Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Romans 1:16 and The Quotable Karl Barth

Okay, I admit it. I have been living an impoverished intellectual life. Until recently, I had not read anything on Karl Barth. I could hide behind the excuse that reading the theological masters is not my cup of tea. I am much more comfortable treading in history, studying and interpreting the Biblical books, intertestamental literature, Greco-Roman works, etc. As far as I can tell, Karl Barth is really not all that interested in interpreting Romans on a historical basis. Some things he does, quite frankly, makes me want to scream! But here's the rub, Barth's prose is powerful, stimulating, and convicting. In other words, Barth's commentary on Romans will preach!

Here is the jaw-dropping Barth on Romans 1:16:

I am not ashamed. The Gospel neither requires men to engage in the conflict of religions or the conflict of philosophies, nor does it compel them to hold themselves aloof from these controversies. In announcing the limitation of the known world by another that is unknown, the Gospel does not enter into competition with the many attempts to disclose within the known world some more or less unknown and higher form of existence and to make it accessible to men. The Gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question-mark against all truths. The Gospel is not the door but the hinge. The man who apprehends its meaning is removed from all strife, because he is engaged in a strife with the whole, even with existence itself. Anxiety concerning the victory of the Gospel—that is, Christian Apologetics—is meaningless, because the Gospel is the victory by which the world is overcome. By the Gospel the whole concrete world is dissolved and established. It does not require representatives with a sense of responsibility, for it is as responsible for those who proclaim it as it is for those to whom it is proclaimed. It is the advocate of both. Nor is it necessary for the Gospel that Paul should take his stand in the midst of the spiritual cosmopolitanism of Rome; though he can, of course, enter the city without shame, and will enter it as a man who has been consoled by the Gospel. God does not need us. Indeed, if He were not God, He would be ashamed of us. We, at any rate, cannot be ashamed of Him.(35; The Epistle to the Romans. 6th ed. Translated by Edwyn C. Hoskyns. London: Oxford University Press, 1968. Italics mine).
 So yes, I have learned my lesson. One cannot ignore Barth, no matter how uncomfortable one might be with his brand of exegesis at times. To do so, would be at one's own peril.

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