Barth’s C.D I.II: On Being Found, Founded & Set Free

August 7, 2014 — 1 Comment

tyranny the god of selfBefore you, is part two of three in a series of posts highlighting some points raised by Barth in Church Dogmatics I/II.

Riding on the wave of content mentioned in my post {here}, Karl Barth connects the authority and government of the Church to that of the Bible ‘as it stands’ in witness to the revelation of Jesus Christ.

He writes:

1. ‘The hearing in obedience is Christian faith and the sphere of Christian faith is the sphere in which God’s Word exercises its power’[i]

2. Another aspect Barth addresses here is how responsible understanding (interpretation) leads to responsible action (application)[ii].

Theologically these two items stem from prayer and exegesis, vital threads in the working out of orthopraxy. Both orthodoxy and orthopraxy can meet where thinking theology (embedded) meets doing theology (deliberative)  – one critiques the other in light of the necessary critique of God’s word.

3. Barth, possibly recalling his strong attempts to oppose the rise of fascism in the 1930’s focuses on the inevitable deception that results from natural theology, writing:

  • Who can exercise a worse tyranny over us than the god in our hearts? And what further tyranny does not this first and decisive one drag in its train?…
  • ‘It is inevitable that the man or woman who claims to be directly in communion with God, and free from all concrete forms of authority, will all the more certainly be delivered over to the powers of nature and history, to the spirit of the age and of contemporary movements, to the demons of his situation and environment.[iii]

4. Barth asserts that the Word of God creates the Church

  • ‘The Word of God is free, and exercises this freedom in the founding of the Church’[iv]
  • From the inner life of the Word, flows the life of the Church’[v]

Exegesis as more than a literary form of archaeology,
and to say that in the Word of God, we are spoken to,
acted upon and ruled by God, is no metaphor[vi].

  • ‘We understand Holy Scripture falsely, that is, not as Holy Scripture, if we regard it as a fixed, inflexible, self-contained quantity…just as by a dint of excavations many important and interesting conclusions are to be expected about the life of those who have lived by the fact that, however hard we try, more cannot be dug up than was originally there. But the investigation of the Bible does not have to reckon with this natural limitation’[vii].
  • To say that Jesus Christ rules the Church is equivalent to saying that Holy Scripture rules the Church’[viii]
  • ‘For the Bible is a living, indeed, in light of its content, an eternally living thing, so that from the study of it we can expect new truths to meet us’[ix]

 5. Although the Church has a social aspect to it, ultimately the Church is not a social club.

  • At the heart and basis, lacking that horizon, as is the case in all “religions,” he is his own master, the master of his own deepest impulses. In this type of religion the fellowship of religious people, what is called the Church, can be only a society with a particular object, a club, which individual believers join for certain enterprises and common endeavours.[x]

I once said to someone, that trying to hold Barth’s theology in your hands was like trying to hold water. It gets complicated and before you know it the water is gone. This is because there appears to be a constant movement of light, one that cannot be pinned down or tamed.

For me now, reading Barth is more like seeing someone you recognise while out on a stroll. You hear them calling out an invitation to stroll along. Then find yourself being pointed towards things that induce both warning and wonder.

Barth spots something strange and out of the ordinary. He sees things others may have failed to see or acknowledge at the time. As a result he calls us to hear and respond to the warnings of history, as well as to respond with prayer and gratitude for the wonder and the work of God, as He meets us in Jesus Christ.

In doing so Barth points us towards the uniqueness of Jesus the Christ; the Word of God who commits to enslaved humanity a responsible freedom that is a direct result of the God who chooses to act on our behalf.

Barth brilliantly wrote: ‘the Holy Spirit through the witness of the Word of God wins the heart of men and women.In the interval between the ascension and the second coming the believer is certainly responsible, but not autonomous’[xi]

We are not left alone.

Source:

[i] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics I/II Freedom of the Church; Freedom Under the Word Hendrickson Publishers p.687

[ii] Ibid, pp.696-697: ‘The Church is governed, maintained and created by the Word of God – the testimony to the revelation of Jesus Christ’ We must understand that this ‘testimony cannot be received unless those who accept it are ready and willing themselves to assume the responsibility for its interpretation and application’ (orthodoxy and orthopraxis).’

[iii] Ibid, p.668

[iv] Ibid, p.688

[v] Ibid, p.690

[vi] ‘It is no metaphor when we say that the Word of God speaks, acts and rules’ (p.684)

[vii] Ibid, p.683

[viii] Ibid, p.693

[ix] Ibid, p.684

[x] Ibid, p.692

[xi] Ibid, p.693

(©RL2014)

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Barth’s C.D I.II: The Holy Spirit, Prayer & The Responsive Sinner « Gratia Veritas Lumen - October 11, 2014

    […] one and part two covered being called to decision. Both addressed Barth’s theology of the Word of God, discussing […]

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