Karl Barth on talking to each other in the church

by Kim on February 29, 2008

In Karl Barth and the Pietists: The Young Karl Barth’s Critique of Pietism and Its Response (2004), Eberhard Busch suggests that for Barth there are at least two “prerequisites for being able to talk to each other in the church of Christ, and these two are inextricably linked. First, such a dialogue between Christians, even if it has the form of an argument with each other, occurs in the brackets of the assumption that both are in the church of Christ. This gives the discussion its true seriousness but also marks the clear boundaries of the argument. Barth once said that the person we should drop completely could ‘only be an arch-heretic who is totally lost to the invisible church as well.’ But he adds, ‘We do not have this ability even in the case of Christians who are perhaps under strong suspicion.’…. This approach has some immediate specific consequences. As a Christian I can criticize other Christians only if I am in solidarity with them. Furthermore, when I criticize others I can distance myself from them not on a tone of harsh indignation but only in a tone of sad dismay at a threat that had somehow turned into a temptation for me as well. And finally, believing that Israel’s shepherd does not slumber or sleep even in the church, I have to keep myslef open to the possibility not only that the ‘favorite voices’ I like to hear testify to the truth of God in the church, but ‘that we need … totally unexpected voices even though these voices may at first be quite unwelcome.’

“The other prerequisite for talking to each other and having an argument with each other is this: Even when I boldly stand up for my understanding of the truth, I can do so only by paying attention to the boundary that is drawn by the fact that God’s truth and my understanding of it are always two completely different things. At the very moment I forget this border, it will shift, and the border between my understanding of God’s truth and other Christians’ understanding of it will become absolute. At that very moment the other person and I no longer stand before our common judge, rather I become the judge of the other.”

Kim Fabricius

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


ee 02.29.08 at 1:57 pm

Thanks Kim - that was well worth quoting. I found that very affirming of what sites like this do.


DH 02.29.08 at 3:55 pm

Kim, I hope people take what I say, criticisms, statements as “speaking the truth in love”. The main point from this post that I got is that we need to have care and respect for each other. I at least try to relay that in my responses. If I happen to fail at that I apologize but at least my heart is in the right place. Some of the other parts of the post I disagree but the heart is right in the post so I will refrain from pointing out where I disagree to focus solely on the theme which should always be love, care and respect. The strong disagreements I have are with this attitude “sad dismay at a threat that had somehow turned into a temptation for me as well.” May God bless all today and this upcoming weekend. :)


Kim 02.29.08 at 6:19 pm

Hi DH,

Your “speaking the truth in love” - absolutely (well, the “love” bit anyway! ;) Even when I get impatient, exasperated, pissed off, and even sarcastic, with you, - and of course I almost always disagree with you! - you always take it as theological rough-and-tumble between friends - which is why I feel I can speak the way I do! - and then you get on with the argument - speaking your usual rubbish! ;)

You too have a great weekend, mate!


DH 02.29.08 at 9:38 pm

Kim, I’m sorry you take make argument as “rubbish”. I may strongly disagree with you regarding your positions but I never believe that your argument is “rubbish”. :) Okay there may be times you try to be coy and thus clouding your strong argument. Howver, overal your arguments are not rubbish.

P.S. It is so nice that you look to me as a “tumble between “”friends”". That “friends” part is so very nice of you. I too think the same of you. We may disagree strongly but it appears that we have a strong admiration between us of which I am greatful. May we continue to have this stronger bond in our discussions even in our strong disagreement at times.

I hope that maybe we can find more “common ground” or look to find a greater percentage of agreement. If we assume we agree 20% of the time may we look to learn from each other and become 40%. We may never agree a majority of the time but at least we don’t have to reject outright as much. I know we seem to reject outright but maybe we both need to analyze our statements and correct them for greater agreement. I think we both need to work of this. This would apply to your initial posts as well as replies as well as the same for myself in my replies. What do you think? :)

God bless you this weekend. May you have a wonderful service this Sunday. I take it you will attend. :)

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