Three Fold Word of God

Karl Barth, who is by most estimates the pre-eminent theologian of the 20th century, and who has had a significant influence on me -- though I would say that other theologians, especially Jurgen Moltmann, have pushed me beyond being a simple Barthian -- but that's for another day.

Perhaps the most profoundly influential idea, for me, has been Barth's view of the three-fold Word of God.

1. Jesus Christ

Barth understanding of the Word of God, which is the revelation of God, begins with the affirmation that Jesus Christ is God's Word to humanity. Thus, the word is not first and foremost a verbal statement, rather it is a person. Barth looks to those passages that see Jesus as the Logos of God (John 1:1-14), and thus, Jesus becomes God's preeminent mediator of revelation (Mt. 11:27; Lk 11:9; Jn 14:1-10). Even as the author of Hebrews points out, God chose to revel himself finally and fully in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2; cf. I Cor. 1:30).

2. Scripture

Scripture becomes the Word of God when it bears witness to that preeminent Word, which is Jesus Christ (Jn 5:39). Barth makes the point that Scripture is the Word of God only derivatively. Scripture is the Word of God because God has chosen to speak in and through them.

When we speak of revelation we are faced with the divine act itself and as such, which, as we had to remember in the past, is the ground and the limit, the presupposition and the proviso of what may be said of the Bible and proclamation as the word of God. (Karl Barth, Dogmatics, in Hugh T. Kerr, ed., Readings in Christian Thought, 2nd ed., Abingdon Press, 1966, 286-87).

3. Proclamation.

Not only is Scripture the Word of God as it bears witness to Christ, but when preaching faithfully proclaims Jesus Christ, it too can become the Word of God. Preaching is Word of God in the sense that it takes Scripture and through the proclamation of that word, it bears witness to God's preeminent revelation in Jesus Christ. Scripture, however, also serves as the criterion upon which we may discern whether the preaching is truly God's word. We can see some examples of this form of the word of God described in places like Acts 4:31, where we find the church filled with the Spirit and speaking the "word of God with boldness." Then in Acts 6:7 we read that "the word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith." Then in Acts 15:36 we find Paul telling Barnabas that they should revisit the cities where they had "proclaimed the word of the Lord."

In Barth's description of the relationship between the three forms of the Word of God we can begin to see how preaching functions as Word of God.

The proclamation that speaks to us and is heard by us as God's Word promises the future revelation. By really attesting revelation the Bible is the Word of God, and by really promising revelation proclamation is the Word of God. But the promise in proclamation rests upon the attestation in the Bible the hope of future revelation upon faith in that which happened once for all. (Karl Barth in Kerr, Readings in Christian Thought, 28)

From Barth, I take this -- Word of God is an expansive term. But first and foremost it speaks of a person and only derivatively of a Book or Proclamation.


The Prophet said…

In memory of the people of the United States still remains fresh suffered the fatal attack this nation in the hands of terrorists, and which claimed the lives of thousands of people and many places were destroyed, as are the buildings known as "The Twin Towers, "and was also damaged the Pentagon.
But quite apart from the coverage that was given to this subject from the earthly prespective, there are some questions from a spiritual perspective on What was on September 11?, Was God's punishment on the United States?
Yes, although many evangelical leaders refuse to accept it.
This is a very grim decade for the American nation. Since the disaster that Hurricane Katrina ocacion THEREFORE with loss of thousands of lives, passing on September 11, and now with the AH1N1 influenza pandemic which has already caused hundreds of deaths and putting the United States as one of the countries with the highest rate of deaths in the world, all this suggests that even if God is punishing this nation.
But this punishment could be accentuated now approaching the winter season.
The United States were a nation at a time reflecting the glory of God now seems to be a nation defiled by sin, had been a nation that reflected blessing but now seems to reflect a curse on her, had been a hospitable nation, but now it seems be a nation full of pride. The Bible says that "God resists the proud" (James 4, 6) and the only way to resist a nation pride is punished.
The terror, hunger, and death, seem to be a trilogy of punishing blows that are the pride of this nation, and would be tragic if the U.S. persists in its arrogance, rather than humble themselves before God.
The future of the United States is not in their intelligence services to protect them from future terrorist attacks or political reforms to curb unemployment and hunger, or health systems to protect them from death by influenza AH1N1, but rather in Christian churches they call God tirelessly to stop his punishment.
But if the evangelical denominations are spiritually poor is likely that the future of the United States in the next few years is of a darker hue.
Anonymous said…
I didn't return to the church out of fear, but I appreciate your thoughts. David Mc

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