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Karl Barth, Friend in Ecclesiology

February 12, 2009
Karl Barth

Karl Barth

Karl Barth helps evangelicals to view their work of theology as an act by which the community of faith serves its Lord.  Evangelical churches have much to learn from Barth’s insight into the substance of worship.  Seeker-sensitive services and the emerging church movement have turned the focus of evangelical worship away from a God-centeredness towards a sometimes subtle and sometimes explicit man-centeredness.  This late 20th century development would have come as no surprise to Barth, who had already observed the growing subjectivism and human emphasis in modern worship originating as far back as the late 16th century.  Barth’s theology should remind evangelicals that when it comes to the worship of God, it really is all about Him, not us.

Barth challenges the Church to be a responsible steward of the holy message it has received from its Lord.  The Church does not have arbitrary authority, but only has authority under the Word of God.  Barth’s understanding of ecclesiastical authority confirms evangelical conviction that the Church has authority on earth only in so far as it is being faithful to Scripture.  Against Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility, the evangelical Church recognizes infallibility only in God’s Word.  The Church’s responsibility is to faithfully interpret the message to which Scripture attests and proclaim it faithfully to people who need to hear its message.  The Church should not err in its proclamation through either excessive over-extension in its concerns or through an equally unhealthy narrowness in its subject matter.  The responsibility of the Church must be to faithfully explain the correctly interpreted message of the Word of God to men who need to hear its message.

Karl Barth, Friend of Evangelicals
Evangelicals should be open to the possibility of finding edification in Barth for theology, personal spiritual discipline, and ecclesiological vision.  Barth himself cannot be considered an evangelical, but his shortcomings do not disqualify his writings from being of great benefit.  Like all things, evangelicals should use discernment in evaluating his ideas, but they should be grateful to God that such a theologian as Barth existed in the 20th century to edify the Body of Christ.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin Metz permalink
    May 1, 2009 12:50 pm

    Did Karl Barth exist to edify the body of Christ in the 20th Century?
    Once you made a new start in your life you are justified through your actions according to your new found faith. Read f.e. Matth. 5 and Ephesians 4:22-35. What’s the point of proclaiming Jesus to be our saviour and teacher if we still lead the lives of fools? What’s the point of proclaiming that we have found the greatest piano teacher but are still unable to play Mary had a Little Lamb with two fingers after a period of 20 years exited believing and listening? I’m wondering when the penny will finally drop! The reason this world is still in a mess is because fools proclaim to teach the truth and fools believe them.

  2. May 1, 2009 4:45 pm

    Thanks for the feedback, Martin.

    In response to your question:
    “Did Karl Barth exist to edify the body of Christ in the 20th Century?”

    Yes. 🙂

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