The Word, The Words And The Witness: Proclamation As Divine And Human Reality In The Theology Of Karl Barth -- By: Trevor Hart

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 46:1 (NA 1995)
Article: The Word, The Words And The Witness: Proclamation As Divine And Human Reality In The Theology Of Karl Barth
Author: Trevor Hart


The Word, The Words And The Witness:
Proclamation As Divine And Human Reality In The Theology Of Karl Barth1

Trevor Hart

Summary

Karl Barth’s entire theology is predicated upon the supposition that God has spoken to human beings. His exposition of the doctrine of the Word of God is informed both by trinitarian and incarnational analogies and insights. In each of the three forms of God’s Word (Jesus of Nazareth, scripture, and Christian preaching) there is a paradox and scandal of identity between the divine and the human to be grasped. The relationships between these three, and the peculiar duality in unity which each manifests, are explored in this essay in relation to Barth’s characteristic understanding of revelation as event.

I. The Significance Of Proclamation In Barth’s Theology

Karl Barth’s entire theological project might legitimately be described as a ‘theology of proclamation’. The assumption upon which it is predicated and with which Barth concerns himself as (he insists) the only legitimate starting point for truly theological activity, is the claim made by faith that God has spoken, that he has proclaimed his Word to humankind, that he has revealed himself.

As is well known, Barth sets himself from the outset firmly against all accounts of Christian knowledge of God which trace the proper basis of that knowledge to some inherent capacity for the divine, a sense of absolute dependence, experience of the ultimate or the numinous or whatever. Such accounts of the matter, he insists,

cannot finally avoid capitulating to the accusation of Feuerbach that talk about God is in the end only talk about humanity. To seek to found talk about God, as much nineteenth century theology did, by pointing to the possibility and actuality of such anthropological phenomena was to invite the reduction of theological assertions to anthropological ones. It was to focus in the wrong place, to become preoccupied with the human organ of response rather than that objective reality which stimulates it. Christian talk about God is no more intended to be talk about a certain variety of religious or spiritual experience than talk about a glorious sunset is intended to be an indirect way of speaking about a complex chemical and physiological process taking place in our eyes, our optic nerves and our brain, or talk about the feel of polished wood an indirect way of speaking about the activity of the nerve endings in our fingers. Both levels of discourse may be appropriate. But our intention in speaking is to refer to the reality beyond the experience, that which provokes or evokes the experience, and not the experien...

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