The Wrath of God (According to Karl Barth)
April 30, 2012 by Nick Nowalk
Here are Barth’s searing, searching comments on the revelation of God’s wrath, a process described in Romans 1:18-32:
“The confusion [of the Creator with the creation] avenges itself and becomes its own punishment. The forgetting of the true God is already itself the breaking loose of His wrath against those who forget Him (1:18). The enterprise of setting up the ‘No-God’ is avenged by its success…Our conduct becomes governed precisely by what we desire. By a strict inevitability we reach the goal we have set before us. The images and likenesses, whose meaning we have failed to perceive, become themselves purpose and content and end. And now men have really become slaves and puppets of things…And now there is no higher power to protect them from what they have set on high.
And, moreover, the uncleanness of their relation to God submerges their lives also in uncleanness. When God has been deprived of His glory, men are also deprived of theirs. Desecrated within in their souls, they are desecrated also without in their bodies, for men are one. The concreteness of the creaturelinessof their lives becomes now dishonor; and lust–sexuality both in the narrower and in the wider sense of the word–becomes, as the primary motive-power of their whole desire and striving, altogether questionable and open to suspicion…In their separation from God they must continue to give it ever new birth. They have wished to experience the known god of this world: well! They have experienced him…When…God and the world have become confused with one another, there comes into prominence a further confusion…These two confusions stand altogether on one line, they belong together and cohere together…Everything then becomes Libido: life becomes totally erotic. When the frontier between God and man, the last inexorable barrier and obstacle, is not closed, the barrier between what is normal and what is perverse is opened.” (Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans, 6th ed., pp. 51-53)