Prior to articulating what true religion is, and why it can be called true, Barth first characterizes what all religion is: a human invention limited by the bounds of human understanding and knowledge. Religion is “never true in itself” because it is a human creation, an attempt by humanity to reach God despite having hands which are “thoroughly unclean” . Such attempts will always fail, because knowledge of God is given by revelation and cannot be achieved through human striving. Indeed, Barth suggests the only way an individual can know God, and thus follow a religion not constructed from human limitations, is for God to reach out to humanity from God’s own will: “revelation tells him something utterly new, something which apart from revelation he does not know” because by virtue of being a created being, “man 's attempts to know God from his own standpoint are wholly and entirely futile” . Religion does not have any intrinsic insight into God’s nature or being, and in fact is prevented from knowing true things about God without direct intervention from God.
As well as not having intrinsic insight into God’s nature apart from what God reveals, r...
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...htly evokes the paradoxical and revolutionary nature of Christianity. The many seeming contradictions in the Christian faith, such as the three-in-one nature of the Triune God or Jesus being fully God and fully man, are represented here in the paradoxical understanding of how Christianity is strongest when it is weakest. Barth declares that Christianity’s power comes from “the power of religious self-consciousness which is the gift of grace in the midst of weakness” which will not operate “unless Christianity has first humbled instead of exalting itself”. It is in the understanding and conscientiousness of Christianity’s base state of unbelief and error, a state which revelation lifts it out of, which allows for Christianity to have any security or strength. Forgetting this base state results in false praise directed at human hands, rather than the true source—God.
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