Karl Barth’s Threefold Word of God.

I have been meditating lately on Barth’s view of  The Word of God and I made this diagram to help me visualize it.

“There is no distinction of degree or value between these three forms. For to the extent that proclamation really rests on recollection of the revelation attested in the Bible and is thus obedient repitition of the biblical witness, it is no less the Word of God than the Bible. And to the extent that the Bible really attests revelation it is no less the Word of God than revelation itself. As the Bible and proclamation become God’s Word in virtue of the actuality of revelation, they are God’s Word: the one Word of God within which there can be neither a more nor a less. Nor should we ever try to understand the three forms of God’s Word in isolation. The first, revelation, is the form that underlies the other two (CD I/1, 120-121). Bruce McCormack notes that what Barth is after is a “unity-in-differentiation.” ^[3]^ Each form is distinct from one another (as the persons of the Trinity are), yet are unified with each other (cf. CD I/2, 463).” Theopedia Karl Barth


The veneration of the Evangelical’s bible…

Two points before you read.
ONE: If you are a grammar curmudgeon and find yourself deeply bothered by my perceived indifference to rules let me know and I will welcome your help. I know some of you will find this as a perfect opportunity to show off your Google grammar skills so be warned if you are to critical… I may laugh at you.
TWO: The highlighted phrases and words are all linked to definitions and articles to help you.

As an evangelical I love God’s word. Sola scriptura is an important aspect of my faith and its practice. I adopt the Chicago statement on biblical inerrancy (with discernment and some reservation). However, as a young man the word of God was taught to be so important to my sanctification that I remember actually lusting after other people’s cool bibles. I remember some of my friends getting their bibles actually autographed by their favorite preachers. Children’s songs like The B-I-B-L-E Yes That’s the Book For Me  would be changed to The K-J-V Yes That’s the Book For Me. If you were struggling with sin there was no problem that could not be solved by scripture memory. Phrases like…“If the bible doesn’t say it I don’t believe it” or “All I need is my Bible and the Holy Spirit!” or “The Bible is it’s own best interpreter.” … would rig out through our college chapel with the redundancy of a firing range from Calvinists, Armenians, Covenant and Dispensational theologians. I remember the day in our college a “professional biblical counselor” was so committed to SOLO Scriptura that he actually told the young men in the college during a “sex talk” that men and women should only have sex face to face. Anything else is sin. He used scripture to prove his point… All I will say regarding his point is that Augustine of Hippo put it perfectly in regards to idols when he said…”Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used or using anything that ought to be worshiped.”

As I have grown away from my fundamentalist paradigm and into the broader scope of everything evangelical I figured the whole biblio-idolatry thing would disappear. Boy was I wrong. It seems like evangelicals are using the bible to sniper one another on a daily basis and in many different ways. An evangelical might mock at a Roman Catholics hyper-veneration of Mary but it seems we hyper-venerate our bibles. One slick speaker after another seems to be proving his point with a proof text and then backing it up with another cross reference all the while missing the point of the text. I guess to be completely fair and honest I, at one time, was one of those militant proof texting Christian snipers as well, recklessly blasting unlearned victims with my knowledge of the bible. To me the bible and its contents were a lot like Batman’s utility belt. You had a problem I had an inspired verse, principle or moral right here in my handy book. In a sick way I wanted many people to go through me before they could get to Jesus… it just made me feel better.

Is anyone else seeing the people who seem to be peddling the book and not the God of the book. Am I the only one who feels like the character Rowdy Roddy played in the sweet 80’s Sci-Fi flic They Live? We have some real soul searching as evangelicals if we are not ready to admit that biblical veneration and idolatry has led to evangelical pluralism. Our differences all come from our inordinate and circular practice of SOLO Scriptura and not Sola Scriptua. Shouldn’t our evangelical cry of “what says the scripture” humble us when we see the complexity of what scripture says? Shouldn’t the plurality of beliefs concerning evangelical studies in areas such as Pneumatology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology and Eschatology humble us? All of this evangelical theological difference, color, or dimension comes from our Bible. Can we embrace it as a quality rather than a fault?

This is really a matter of uniformity over unity. There is always an idol in the heart of one who desires uniformity. I know I have been there. It is not the bibles fault it’s the fault of our human condition. Consider this quote by N.T. Wright  “The way to Christian growth is often to allow oneself to be puzzled and startled by new apparent complexity.… Is it, after all, Jesus we want to discover and follow, or would we prefer an idol of our own making?”

Here are some questions for discussion in relation to this topic…

1. How would the evangelical world react to the discovery of another letter of Paul to the Corinthian church? 1 Corinthians 5:9-13

2. When does proof texting, and cross referencing go to far?

3. Should our systematic theological predispositions read into our exegesis or should our exegesis check our systematic theology?

4. Have you experienced biblio-idolatry (bible worship) as an Evangelical? How would you describe it?