“The news which the Church has to proclaim is that in virtue of what has happened in Jesus Christ man can now live with God in faith and love and hope, on the ground of God’s unfathomable and unmerited mercy. And this news is so urgent that in every time and place where the Church exists it must be proclaimed at once and in all circumstances.”
- Karl Barth
Much of my time is spent responding to various attacks on the Bible. There is definitely no lack of attacks to respond to. I am also someone who appreciates Karl Barth and Barth made this interesting statement:
“The maintaining of the Word of God against the attacks to which it is exposed cannot be our concern, and therefore we do not need to worry about it. Watchmen are appointed and they wait their office. The maintaining of the Word of God takes place as a self-affirmation which we can never do more than acknowledge to our own comfort and disquiet. We can be most seriously concerned about Christianity and Christians, about the future of the Church and theology, about the establishment in the world of the Christian outlook and Christian ethic. But there is nothing about whose solidity we need to be less troubled than the testimonies of God in Holy Scripture. For a power which can annul these testimonies is quite unthinkable.” (Church Dogmatics I.21.1)
When I read this, I both agree and disagree with Barth. In a sense, Barth is correct that we do not need to defend the Word of God. The Word of God is not something weak that must be defended. However, in another way there a great need to respond to the attacks of critics. When I respond to attacks, my concern is not to protect the Bible but to address confusion and misunderstandings of people. There are people who reject the Bible over some rumour they have encountered and I seek to keep the Bible on the table as something that needs to be considered. What I do does not strengthen the Bible or change it in any way. It is only about helping people to see the Bible clearly and allowing them to make sound decisions. I do not worry about the Bible, but I do worry about what people think of the Bible and how they interpret it.
I am a big fan of Karl Barth and enjoy reading his writings. I came across two lectures by Charles MacKenzie from Reformed Theological Seminary, who knew Barth personally. I appreciated what he had to say, acknowledging the good Barth has done for the church, but not afraid to disagree. You can find the audio at iTunes University here.
“In a secondary sense we can, of course, explain the necessity of the rise of Christianity in the light of Judaistic development and the political, spiritual and moral circumstances of the Mediterranean world in the Imperial period. But in its reality we can never explain or deduce it from that source. Historically, we cannot seriously explain and deduce it except from the history of the covenant made with Israel. And we cannot do that with any strictness or discernment except when we explain and deduce it from the fulfillment of that covenant in the name of Jesus Christ, from the revelation as it is actually made and acknowledged and believed, and therefore on the presupposition of that name. That it pleased God at that time and place and in that way to reveal Himself in the name of Jesus Christ, is something which had its necessity in itself, and not in circumstances and conditions prior to that name.” – Karl Barth
“The man Jesus of Nazareth is not the true Son of God because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. On the contrary, because He is the true Son of God and because this is an inconceivable mystery intended to be acknowledged as such, therefore He is conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. And because He is thus conceived and born, He has to be recognized and acknowledged as the One He is and in the mystery in which He is the One He is.” – Karl Barth
“The catastrophic crash of orthodoxy in the 18th century, the consequences of which we still have to carry to this day, is no more puzzling than the collapse of a house whose foundations are giving way. Responsibility for the disaster must be borne, not by the philosophy of the world which had become critical, but by the theology of the Church which had become too uncritical, which no longer understood itself at the centre.” – Karl Barth
The Barmen Declaration was a 1934 document, written by Karl Barth, “fortified by strong coffee and one or two Brazilian cigars,” as the Confessing Church broke away from the Nazi dominated church in Germany. This definition of the Church from section 8.17 is just as important for today it was back then.
“The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.”