Before I being begin this weeks post I have to admit that I forgot that this week (according to Dr. Kirk’s schedule) was almost twice the length as usual. So I was left with the arduous task of quickly reading Barth. I accomplished it, but, the results of my reading were less than desirable.
This reading section from chapter 5 is essentially concerned with the “nature” of the word of God and the “act” of God speaking. Unfortunately for me, Barth seems to have had a bit of a change of heart between the version that I am reading and the first edition. I say ‘unfortunately’ because he takes a lot of “small print” to do battle with a gentleman who apparently took issue with Barth. The ensuing response was, for me, a really good example of why I get nervous around such purely theological readers of the text. Neither Barth or his interlocutor we comprehensible to me, although I am sure I could have comprehended, but I didn’t have time to do research.
For me, theology tends to get overly theoretical, and in my opinion, this is why I shy away from such talk in my own life.
Here is a good example of what I am talking about: “Does God know the future?” I hear people (at school, church, etc.) talk about subjects like these all the time. But really, do we have any clue what God “knows?” Nope. I know, I know, someone will bring up 2Isaiah and use that as proof. But, of course, knowing what is about to happen is not the same as “knowing the future” in the strictest of senses. Just because I tell you that you are about to get wet, right before I throw water on you doesn’t mean I know the future in the same sense as always knowing the Powerball numbers before they are announced.
I said all that to say, this section felt like I was reading a good discussion about something that is purely conjecture. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love conjecture but to attempt to argue authoritatively from it is a bit more than I can stand. Here are two select examples from this section:
“There is no word of God without a physical event.”
“The existence of the world and our existence are in no sense vital to God, not even as the object of His love.”
Now I am not saying that these are statements I disbelieve, but, simply that I do not have any good authoritative reason to adhere to these statements. Barth’s understanding of the Word of God is, I doubt, light-years close to any understanding of said topic in the Scriptures. Of course, one doesn’t have to have the same understanding of the Scriptures but when you diverge from the path you ought to at least acknowledge that you are diverging from the path. I get the strange feeling that he is trying to give the “pure” or “timeless” understanding of the Word of God.
I doubt this. Just like I doubt Inerrantist because they (usually) insist on too much that is conjecture.
I did, though, enjoy his thoughts on the Word of God being an act. This makes sense to me and is helpful in some ways as it allows me to understand why I resist inerrancy. This concept causes the Church to be dependent on God and not on the teachers. But even in this concept he manages to loose me.
He distinguishes between three times that God speaks: 1) In Jesus Christ 2) Apostles and prophets 3) The Church period. Somehow he understands the time of Jesus to include the O.T. (he references John 9). Shockingly, he says that if we abandon this distinction in times then we abandon the word of God itself (147). Well then, there it is, I guess according to Barth I don’t agree with him because I don’t agree with everything he said.
I would like to say, though, that I do agree with the spirit that is trying to speak through him. I do agree God still speaks and that fact relegates the Scriptures to second place when confronted with God’s speaking a ‘fresh’ word to his church.