This makes up part one of three, five point summaries. Each highlighting quotes from my recent reading of Barth’s closing chapters in Church Dogmatics I.II
A few things to note before I begin.
Firstly, I have edited this more than a few times in order to maintain the integrity of Barth’s meaning.
Secondly, I’m really only posting these as a resource for my own future reference.
However, having said that, if you, the reader, find them interesting, I’d welcome your thoughts and comments about anything that should stand out to you as relevant.
Barth’s C.D.I.II is largely a call to read the Word of God ‘as it stands’[i]. This call moves Christians beyond the inerrancy debate because the bible does not have to be one hundred precent empirically correct in order for it to be true.
1. The Bible is ‘movement fulfilled in obedience, it exists as witness to revelation’[ii]. He adds, that ‘verbal inspiration does not mean the infallibility of the Biblical Word in its linguistic, historical and theological character as a human word’.
- It means that the fallible and faulty human word is used by God and has to be received in spite of its human fallibility[iii]…the work of God is done through this text. The miracle of God takes place in the text formed of human words[iv]’
- ‘It is a matter of the event/s of the actual presence of the Word of God…the free presence of God, defining our recollection as thankfulness and our expectation as hope[v]’
- ‘Certainly it is not our faith which makes the Bible the Word of God…although it does demand our faith, underlie our faith, and that it is the substance and life of our faith…We have to understand the inspiration of the Bible as a divine decision continually made in the life of the Church and in the life of its members[vi]’
2. According to Barth
- ‘We, (the Church) share in the movement in which scripture was born and in virtue of which even today Scripture is not mere writing but in its written character is Spirit and Life[vii]’
- We ‘live in light of the Word of God’s decision about us[viii]’
- Consequently, ‘the Church for its part must allow itself to be set in movement through Scripture.[ix]’
- ‘We stand in Church history, therefore Church history is lived’[x]
3. Having anchored his defence, Barth embarks on an offense, directing our attention to the freedom and authority of God which gives life to the freedom and responsibility of both man and woman[xi]. For Barth
- ‘What is at stake, or so it seems, is God’s authority and freedom. This leads into a discussion about the ‘infinite qualitative distinction (Kierkegaard)’ which holds that God is heaven and man on earth, that God rules and men and women must obey, that the Word of God makes a total claim upon humanity.[xii]’
- We have had to learn anew to accustom ourselves again to these simple truths, in contradiction to a theological liberalism which would have nothing to do with them…[xiii]’
4.They (theological liberals) can attempt to jettison authority in a fight for freedom, but ‘neither the origin nor the essence of the Church is to be found in the blind alley where man would like to be his own lord and law.[xiv]’
5. At this point Barth brings up the issue of the Church and the Freedom of the Word of God.
- ‘The Christian is not a stone that is pushed, or a ball that is made to roll. The Christian is a person who through the Word and love of God has been made alive, the real man or the real woman, able to love God in return standing erect just because they have been humbled, humbling themselves because they have been raised up[xv]’
- Barth asserts that when we are ‘confronted by grace…. our pride annihilated and our sin covered. We are, therefore, addressed by the name we received in our baptism and not by the title which might be given to us by others as an indication of who we are as individuals (personality) [xvi]’
With all due respect to lists on blogs, this is definitely not an average one. It is a culmination of important statements made by Barth in or just before 1938. Inside the details, or rather woven into them, is a firm grasp on the reality of the socio-political context of Europe and in particular the Church, as its people gazed upwards towards the darkening sky trying to find light in the vicious ideological storm, that was to rapidly move across Europe a year later.
Behind Barth’s words rests the knowledge that
‘the struggle against the authority of the Bible is really the struggle against the freedom of grace.[xvii]’
Along with an awareness of the fact that:
‘Where there is no genuine authority, so there is no genuine freedom. There is only action and reaction between a despotic arrogance and an equally despotic despair.[xviii]’
[i] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics 1.2: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Scripture as the Word of God Hendrickson Publishers, p.533
[ii] Ibid, p.671‘Freedom in the Church/The Freedom of the Word’
[iii] Ibid, p.533 (cont.)
[iv] Ibid, p.532 ‘Holy Scripture is also, in fact a human historical record’ (p.541); ‘God’s word comes to man and woman as a human word’ (p.699)
[v] Ibid, p.533
[vi] Ibid, pp.534-535
[vii] Ibid p.671 (cont.)
[viii] Ibid, p.704
[ix] Ibid, p.672
[x] Ibid, p.595
[xi] This is not an ‘arbitrary freedom’, but a costly and decisive freedom ‘conferred by the Holy Spirit’ (p.667) and ‘worked out in obedience’ (p.661-662). Therefore the ‘Bible confronts us with the realisation our freedom’ (p.652)
[xii] Ibid, p.633 ‘Authority in the Church/Authority under the Word’
[xiii] Ibid, p.663 (cont.)
[xiv] Ibid, p.668
[xv] Ibid, p.662
[xvi] Ibid, p.704
[xvii] Ibid, p.559
[xviii] Ibid, p.668 ‘The great defeats of the Church have been and are when it has wanted to honour its confession in theory but not in practice, when the living form becomes a mummy, and the mummy unnecessary lumber, and the gift of God is frustrated…the great danger in the inevitable conflicts against a confession of the Church is that it may be taken away from t if it yields to temptation and surrenders.’ (p.646)