Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Barth on Biblical inerrancy

I'm still trying to fully grasp what this means:
To the bold postulate, that if [the word of the prophets and apostles] is to be the Word of God they must be inerrant in every word, we oppose the even bolder assertion, that according to the Scriptural witness about man, which applies to them too, they can be at fault in any word, and have been at fault in every word, and yet according to the same Scriptural witness, being justified and sanctified by grace alone, they have still spoken the Word of God in their fallible and erring human word. It is the fact that in the Bible we can take part in this real miracle, the miracle of the grace of God to sinners, and not in the idle miracle of human words which were not really human worlds at all, which is the foundation of the dignity and authority of the Bible.
Barth, Church Dogmatics, I/2, 529-530; cited in Stephen Chapman, “Reclaiming Interpretation for the Bible,” 199.


Bob MacDonald said...

What's to grasp? He states clearly both sides of the antimony. Stretch your hands to reach each rail and hope that the rails get closer as you inch your way forward in the hyperbolic universe where parallel lines eventually meet in the omega point.

Seriously Phil - there is no intellectual grasping that is worth substituting for the grasp of love that comes our way from the Beloved. Barth has here put down in a short paragraph what must be seen as not the foundation.

Geoff said...

I think its excellent to be honest. I've been in a discussion about inerrancy with some yobbo's who believe that their book is a superior revelation (the urantia book) - and Barth sums up the whole thing quite nicely.

It will be interesting to see how they respond to it, and if they can even comprehend it :P

Thanks so much for bringing it to our attention.

Esteban Vázquez said...

Of course, it means nothing.

Anonymous said...

Is it basically Barth holding onto both things: "The *Word* meets us" and "The Word *meets* us."?

He's very keen throughout I/1 that we don't diminish the worldliness of the Word - an unworldly Word doesn't actually meet us where we are - which is a pre-requisite for the event of revelation. He sees inerrantists as trying to get around the worldliness of the word which actually undercuts revelation.

It's another matter whether 'worldly' necessarily means 'fallible and erring.' And it might mean that Barth's doctrine of humanity is not christological *enough* if he takes it as axiomatic that 'to err is human'... (But then it goes pretty much hand in hand with his belief that Christ assumed fallen flesh - which again is an outworking of "the Word meets us")

... anyway, I think those are the concerns he's trying to uphold.


L.T. said...

I don't have a copy of Dogmatics but this reads like a translation disaster. It does however remind me of what Pope Benedict said recently at the Synod of Bishops: "We must always look for the Word within words. Therefore, exegesis, the true reading of the Holy Scripture, is not only a literary phenomenon, not only reading a text. It is the movement of my existence. It is moving towards the Word of God in the human words."

Phil Sumpter said...

Hi guys, I don't normally take this long to respond! Things have been busy of late.

Bob, I agree with you that the existential dimension is very important. I guess by grasp I was thinking in utilitarian as much as intellectual terms. It's one thing to assert this about the Bible, but how does that affect your actual exegesis? Childs, for example, talked about going beyond the human witness to get at its “kerygmatic content,” but what does that mean? When I read the Bible in order to know and follow God, how do I learn to distinguish the “Word from the words,” as L.T. puts it below.

IYRe, I agree that its good. I also find it “deep,” with implications I can't quite grasp at the moment.

Esteban, does that represent an Orthodox response to Barth?

Glen: "The *Word* meets us" and "The Word *meets* us." That's a neat way of putting it, thanks! [I]t might mean that Barth's doctrine of humanity is not christological *enough* if he takes it as axiomatic that 'to err is human'.... This is where I realize that I need to read way more dogmatics if I'm ever to do my exegesis properly. I've started with an exposition of the Nicene Creed. Trinity and Incarnation are categories that regularly blow my mind.

L.T., if you can point out the translation problems I'd be grateful. Thanks for the link, by the way, what a fascinating article! I've responded to it my post Is the Pope Barthian?.

Esteban Vázquez said...

Phil> No, it is merely a personal (Van Tillian) observation. ;-)