The book concludes with a meditation on “the blood of Christ.” Though not directly an explication of Barth’s views, it displays his influence even as it captures a thread that runs through the volume as a whole, from political to doctrinal to ecumenical theology. If Jesus Christ is, as Barth urged, the center of Christian theology, Christ’s cross is the center of the center. The Trinity, the incarnation, and the cross are linked, as it were, by a golden chain. Whenever the linkages among them are somehow severed or weakened, as unfortunately regularly happens, abstraction, misconception, and thinness can only be the result. The Trinity deteriorates, for example, to a social agenda, the incarnation to an experiential symbol, the cross to a supposed warrant for abuse. In the end the cross is a scandal because Israel is a scandal, with its ineffaceable particularity of election, expiation, purity, and difference for the sake of the world. The blood of Christ is repugnant to the Gentile mind, whether ancient or modern. This mind would prevail were it not continually disrupted by grace.
Grace that is not disruptive is not grace — a point that Flannery O’Connor well grasped alongside Karl Barth. Grace, strictly speaking, does not mean continuity but radical discontinuity, not reform but revolution, not violence but nonviolence, not the perfecting of virtues but the forgiveness of sins, not improvement but resurrection from the dead. It means repentance, judgment, and death as the portal to life. It means negation and the negation of the negation. The grace of God really comes to lost sinners, but in coming it disrupts them to the core. It slays to make alive and sets the captive free. Grace may of course work silently and secretly like a germinating seed as well as like a bolt from the blue. It is always wholly as incalculable as it is unreliable, unmerited, and full of blessing. Yet it is necessarily as unsettling as it is comforting. It does not finally teach of its own sufficiency without appointing a thorn in the flesh. Grace is disruptive because God does not compromise with sin, nor ignore it, nor call it good. On the contrary, God removes it by submitting to the cross to show that love is stronger than death.
From George Hunsinger‘s introduction to his collection Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth. (Recommended to me by Princetonian Matthew Milliner.)