brokenness is not our truest, deepest, most primal selves, but our fractured selves. We are like mirrors that once clearly reflected the image of God. The Fall shattered us, but we nevertheless still reflect the image of God, though refracted. And I believe that this brokenness is God's passion to repair. This perspective enables us to listen with an open and charitable mind to people of all kinds of persuasions. What I am trying to say that, beginning in an admittedly New Age shop a few days ago, I felt that this was the season, and a season without end, for us to be generous and show good will to all people, as it has been shown to us. The image is an oil painting of mine entitled "The Fall".