(continuing Barth on the place of theology)
The community (Barth doesn’t like the word ‘church’!) represents the secondary witnesses to the Word, after the apostles. It is the “society of men called to believe in and simultaneously to testify to, the Word in the world.”
But being a true witness is not easy! The believing community faces a challenge: how to speak rightly about the Word it has come to believe in? It faces the questions: “does the community reflect on the Word painstakingly and speak of it in clear concepts?” Can the community also function as secondary witnesses with credibility and integrity? The work to achieve and maintain these things is theological work.
Every believer is called to this work, and especially leaders:
A community that is awake and conscious of its commission and task in the world will of necessity be a theologically interested community.
Theology is also for the community: its job to confront them afresh with the reality of the Word of God. Any theology that is not directed towards the community, is a waste of time.
“Faith seeking understanding” sums up this community activity of seeking to speak truthfully. The community must seek to understand better the things it has believed.
This search will also include past generations of believers in its discussions. Theology will learn carefully from them. But it will not submit to their judgement, but rather re-examine everything in the light of the gospel.
No dogma or article of the creed can simply be taken over untested by theology from ecclesiastical antiquity. Each must be measured…by the Holy Scripture and the Word of God.
Here at The Grit we like this approach to tradition. “Question everything” – I seem to have heard that before somewhere… But that means listening to everything also. Including tradition. We are so painfully ignorant of what believers were thinking and saying in other ages. C.S. Lewis’s dictum was a good one: for every new book, read two old ones – or something like that. And by ‘old’ he didn’t mean the 1970s!
I also like this emphasis on learning in community and for community. So much of our scholarship is done in academies and for other academics. But in Barth’s view this sort of theology is an irrelevance. Wouldn’t it be great if theology were restored to the church, to be undertaken by the body, with the assistance of pastor-theologian leaders, and for the benefit of the body.
How can we get our people doing theology with us?