Who am I? continued

Posted: October 5, 2011 by J in Church

Congrats to Steve G and Dez S for identifying Karl Barth. Here’s the quote again.

The community is confronted and created by the Word of God. It is the communion of the saints because it is the gathering of the faithful [believing]. As such it is the confederation of witnesses, who may and must speak because they believe.

The community does not speak with words alone. It speaks by the very fact of its existence in the world; by its characteristic attitude to world problems; and moreover and especially, by its silent service to all the handicapped, weak and needy in the world. It speaks, finally, by the simple fact that it prays for the world.

The community does all this because this is the purpose of its summons [into existence] by the Word of God. It cannot avoid doing these things, since it believes.

In the spirit of The Grit, where we question everything, I want to ask, ‘Can this possibly be right?’ Can it be true that the Word of God, the gospel, is spoken in many different ways by the church? – that our very existence, and the nature of our community, proclaims Christ’s glory? – that our compassionate hearts toward the troubled world communicate Christ to outsiders? – that the church’s indiscriminate service of the weak and poor in the world speaks loudly of the grace of God? – that our ongoing prayers for the world are an essential aspect of our gospel witness?

I mean, I know these are beautiful sentiments from Barth. But can we really believe this stuff?

If we do, then what does it mean that I was always taught you proclaim the word of God simply by teaching the Bible? Why is it we’re always trying to get people to listen to a talk, when they haven’t even met the community, or felt the beat of our hearts, or been served by us?

What does it mean that I was taught to see church as secondary, something that’s not really needed until after the gospel has been preached and believed?

What sort of gospel does the church declare if we don’t show signs of a compassionate heart towards our troubled world?

What word do we communicate if we don’t pour ourselves out in service to the needy and the neglected?

What is our witness if we don’t devote ourselves to pray for our neighbours and our nation?

I find all this deeply disturbing.


  1. Well, for starters maybe it means it took us 50 years to listen to Barth.
    Or maybe those things were simply something that was taken for granted in the life of the church, and so didn’t have to be exhorted. I think in country churches this is the case. Perhaps we just need to exhort people to do them again as our collective life has become more like the world around us.
    This could be the codeine talking, but should we even think of our neighbours as the chief recipient of our proclamation? Are these act-speeches primarily to God? Come to think of it, aren’t our speech-acts primarily to God?
    Perhaps when we don’t do them our neighbours see that we don’t ‘speak’ with the living God.

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