Barth and Scripture

Understanding Barth’s view of Scripture is particularly relevant to the time in which we live, especially since “higher criticism” has caused many to question the validity of the bible. The beauty and importance of Barth’s theology is that it is Christocentric, rather than Bibliocentric. The bible tells us in John that “the Word was made flesh,” and Barth says: “absolutely, that’s the point.” In appealing to the Jesus as the Word, Barth advocates not attempting to read Scripture in isolation, but rather that it is the only ancient book that you can read with the author present as you read. God’s presence, as we study the bible is enlivened and made true as it can be only through the indwelling of God’s Spirit.

It cannot be emphasized enough that Jesus is the only perfect revelation of God – his express image to quote the author of Hebrews. The bible is most certainly an inspired collection of books, but it is not equal to Jesus as if God can be reduced to writing on pages. The authority of Scripture is rooted not in its accuracy alone, but in the fact that God reveals Himself personally and actively to us in the reading of the Word. Moreover, as Ted Johnston mentioned, Jesus himself stated the case for us when he said that the bible’s purpose is to testify of Jesus – to be a witness of him.

To be authentically evangelical does not mean one must use the word inerrancy and become embroiled in the politics surrounding the development of the statement of inerrancy which tries to prove too much. This does not mean the Bible cannot be infallible according to Barth’s perspective. It is just the opposite in that we can affirm the infallibility of Scripture, as we do in our statement of beliefs. It is also important to take note that John Calvin’s’ view of the bible is not very different from Barth’s. He also rooted the Biblical authority in the self-Revelation of God. Calvin also appealed to self-authentication by the Holy Spirit. Essentially, Barth makes the same point as Calvin only he uses “12 cylinder words” in comparison to Calvin’s 6 cylinder expressions!


Anonymous said…
Hi there!

Can Randy’s words actually be a harbinger of where we can go as a
fellowship? You see, modern Christianity has tended to use the Bible as a recipe book or as a telephone book or as a pick and choose catalog of religious duties book with little regard to the One the Bible reveals.

But the Bible is none of these types of books. Instead, it is the living revelation of Jesus Christ as both God and Savior of us all—past, present, and future. As such, the Bible is set forth in story form with a clear and
logical flow to a belief (grace) conclusion.

In fact, we can clearly see this story flow, as in, for example, the
writings of Luke, who wrote two “theologically” different books for the Bible. Therefore, Luke in his Gospel tells the pre-cross story of the Good Samaritan, wherein Jesus engages an expert in the law in a discussion about
that law:

Luke 10:25-29--On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all
your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as
yourself.'" "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live." But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (NIV)

Well, Jesus then gives a way over the top example of what the law demands for justification under the “love your neighbor as yourself” command, and then Jesus tells the law type to give it a try. Well, this Good Samaritan
example is not going to happen anytime real soon in any of our lives, no matter if we are experts in the law or not.

But, continuing on into Acts, Luke records Paul’s post-cross words, which show the flow of the Biblical logic away from law and into belief:

Acts 13:38-41--"Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the
law of Moses. Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: "'Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.'" (NIV)

My point is that the Bible is only infallible in the true sense if we let it(Jesus) tell its (His) story, which flows to a marvelous belief conclusion (completely apart from law) in Him. Are we ready as a denomination to allow
Jesus to talk to us this way? I sure hope so.

The best to you all!

J. Richard Parker
Well said Randy! I, personally, agree with you and Ted! I understand Barth and Calvin (and Torrance and Kruger among others) to be saying the same thing you do. It is a crucial issue!

In a practical way, this subject is kind of like understanding the difference between the REAL us and our drivers license. Our drivers license is valid and generally accurate about showing others who we are, BUT we are NOT our Drivers License!!

In the end, honestly, most of us aren't too flattered by the picture on our drivers license anyway, BUT it can be helpful for locating US when it, or WE, become "lost", or people want to get some idea of what WE are like.

The purpose of a drivers license is to be a witness to ME, the person pictured, NOT to be a witness to itself! In fact, when people get to know the REAL us (to which the license was properly pointing), they might even say we seem nothing much like the person pictured on our drivers license (and we are usually encouraged by that!! Ha-Ha!:-)

This kind of example makes it easier for me to grasp this basic issue and see the fundamental differences between what is meant by "Revelation" in contrast to "revelation", and "Word" versus "word". Similarities but HUGE and important distinctions to make!!

The drivers license is "infallible" in that it is really pointing to the REAL me (and I REALLY exist), but it is "fallible" in that it is NOT REALLY ME!!! I'm me!! :-)

Most of us would get highly offended if we were judged totally by the picture and stats on our drivers license taken on a particular day, in a particular year. Yet, sometimes, we are unwittingly doing just such a thing with the Triune God in Jesus, to our harm and the harm of others, and creating an idol of significant proportion out of the bible!!!

In His Passionate Embrace and desire that we know HIM as HE really is, through the Revelation of Jesus, and in the Spirit, we are PERSONALLY being liberated from this deceptive idol (even though no idol REALLY exists (1 Cor 8:4-6!!)
Jerome Ellard said…
Good analogy with the driver's license, Pastor Tim! Your post reminded me again of the importance of comprehending the significance of the reality of the Trinity - Relationship! The Triune God's whole point was to establish a relationship with us. People (officers?) can read my driver's license, but they have a relationship with ME! (please slow down, sir). In the same way, even though I love reading the Bible, it's the Writer that I need to and want to have a relationship with.
Anonymous said…
Thanks for another great post. You may want to check out this post I wrote some time ago on the error of inerrancy:

Thanks again. Keep up the good work.
Ted Johnston said…
For a short, but comprehensive review of Barth's theology (including his view of Scripture) see