Dogmatics 1.3.1

In the Spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that I found Barth’s discussion here hard to follow at times. He attempts to posit a positive theological account of Christian proclamation in Church whist arguing against modern discussions of God-talk on the one hand and on the other those of Roman-Catholicism.  I offer these two observations.

1. After the last section, Barth’s discussion of the direction of proclamation states that it must move in the direction of God to man. He makes a distinction between talking about God, Christian acts of justice and charity, the act of preaching itself or the sacraments themselves  and divine proclamation. Proclamation occurs when God encounters his people through the act of preaching, (the sacraments also). Barth has a good word for preachers here. If I understand him correctly, God’s word encountering his people is no way contingent on the abilities of preacher.  He states, “Thus proclamation is not asked concerning its formal or material perfection, since even the highest possible perfection would not make human utterance proclamation, nor could the least imposing prevent it from being proclamation.” (53) In a confusing way, Barth proposes that God commissions the church’s proclamation that must be accepted by the church but, the resulting true proclamation is not contingent on the church’s intention. So, God’s Word is still free-the church cannot will it into being.

2. On page 67 he states that, “proclamation must mean repetition of the divine promise.” God’s Word of grace is provides both the material content and the possibility of God meeting his people in the church’s proclamation through the word and table. He juxtaposes his position with that of Roman Catholicism that reserves the role of the sermon for, “apologetic instruction and moral exhortation.” There is a movement, especially in Neo-Reformed circles, that carries the term “gospel-centered preaching.” The idea that the pulpit is not a place for self-help moralism, political opinion, or simply moral instruction but the place that God’s encounters his people with God’s promise of grace is and idea that Barth and the Neo-Reformed have in common. Thinking through how Barth’s “Gospel-centered” approach to Christian theology would be helpful and at time very challenging for ministers seeking to recover the church’s central convictions about the live, death, and resurrection of Christ. The challenge is working through implications of a Gospel-centered/Grace approach to Christianity for epistemology and soteriology. More on that in a few years…

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