In honor of Reformation Day, I finally got around to changing my “Notable Quotable.”
The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God. — Martin Luther
In announcing the limitation of the known world by another that is unkown, the Gospel does not enter into competition with the many attempts to disclose within the known world some more or less unknown and higher former 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.
—Karl Barth (Epistle to the Romans 35, Emphasis Mine)
I ran across this statement from Barth and thought it was worth posting. It seems like an interesting way to phrase how we should look at the Bible. The Bible is a tool — no, the tool — by which we can judge everything else. Beyond being truth within itself, it is also the touchstone to determine the truth of everything else. When we use this touchstone against everything in life, then we are indeed “engaging in a strife […] with existence itself.”
The latter sentence that I emphasized above is an important statement to go along side that. “The Gospel is not the door but the hinge.” That is true too. The Living Word, Jesus, is the door. We ought not place the word where the Word is. If we go too far, we commit idolatry by elevating the Scriptures above the point of the message. Alternately, if we don't go far enough, it becomes too easy to reshape Jesus to be how we want Him. It is a balancing act; our focus is on the door, but the hinge is the instrument by which we can easily open that door when led by the Holy Spirit.
The hinge is unique, just as the door it serves is unique. The Gospel is such a unique entity that Barth notes that it is not even in competition with “the many attempts” at truth. While all of our own reasoning on Earth hopefully will be in the right direction and pass the authenticity test, all of it is different from the Gospel because it comes from ourselves looking toward God; God's Word moves the opposite direction, uniquely coming from God to us, a group of fallen creatures who are otherwise too broken to get more than part way to where we should be. The Gospel's touchstone, reality-questioning status moves it from an option in a pluralistic world to the foundation upon which “truths” try to compete and any that do not fit within its framework ultimately wilt under its examination.
To borrow a phrase from Keats, “that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
I've read the passage before, but for some reason, it is really striking me at the moment. Part of it may be that I'm reading it in a different translation (NRSV), but I think part of it is that it just happens to hit a chord at this time.
“Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: 'This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.'”
I feel led to write about this passage (Jeremiah 7:3-4), but that will not happen tonight. I'll try to post some thoughts on it, along with my previous quote of the month (from Doctor Faustus), in the coming days.
This month's quote says something I think we need to be reminded of, as Christians. Too often we've come to associate faith with placidly accepting the way things are, according to authorities (be it pastors, leaders or even a cursory examination of the Scriptures) and fail to really get to the meat of things. If we accept that what God says is true and what is in the Bible is what God has to say, then we should question what we read to really understand it.
“Being religious means asking passionately the question of the meaning of our existence and being willing to receive answers, even if the answers hurt.”
If I passionately seek answers, not every answer is going to come back the way I want it to. Maybe some will shake my faith. Maybe some will strengthen my faith while going against what I want. Regardless of my preconceived notions, it is important to constantly ask the existential questions of life and be ready for the answers. It is only by not taking things for granted that I can finally come to know more about God.