A Question-Mark Against All Truths

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 5:50 AM
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.”

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