Friday, 22 August 2008

What does Barth mean when he says that the criterion of truth is the "essential being of the church"?

Somehow this conceptuality just doesn't go into my head. How does that work? Isn't the regula veritatis (the rule of truth) the criterion of truth (as I argued in my summary of an article by B. Hägglund on the subject, especially in my post The rule of faith as the reality behind doctrine, tradition, and scripture)? Any elucidations would be appreciated.


W. Travis McMaken said...

This sounds like CD 1.1, where - if my memory serves me - the 'essential being of the church' ultimately = Jesus. Ergo, Jesus is the criterion of truth.

Do you have a specific page you are looking at?

Phil Sumpter said...

Thanks for popping by WTM!

I'm looking at notes that I took from Hermann Diem's Dogmatics before I had to return it through inter-library loan.

You're right, it's from vo. I.I and Jesus is seen to be the church. Here's the full text that I have:

"Barth begins with this thesis: 'Dogmatics as a theological discipline is the scientific self-examination of the Church with regard to the content of its characteristic message concerning God.'[K.D., vol. I. I, p.1; Eng. Trans. C.D. tr. Thompson, 1935]. The “question of truth” thus raised is expressed in the following terms: 'The question of the agreement of this characteristic message about God with the essential being of the Church.' Thus the criterion of truth is the 'essential being of the Church,' i.e., however, as Barth adds in elucidation, 'Jesus Christ=God in His gracious self-revealing and redemptive action directed towards man.'

Although I can pretty much grasp how Jesus is the criteria of truth, I don't see what Barth gets by constantly emphasising "the being of the church." Why not just say that Jesus, or God, or the "divine reality" (as Childs often puts it) is criterion. In the rest of the argument I don't get how the "being of the church" is relevant or makes sense. Unless it is somehow connected with the church in its capacity of proclaimer ...

W. Travis McMaken said...

Like I said, the being of the church = Jesus Christ. It is his body. So, when Barth talks about the essential being of the church he is talking about Jesus himself. So, the criterion for truth is Jesus.

Jesus is the essential being of the church because the church is a creature of the Word (and Jesus is the Word), and because the church is called to bear witness to that Word.