1.25.2010

The Scriptures according to Karl Barth



There's no better topic to start off this blog with than the Bible, and no better person than Karl Barth, an extremely influential, evangelical, early 20th century theologian.  This is my very condensed (he goes for over 100 pages) version of what he says about the Bible in Church Dogmatics.

The Bible uses human words and therefore is each book contains the point of view of the author.  This has to be the case because that is all human words are able to express.  This seems to be what Barth means by 'fallible human words' (see my very last point in this blog).  The Bible, according to Barth, is not written from God's perspective, it is not all telling, it is written from a very human perspective.  That human perspective is recalling history.


Divine revelations are events within human history.  For example, Jesus actions and deeds (which are represented in the Bible) were divine revelation.  The human authors of the Bible recorded these revelations from their perspective.  These written accounts are witnesses to divine revelation.

The Bible then is a witness to divine revelation, and not divine revelation itself because the witness is not the same as what it witnesses.  This blog post and Church Dogmatics are a good example, my blog is a 'witness' to Church Dogmatics in that it (hopefully) truthfully explains the chapter but it is not Church Dogmatics itself.  If you picked up the book and read the chapter in question you would quickly realize it looks and reads completely different.

"Well then," you might say, "It's not revelation at all then!"  This is not true, because if I do my job properly and you understand Barth's 19th chapter by reading this post, then what's the difference to reading the actual thing?  In hearing the witness we hear the actual revelation - the very Word of God.  However, just as I should not go beyond Barth's intention and expectations when interpreting him, neither should we go off the intention or expectation of the Biblical writers when interpreting them.

This revelation is purely a matter of faith and cannot (should not?) be proven.  This faith can come only from God, and is therefore miraculous.

God handed the Scriptures to the Church, we should listen to the Church in matters of the Scriptures, but! (and this is a big but) the Scriptures have the final authority in the Church.  So, to be truly obedient to the Church, one must be obedient to the Scriptures.

Barth did not believe that the Doctrine of the Bible could be found in the Bible, however, he believed it deserves its place as Scripture because it attests to the reality of Jesus Christ, all other writings either do not do this or do this using Scripture.

So, what can we say about the Bible then?

1. It's God's word - it's not under human control we must recognize God's sovereignty through it
2. It's a Work of God - it's viewing the acts of God, not stating facts or propositions
3. Miracle of God - it's contents are the grace of God which we did not bring about, and do not deserve
4. We should not loose sight of the humanity of it's form - it was written be fallible men
5. We should pray that the witness is made to us - only God can show himself through the Bible
6. Faulty human words are used by God in spite of human fallibility