[Paul] asks: "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher (χωρὶς κηρύσσοντος)? and how shall they (the subject of the sentence has obviously changed) preach, except they be sent?" When we quote this passage, we must not miss out the last link in the series. For it is on this that all the rest depends. . . .How, then, can it turn in upon itself? How can it be grounded in itself? How can it crowd out the kerygma [self-proclamation] of Jesus? How can it make this superfluous? It is a call to hearing, faith and confession, news of an accomplished salvation, to the extent that it derives from His sending, consists in the execution of His commission, and therefore, dependent absolutely on His sending and commission, takes up and reproduces the kerygma of Jesus. The power of their action lies in this relationship. It is because of this relationship that there can be said of them and their work: "He that heareth you heareth me" ( Lk. 1016). . . .Without this relationship it would be nothing. It must say always, in supreme concretion: "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves (we regard as) your servants for Jesus' sake" ( 2 Cor. 45). . . . There is no place, therefore, for any appeal to the undoubted philosophy, scholarship, eloquence, moral impeccability and personal Christianity of the preacher, or for any notion that there is in his preaching any immanent power or value or salvation, or that the Christian kerygma is a self-sufficient and self-operative hypostasis which is as such the πρῶτον [first] and the ἔσχατον [last]. This notion is one of the most monstrous mythologoumena of all times.Christian preaching is the Word of the cross ( 1 Cor. 118), the Word of reconciliation ( 2 Cor. 519). As such it points beyond itself to the concrete history of Jesus Christ. To use the Johannine term, it is witness to Him. The preacher need not be ashamed, therefore, for as such it is the δύναμις [power] of God to salvation to everyone that believes ( Rom. 116). Christ Himself is both its divine σοφία [wisdom] and its divine δύναμις ( 1 Cor. 124). It is not itself the kingdom of God, the divine seizure of power. It makes known the fact that this has happened. It is the proclamation of Jesus as Lord, the giving of factual information and the summons to an appropriate attitude of repentance and faith. And it is all this as the word of the ambassador who is not himself Christ, but speaks in His stead (ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ).
Monday, May 31, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Yes, the New Testament tells us to judge ourselves lest we be judged, and to consider others better than ourselves, but when we lose our Christian moorings on this we tend toward the inward spiral of self-criticism instead of hearing in it the fulfilment of the Psalmist's "search me O God and know my heart . . . . and lead me in the way everlasting."
Karl Barth brought this home to me in a very prolific and personal way not too long ago -- and as I've been going over my notes from his Doctrine of Reconciliation I've been reminded of the way I was first taken aback. In a section titled "The Judge Judged in Our Place", he writes about Jesus as not only the substitutionary sacrifice, but also the substitutionary judge. Guilt-ridden evangelical that I am -- addicted to and troubled by the psychological self-enclosed spiral of introspection and release (but seeing a worse alternative in oblivious self-deception) -- this came as a great revelation to me:
The fact that Jesus Christ judges in our place means an immeasurable liberation and hope. The loss which we always bewail and which we seem to suffer means in reality that a heavy and indeed oppressive burden is lifted from us when Jesus Christ becomes our Judge.
It is a nuisance, and at bottom an intolerable nuisance, to have to be the man who gives sentence. It is a constraint always to have to be convincing ourselves that we are innocent, we are in the right. It is similarly an affliction always to have to make it clear to ourselves so that we can cling to it that others are in one way or another in the wrong, and to have to rack our brains how we can make it clear to them, and either bring them to an amendment of their ways or give them up as hopeless, withdrawing from them or fighting against them as the enemies of all that is good and true and beautiful. . . .
[I]f we eat of this tree we must die. We are all in process of dying from this office of judge which we have arrogated to ourselves. It is, therefore, a liberation that it has come to pass in Jesus Christ that we are deposed and dismissed from this office because He has come to exercise it in our place. What does that mean but that at one stroke the whole of the evil responsibility which man has arrogantly taken to himself is taken from him?
It is no longer necessary that I should pronounce myself free and righteous. It is no longer necessary that even if only in my heart I should pronounce others guilty. Neither will help either me or them in the very least. Whatever may be the answer to the question of their life and mine, at any rate it no longer needs to be given by me. To find it and to pronounce it is no longer my office or in any way my concern. I am not the Judge. Jesus Christ is Judge. The matter is taken out of my hands. And that means liberation.
A great anxiety is lifted, the greatest of all. I can turn to other more important and more happy and more fruitful activities. I have space and freedom for them in view of what has happened in Jesus Christ. And that also means hope. I have good cause to fear before the true Judge, who is not I. When I think of Him I may have fears for others. But . . . . in fear before the Judge on whose good and redemptive will I can already count, whose decision I can look forward to with trust whatever it may be, in whose hands I can know that my own case and that of others is at least safe. In a fear, therefore, which at bottom is hope.
He who knows about myself and others as I never could or should do, will judge concerning me and them in a way which is again infinitely more just than I could ever do-and judge and decide in such a way that it will be well done. Indeed, in such a way that it is well done, this real Judge having already decided at the point when the Word became and was flesh. And whatever the decision may be, I have reason to look forward to its disclosure with terror, but with a terror-stricken joy.
- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1, 234-235
Monday, May 17, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
. . . . Crucial to an understanding of Barth on this matter is the realization that, for him, divine forgiveness is not simply a power, an art, a step in a relational model, a psycho-social experience, or even a “miracle” to be activated in the interpersonal realm. Contemporary literature tends to cast it in these lights, but one who searches Barth’s Doctrine of Reconciliation for such things does so in vain. (Believe me, I tried!)
Rather than divorcing it from its larger context and ascribing to it a power of its own, or systematizing it within a self-help process for negotiating relationships, Barth offers an opportunity to see forgiveness as participation in Christ’s ongoing work. Further to this, rather than making forgiveness contingent upon the penitence of the offender or the conjured-up compassion of the offended, Barth grounds it in the work of Christ already accomplished and being unveiled in the world. In the transition from divine-human reality to human interrelationships, forgiveness does not become a tool in our hands, utilized to certain known and desirable results, but is simply part and parcel of Christian being and activity.
A secularized version of forgiveness which makes people the ultimate subject of the forgiving act knows not what it does. Such a construal may generate a community more on the mark than an unforgiving Christian community that fails to live from its Lord’s liberation, but it is limited by its inability to maintain this posture. Rootless, it inevitably degenerates into the frustrated introspection and false peace of mere tolerance.
The “Church is neither author, dispenser, nor mediator of grace and its revelation,” says Barth. Further: “Luther knew what he was talking about when he dared to say [There is no sinner so great as the Christian church]. It is the Church which prays, ‘Forgive us our trespasses,’ which therefore knows and confesses that it needs the forgiveness of sins”(Church Dogmatics IV/1, 658). . . .