Friday, April 8, 2011

The Community

I probably should not admit how often I read Karl Barth's Evangelical Theology (ET). It has become more of an encouragement to me as I seek formal theological training than anything else I have read. Perhaps no one in the history of the Church has so clearly articulated the task of theology not only for the individual theologian, but more importantly for the community of believers. I have become increasingly weary of how easily the term "orthodox" is thrown around by various circles within the Christian Church. The lines of orthodoxy are increasingly drawn to include smaller and smaller circles. It can be very disheartening as the Church seems to continue to lose its purpose and vision which is the attempt to offer a true witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Moreover, recognizing this continual tragedy can lead the observer to embrace a genuine level of bitterness, self-righteousness, and cynicism. The requests for mercy and protection seem to have increased over the past few years and I am just starting in the theological world! In an attempt to find some sort of bearings, I turned once again to ET and found this lovely little gem that helps to clarify and reinforce the true and worthy goal of the individual theologian and the Church. It is quite the vision for the Church; one which entails both pain and joy. I hope it encourages you as much as it encouraged and comforted me:
"The question about truth, therefore, is not stated in the familiar way: is it true that God exists? Does God really have a covenant with man? Is Israel really his chosen people? Did Jesus Christ actually die actually die for our sins? Was he truly raised from the dead for our justification? And is he in fact our Lord? This is the way fools ask in their hearts - admittedly such fools as we are all in the habit of being. In theology the question about truth is stated on another level: does the community properly understand the Word in its purity as the truth? Does it understand with appropriate sincerity the Word that was spoken in and with all those events? Does the community reflect on the Word painstakingly and speak of it in clear concepts? And is the community in a position to render its secondary testimony responsibly and with good conscience? These are the questions posed for the community, questions that are really urgent only for the people of God, and with regard to which no positive answer can ever or anywhere be taken for granted. Even the most able speech of the most living faith is a human work. And this means that the community can go astray in its proclamation of the Word of God, in its interpretation of the biblical testimony, and finally in its own faith. Instead of being helpful, it can be obstructive to God's cause in the world by an understanding that is partly or wholly wrong, by devious or warped thought, by silly or too subtle speech. Every day the community must pray that this may not happen, but it must also do its own share of earnest work toward this goal. This work is theological work.

There is no other way. In principle the community and the whole of Christianity are required and called to do such work. The question to be unceasingly posed for the community and for all its members is whether the community is a true witness ...

Since the Christian life is consciously or unconsciously also a witness, the question of truth concerns not only the community but the individual Christian. He too is responsible for the quest for truth in this witness. Therefore, every Christian as such is also called to be a theologian."

- Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology, 39-40.

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