Thursday, 13 March 2008

Barth on Word and Witness: A Three Sentence Summary

I have a confession to make: I've only read one book by Barth and I read it in German, which means that not only have I pulled out a single thread from what looks to be a complex tapestry, I've read it in a language which even Germans find hard to understand.

This circumstance notwithstanding, I offer my attempt at a summary of Barth's understanding of the role of Gospel and Witness in theological study. Please, do tell me how shallow and wrong this is and tell me where to look for a better summary of these issues.

So, here it is:
The goal of theological inquiry is the Gospel of God, a reality distinguishable from yet mediated through the canonical scriptures, understood to be the deposit of the historical witnesses of the prophets and the apostles to this reality in their own time. This reality is one, yet the witnesses are many. As such, the theologian, who can only stand in humble obedience to the superior testimony of the prophets and apostles, must constantly analyse and compare these manifold testimonies in relationship to their common referent, the object of theological science, the Gospel.


Bob MacDonald said...

It is a nice summary. I have only read one of his books too and that in English - but what this thread claims seems to me to be supportable. My only cavil is that I would not confine Gospel to the NT witness. (He doesn't but someone might read it this way.) It seems to me that Gospel is very clear in older texts like the Psalms too. But there are places (outside of the canon - or within some narrow interpretations) where if Gospel is present, its clarity is confounded by self-interest. I don't say obscured, for light shines in darkness - but confounded since the self-serving message is seeming to seek to usurp Gospel for its own ends.

As far as where to look - iwser and better read teachers will have to say - but don't neglect looking to the author and finisher :) for in-formation.

Phil Sumpter said...

I agree that the Gospel isn't only in the NT! That's a major emphasis of Childs.

"In-formation." Nice. I'd never thought of it like that.