§3. Church Proclamation as the Material of Dogmatics
- Context: §3-7, “The Word of God as the Criterion of Dogmatics” – Related readings
- Editions: Henderson ed. vol. 1; Study Edition vol. 1.
(More on editions, Volume-Parts, § = “paragraphs”, Leitsatz, pagination, structure.)
- Volume-Part: I.1, §3, pp. 47-87.
Leitsatz: “Talk about God in the Church seeks to be proclamation to the extent that in the form of preaching and sacrament it is directed to man with the claim and expectation that in accordance with its commission it has to speak to him the Word of God to be heard in faith. Inasmuch as it is a human word in spite this claim and expectation, it is the material of dogmatics, i.e., of the investigation of its responsibility as measured by the Word of God which it seeks to proclaim.”
Questions for discussion:
- Read the Leitsatz for this paragraph aloud.
- Which phrases did Barth develop with greatest care?
- Which phrases are most interesting, significant, or meaningful to you?
- How does Barth’s discussion of this paragraph relate to your life?
- Which of the Reading Questions is most interesting to you?
- Did any of the quotations relate to, or illuminate, Barth’s text for you?
- Did any reading guides (e.g., Mangina or Bromiley) or other related readings throw light upon Barth’s text for you?
Questions for reading:
1. Talk about God and Church proclamation (p. 47)
- The Church reflects a visible cleavage in the world, that is similar to talk about God within and without the Church. How is Church talk about God different from other talk about God? (47-49)
- By “proclamation” Barth does not mean speech addressed to God, nor good works. But rather, if proclamation is the attempt to speak the Word of God Himself, by what right do we do so? (52; cf. quote by Hart, below)
- Why does Barth emphasize the Church’s proclamation as commissioned? (53-55; cf. quote by Purves, below)
- Church proclamation includes preaching (distinguished from moral exhortation) and the sacraments. What is the Evangelical understanding of the relation between preaching and the sacraments? (56-58)
- How is preaching a repetition of the promise of God, given to us here and now? (59-61)
- How does Modernism substitute social action and moral exhortation for preaching? (61-64)
- Why does Barth describe Modernist dogmatics as a conversation of humanity with itself (p. 62)? How does making human experience the norm reduce dogmatics, or talk about God, to talk about ourselves?
- How does Barth critique the incidental place of the sermon in Catholic dogmatics (p. 67)? Is making the Church the dispenser of grace another way of making human experience the norm? How does this undermine the freedom of God’s grace and marginalize the preaching of the Word of God? (64ff.)
- On p. 68ff., how does Barth contrast the impersonal conception of grace as a causal influence in both Modernist and Catholic dogmatics with the understanding of grace in Evangelical dogmatics as free and personal, resulting from Word and faith?
2. Dogmatics and Church proclamation (p. 71)
- What makes Church dogmatics unconditionally free when it intends to proclaim the Word of God? (72ff.)
- Can a Church that fears the world also fear God? (74ff.)
- The singing, worship, social work and missions of the Church are not exempt from self-examination by dogmatics. Nevertheless, why is dogmatics the servant rather than the lord of other aspects of Church life? (83)
- Proclamation of the Word of God is also at the same time the word of man, which brings the responsibility of dogmatics to test its truth. Yet preaching does not consist of reading study notes from the Church Dogmatics from the pulpit! How does dogmatics differ from preaching, and how may dogmatics serve preaching? (79)
- Why can Church dogmatics not aim to be a timeless system (p. 79)?
- Why does Barth assert that Church proclamation is the concrete datum with which dogmatics begins? (pp. 77, 82)
- Which of the three distortions of the place of dogmatics is most tempting to you (pp. 83ff.)?
- Has Barth established his Leitsatz for this paragraph?
What others say:
- “It is not the preacher’s word that heals, blesses and announces hope or that convicts, transforms and declares forgiveness. The preacher’s job is to bear witness to what the Lord is saying to the people as the Word of God.” “The defining matter of the church’s life is not to convert and bring people to faith (the evangelical heresy!) or to bring in the ethical commonwealth (the liberal heresy!). The defining matter for the church’s life, for which the church exists, is to bear witness to Jesus Christ. He, not we, converts people and brings in the reign of God.” Andrew Purves, The Crucifixion of Ministry (InterVarsity Press, 2007), pp. 90, 132.
- “The proper basis of Christian talk about God, of knowledge of God, is precisely this unexpected and undeserved address of God: God’s own proclamation to humanity, his speaking of the divine Word. And the proper form of all theological endeavor is that of response. Christian preachers, says Barth, dare to speak about God. But they can do so only on the presupposition that God himself has spoken first, that he has addressed human beings, has addressed them as human subjects, and that his address compels them also to speak. Otherwise their speech would be the ultimate presumption.” Trevor Hart, “The Word, the Words, and the Witness: Proclamation as Divine and Human Reality,” in Regarding Karl Barth: Toward a Reading of His Theology (Wipf and Stock, 1999), p. 29.