Thursday, December 09, 2010

Barth on the New Testament miracles

As fundamentally astonishing stories, they function first of all in a formal way as a sort of alarm signal, which is the reason the New Testament likes to term them "signs." Scattered at times thickly and at other times more sparsely throughout the history of Immanuel, they alert the hearer and reader to a central fact: this history is concerned with a fundamentally new event which, although undoubtedly occurring within time and space, is not to be identified with other events occurring within the limits of time and space...
But what is the new element signaled by these miracle stories? ... To what do the following phrases point? " 'Rise, take up your bed and go home.' " " 'Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!' " " 'Peace, Be still!' " as was called out to a stormy sea. " 'You give them to eat!' " as was said concerning the five thousand who were hungry in the wilderness. " 'Lazarus, come out!' " " 'He has risen, he is not here.' " According to the biblical testimony, what happened following such statements was always a change in the ordinary course of the world and nature which threatened and oppressed man. Though these changes were isolated and temporary, they were nevertheless radically helpful and saving. What took place were promises and intimations, anticipations of a redeemed nature, of a state of freedom, of a kind of life in which there will be no more sorrows, tears, and crying, and where death as the last enemy will be no more. What is communicated under the form of these little lights is always the reflected brightness of the great light which draws near to the men of the present in the form of hope. What is at stake is the summons, " 'Look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near' " (Luke 21:28). This kindling of the light of hope is what is really new; it is the really surprising element in the biblical miracle stories.

Evangelical Theology: An Introduction, 67-69

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