Barth on the Church

barthThere’s no denying it – Karl Barth is hard reading. And there’s also no denying that ol’ Karl’s work courts its fair share of criticism. But having worked my way through vol 28 (IV.3.2) of Church Dogmatics there’s definitely some gold in them there hills. Here’s just a handful of nice quotes:

“As Christian existence is not a mere compliment of existence in the Church, so existence in the church is not a mere complement of Christian existence” (1)

“In Christ the covenant between God and man has not merely been kept by God and broken by man, but kept by both, so that it is the fulfilled covenant” (31)

“[The Church] cannot possibly receive the particular grace freely addressed by God to it, nor rejoice in nor boast of this grace, without being at once aware of the prophetic task therewith implied, without taking up this task, without giving itself wholly to it.” (48)

“It is rather strange that Calvin’s meritorious and significant rediscovery of the prophetic office of Jesus Christ did not work itself out either in his own doctrine of the Church or in that of his followers.” (84)

“those who are genuinely righteous are not ashamed to sit down with the unrighteous as friends; those who are genuinely wise do not hesitate to seem to be fools among fools” (91)

“Only the praying church will be the effective church” (95)

On the irony of separatism … “the community would be guilty of too close conformity to the world if it were to exist within it for its own sake” (95)

On diaconate service . . . “In the diaconate the community makes plain its witness to Him as the Samaritan service to the man who has fallen among thieves . . . and woe to it if it does not, if its witness is not service in this elementary sense! For if not, even though its proclamation of Christ is otherwise ever so powerful, it stands hopelessly on the left hand among the goats.” (205)

On the fellowship of people from all sorts of backgrounds . . . “the community owes to the world a witness, not to the equality, but to the mutual fellowship of men, which in its final and decisive foundation only the community can give” (213)

“baptism and the Lord’s supper are not empty signs … they are full of meaning and power. They are thus the simplest, and yet in their very simplicity the most eloquent elements in the witness which the community owes to the world, namely, the witness of peace on earth among the men in whom God is well pleased.” (214)

There’s great depth in many of these quotes which repay careful reflection. I know Barth has some quirky stuff to say that many would disagree with, but let’s always be gracious, charitable, teachable, and not chuck baby out with the bath water.

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2 thoughts on “Barth on the Church

  1. “There’s great depth in many of these quotes which repay careful reflection. I know Barth has some quirky stuff to say that many would disagree with, but let’s always be gracious, charitable, teachable, and not chuck baby out with the bath water.” – wondered if you would like to join the Church of England 😉

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