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Barth on the Virgin Mary: a sexist against sexism

December 20th, 2008 by isaac · 2 Comments

Barth has a wonderful and short book on the Apostle’s Creed: Dogmatics in Outline (1947). Chapter 14 offers some good reading for Advent. The chapter is entitled, “The Mystery and the Miracle of Christmas.” The passage below is an excerpt from the end of the chapter. Granted, Barth is a sexist. That’s nothing new. Yet, despite his sexism, Barth is able to read Mary against himself and against the sexism of history.

‘Born of Mary.’ Once again and now from the human standpoint the male is excluded here. The male has nothing to do with this birth. What is involved here is, if you like, a divine act of judgment. To what is to begin here man is to contribute nothing by his action and initiative. man is not simply excluded, for the Virgin is there. But the male, as the specific agent of human action and history, with his responsibility for directing the human species, must now retire into the background, as the powerless figure of Joseph. That is the Christian reply to the question of woman: here the woman stands absolutely in the foreground, moreover the virgo, the Virgin Mary. God did not choose man in his pride and his defiance, but man in his weakness and humility, not man in his historical role, but man in weakness of his nature as represented by the woman, the human creature who can confront God only with the words, ‘Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according as Thou hast said.’.... God has regarded man in his weakness and in his humility, and Mary has expressed what creation alone can express in this encounter. That Mary does so and that thereby the creature says ‘Yes’ to God, is a part of the great acceptance which comes to man from God.

Tags: reading corner · theology

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Danny Kam // Dec 20, 2008 at 11:29 am

    This is very interesting. I have never looked at it in this light before.

  • 2 isaac // Dec 22, 2008 at 6:04 am

    Thanks, Danny, for reading our blog. Your comments are always welcome.