A dare for the church


“IF the Church were sufficiently humble to recapture its understanding of the communion of saints as the fellowship of sinners dependent upon Forgiveness, and so be rid of that nervous, devastating, vigorous  founding of new societies;

IF it were sufficiently humble to endure patiently the sneers of the rationalists, to fear and love God, and so to outstrip even Kant in the careful preservation of the boundaries of humanity;†

IF it were courageous enough to keep its eyes fixed upon its own theme, to abandon all striving after, attaining, and boasting about, visible goals and successes;

IF only it would cultivate experience of God by a robust criticism of all mere experience, and religion by a fearless relativizing of all religion;

IF only it would bring forth good and pious people—that most obstinate species of the human genus!–by persistently and tirelessly confronting them with the hosts of men who have been justified by God, such as Gentiles, Publicans, Spartacists, Imperialists, Capitalists, and other unsympathetic persons, as for example, those who are not devoted to Social Reform;

IF only the Church were directed wholly and altogether towards the unknown, living, free God, and would concentrate its preaching upon the Cross of Christ—

THEN the Church could be, unobservably and in a manner unheard of, the Church of Jacob,‡ the Church of faith, and the Church of the righteousness of God. And such indeed the Church has, in fact, always been. But in order that the Church may be what it is, it must dare to begin in faith, in the’ darkness’ of faith (Luther). And this the Church has never dared. Its activity proceeds from works. It is orientated to what can be seen of men.”

Karl Barth, Romans, 6th ed. 368.  (Paragraph breaks and emphasis mine)


†By this, Barth means that if only the Church admitted that it is human instead of striving for or pretending that it is to be associated in some special way with the divine…

‡In Romans, Barth regularly contrasts the Church of Jacob with the Church of Esau. For him, the Church of Esau is the visible, observable church of works and action, while the Church of Jacob is the invisible, unobservable church of the miracle of God’s grace. But there are not two churches–only one Church that knows itself to be rejected by its works (the Church of Esau) and yet accepted by grace (the Church of Jacob). Thus, when Barth says that “this the Church has never dared” he truly does mean that the Church that works for its own justification has never understood the dare of faith with which God confronts it daily…


6 thoughts on “A dare for the church

  1. I do know that he discussed the darkness of faith in his Commentary on Galatians. In context there (and I believe elsewhere) Luther speak of the “darkness of faith” as a rejection of “reason.” To enter into the darkness of faith is to enter where “reason” would not go–just as Abraham responds to the dark command of God to sacrifice his son against all reason.

    Do a Google books search for it.

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