Karl Barth on Truth and the Gospel

"The Gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question-mark against all truths."
(Epistle to the Romans, 35)

This sounds like something to ponder - it feels very profound. But first I need some help from the Barth scholars out there: What exactly is Barth's point here? What is he saying and what is he not saying?

Comments

Mike Higton said…
I'm no Barth scholar - but I think the contrast is between something that you judge against existing standards, and something that judges your existing standards. So given the whole mess of what you currently believe and understand - the truths that make up the framework of your existing way of life - don't think that your task is to see where the Gospel fits into that, or how it can become one more truth in that existing system of truths. Rather, listen to how it stands over against all that existing mess as Judge, and calls it all into question.
Mike Higton said…
Oh, one more aspect to this. If I remember rightly, then the Barth of the Romans commentary would say that being called into question by the Gospel is not simply something that happens at the start of your Christian life. So it's not the case, for Barth, that once you've submitted to the judgment of the Gospel and taken on a life and understanding now shaped by it, it ceases to be a question. The sentence you quote is not simply aimed at non-Christians.

Any internalising of the Gospel on our part, any reshaping of our understanding into Gospel-shaped patterns, always remains a secondary reflection of the Gospel, and itself needs to be called into question again and again. To put it in a more jargony way, the Gospel never becomes our possession: it never becomes a fact about us, it always remains something that happens to us at God's hand. Our faith is not, as it were, a mirror of the Gospel (so that you could look at our faith and what you saw there would show you the Gospel): it's something more like an attentive readiness to be questioned by the Gospel.
Robin Parry said…
Mike

this is both elequently put and very helpful. Thanks so much!

Robin

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