Barth and Church Authority

As I continue to wonder if I’m reading Barth correctly, I am struck by his trust of the Church. He is Reformed, so the authority of the Church is not as encompassing as the Catholic view. Still, he believes in the authority of the Church.

Church authority is spiritual authority: in all its forms it rests on the fact that there and here, then and now, two decisions meet in obedience to the Word of God and constitute one of these unities of common confession.

Church authority is not a matter of trusting just one opinion. It is the reasoning together, but trusting the result because it is directed by the Holy Spirit.

This is a difficult concept for modern/post-modern cultures. It is evident from the ultra-conservative to the ultra-liberal wings of Christianity. On the ultra-conservative side we have John MacArthur with his new book on “Slaves” for Christ. His premise is not a bad one, but how he markets the book is terrible. He talks about a “conspiracy theory” to cover up the translation of the word “slave.”

On the ultra-liberal side, well take your pick: Bart Ehrman, a multitude of “emergent” theologians, “Bishop” Spong, et al. The conspiracy is the “cover up” over how the canon was formed in the first place, or something else.

We simply find it hard to trust. It’s our new DNA.

For Barth there is a sense of understanding that the Church is human. There are disagreements. Yet, godly people can reach godly decisions. From the Canon of Scripture to confessions of the Church, discussion takes place and the faith delivered once for all to the saints somehow keeps moving forward.

We wrestle with our confessions from time to time. As Barth points out, sometimes our unity has to be “rediscovered.” So, the Church looks for more accurate ways to express the faith. It’s a process. Yet, we must move forward in trust.

I trust the Church. I trust the Head of the Church. While I chafe at the pragmatism of my denomination, I also trust the faith of the early saints in my movement. I can argue the pragmatism. I trust the faith delivered. It’s what causes me to rejoice in the Church as a local body, and the Church universal. I trust MY church… the local body. I love the Church universal as well.

Trust needs to be re-established. Therefore, I want to make some really odd declarations of trust:

1. In regards to Bible translations, I trust the men and women who work hard to do the best job possible to bring a good translation forward. Over the years I have watched the NIV go from something outdated and frustrating to something I can use. Knowing who is on the translation team, I trust their commitment to the holy Scriptures.

I can settle in on translations because I choose to trust. There may be the disagreements over this word or that verse, but at the heart I find men and women who truly love God and want to do good work.

2. I trust the creeds. These are statements of faith that have been delivered by people who truly want to articulate faith. They had godly hearts and when it was all said and done they could say, “It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit.”

3. I trust the Body of Christ. I may disagree over methodology, but overall I find people who truly love the Lord. The Body of Christ is beautiful in the diversity of its forms. The unity isn’t found in having a single style of worship. The unity is found in Christ. It’s beautiful to see.

The Church has delivered the faith delivered once for all to the saints down through the centuries. It’s been a rough ride. Yet, here we are. I stand in that stream of trust desiring to move the faith forward to the next generation.

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