Barth and the Word of God


I’m proud to say that I’ve remained faithful so far to read Church Dogmatics (CD). One week down, only fifty-one more weeks to go. This first week has mostly just been a gigantic introduction, but then again I think one should be allowed a large introduction for a 9000 page tome.

On Biblical Authority

“Why and in what respect does the Biblical witness possess authority? In that it claims no authority whatsoever for itself, that its witness amounts to letting the Something else be the authority, itself and by its own agency. There we do the Bible a poor honour, and on unwelcome to itself, when we directly identify it with this something else, with revelation itself…It takes place as an event, when and where the word of the Bible becomes God’s word, i.e. when and where the word of the Bible functions as the word of a witness…Therefore, when the Word of God is an event, revelation and the Bible are one in fact, and word for word at that” (CD I/1, 126-127).

Threefold Form of the Word of God

“The revealed Word we know only from the Scriptures adopted by Church proclamation, or from Church proclamation based on Scripture. The written Word of God we know only through the revelation which makes proclamation possible, or through the proclamation made possible by revelation. The proclaimed Word of God we know only by knowing the revelation attested through Scripture, or by knowing the Scripture which attests revelation” (CD, I/1, 136).

Critique of the Reformers Understanding of the Word of God

“We are still painful aware of the absence…between the Reformers’ insight into the dynamics of the mutual relationships between the three forms. This is shown in the doctrine of verbal inspiration, which so to speak signifies a freezing up of the connection between Scriptures and revelation…the third form of the Word of God has apparently ceased. (CD I/1, 139).

Barth goes on to argue that by when the Word of God (in its textual form as Scriptures) was transformed into a doctrine of objectivity, then the church began to focus on the private dealings of God with the individual. The Church primarily came to be a servant of man, and not the forum for the proclamation of the Word of God. By ceasing to understand how the Word of God is manifested in the proclamation of the Word, then man forgot how the Word of God was nothing less than God’s daily action in relation to man. Instead, the Word of God became suffocated by this static doctrine of inspiration that pushed God further and further out of the Church. Furthermore, Barth believed the dissolution of orthodoxy in the 18th century is primarily explained by the Church no longer fulfilling its role, that is to proclaim the Word of God.


2 Responses to “Barth and the Word of God”

  1. A.J. Smith Says:

    In Barth’s earlier Göttingen Dogmatics he describes the doctrine of biblical inerrancy as “an exhibit from the darkest corner of the orthodox chamber of horrors” (9.III.235).

  2. Reader Says:

    This is great, I began I/2 of the Dogmatics only this morning!

    I have not read I/1, but I have no assignment constraints and I’m keen to get at his sec. 17, “The Revelation of God as the Abolition of Religion.”

    I spent about 2 hours with sec. 13-15 (not a very close reading, obviously). More later. When I get my blog up (hopefully before Feb), I mean to include my thoughts on the above, and I’ll let you know, if you’d like.

    Barth is more important than I had originally thought (my early reading was in John Baillie, John Oman, WR Inge, brilliant liberal men who were quite adamantly opposed to theologies of the “wholly other.” Still, I think I can parse KB a little and not buy into his God-concept if it doesn’t fit. I can already see some good insight available from the fact that he studied under Wilhelm Herrmann, and knew the best liberal thought pretty well, despite his critique of it.

    I note there are enough of the smarter evangelicals reading him (small but important group) to make it a nice bridge to dialogue with them, too, I think.

    -John A.

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