Friday, October 2, 2009

Karl Barth Weighs in on Scripture

In my continuing pursuit of a deeper knowledge of the nature and function of the Bible, I came across this intriguing paragraph in Barth's Church Dogmatics:

...we are speaking of the Jesus Christ attested in Scripture. The One of whom we have said that He lives in the sense described, is not then the creation of free speculation based on direct experience. He is the One to whom the history of Israel moves from the very first as to its goal, and from whom the history of His community springs. He is the One whose own history is the end of the one and the beginning of the other. He is the One who is visible, who makes Himself visible, in the documents of this whole historical nexus. He, this One, lives in the figure and role, in the being, speech, action, passion and death, in the work, which are all ascribed to Him in these documents, in the features which constitute the picture of His existence as delineated and represented in these documents. The fact that this One lives, and what it means that He lives, are not things invented or maintained of ourselves. If we say them responsibly, our own responsibility is only secondary. We really draw on the biblical attestation of His existence. For in this attestation He Himself lives, certainly as its origin and theme, but even as such only the mirror of the picture which is offered. It is He who lives, not the picture. But He Himself lives only in the form which He has in the picture. For it is not a picture arbitrarily invented and constructed by others. It is the picture which He Himself has created and impressed upon His witnesses. When we say that Jesus Christ lives, we repeat the basic, decisive, controlling and determinative statement of the biblical witness, namely, that He, very son of God and Son of Man , the Mediator between God and man, the One who lives the life of grace, the Lord and Servant, the Fulfiller of the divine act of reconciliation, that He, the One, has risen from the dead, and in so doing shown Himself to be who He is. He lives as and because He is risen, having thus shown that He lives this life. If there is any Christian and theological axiom, it is that Jesus Christ is risen, that He is truly risen. But this is an axiom which no one can invent. It can only be repeated on the basis of the fact that in the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit it has been previously declared to us as the central statement of the biblical witness (CD IV.3.1 p. 44).

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