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Posts Tagged ‘church’

“That the tribulation of the Church is its guilt, and that its guilt consists in a perpetual avoiding of the tribulation which it suffers from the secret of God, must not be in any way minimized, but rather must be vigorously asserted. The Church needs to be continually reminded of the most serious of all symptoms. It was the Church, not the world, which crucified Christ.” p. 388-389 The Epistle to the Romans

This is my second post (I think…) dealing with how Barth writes about the Church. Suffering from the secret of God…and crucifying Christ…I’ll have to think this over today.

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“He belongs personally within the Church. But He knows also that the Church means suffering and not triumph. He knows the business of the Church; and knowing it, he is bitterly in earnest. He does not console himself by supposing the Church to be a human affair of which men can rid themselves…He recognizes that, precisely when the Church attains the goal of service rendered by men to men, the purpose of God has been obscured, and judgment knocks at the door. The more the Church is the Church, he stands within it, miserable, hesitating, questioning, terrified. But he does stand within the Church, and not outside as a spectator. His possibility is the possibility of the Church, and the Church’s impossibility is also his. Its embarrassment is his, and so too is its tribulation. He is one with the solidarity of the Church, because it is the lack of the glory of God which creates fellowship and solidarity among men (iii. 23).” p. 334-335 The Epistle to the Romans

Barth gives one of the most interesting descriptions and explanations about the Church. It is all far, FAR from the modern, “cultural Christian” idea of the Church. I’ll be doing several more posts regarding this topic, but I’m trying to break down the passages into small chunks. Sometimes they will just be two sentences, but other times more context is needed, like today.

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Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!

One of my favorite hymns. Here is a link to a good recording on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcXl6OtXfTg&feature=related

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“For whom is it [the knowledge of God] not too wonderful and excellent? Who can abide its brilliance or breathe its air? Who does not fear lest all things should come to an end? Who does not perhaps–nay, probably–nay, certainly–substitute for the righteousness of this unapproachable God some very refined, very excellent, very significant, righteousness of his own, to which is added, of course, some such phrase as with the help of God or trusting in God? Who does not substitute some plan or programme or method, some new thing, some new ‘interpretation of the truth’, some movement or task, which gives us less to create but more to do, less to ponder but more to talk about, less to endure but more to undertake, than does the righteousness of God? And so we introduce a ‘thing’ by which men–and especially religious men–secure an advantage for themselves. Immersed in the happiness of doing and speaking and inaugurating, busy with reforms and revolutions, they are able to forget the judgment hanging over their heads, and so the ‘thing’ on which they are engaged turns out more to their credit than if they were to seek naught else but to fear and to love God above all things. Was there ever a period when the Church was free of the temptation to substitute a human righteousness of its own for the righteousness of God? Was there ever a time when the temptation was resisted?” p. 373 The Epistle to the Romans

Wow! I put up kind of a long quote there from Barth, but stick with it and think about it! I will be back to Bonhoeffer on ethics tomorrow.

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“From the solemn gloom of the temple children run out to sit in the dust, God watches them play and forgets the priest”

This is another quote from Tagore. Again, very simple but so meaningful. It reminds us that what we might think of as holy, divine, important, meaningful, serious etc is not always what God is looking for. In fact, it is often the opposite of what He is looking for. The innocence of children is what God admires. The temple, of stone and wood; the priests, perhaps in their black robes busy with some serious church business (or temple business); they are nothing compared to the children, who in a spirit of freedom and innocence run out of man’s tower of babel, and play in the dust, the least of God’s creation, and to which we all return. Let’s be more like children…

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“Innumerable things, all things in a way, have the power of becoming holy in a mediate sense. They can point to something beyond themselves. But, if their holiness comes to be considered inherent, it becomes demonic. This happens continually in the actual life of most religions. The representations of man’s ultimate concern–holy objects–tend to become his ultimate concern. They are transformed into idols. Holiness provokes idolatry.” p. 216 Systematic Theology Volume 1

I can think of quite a few instances of this, can you? The idea that something good, the holy, could produce something demonic, the idol, is interesting. I think it fits the theme of Barth’s view of the Church too, in that the church, being a sign pointing to what is beyond the church, can become too involved in itself instead of God. Now, whether this applies to actual churches like Catholic, Lutheran, Orthodox etc, or the actual body of Christ as Church, I’m not sure and I’d have to go back and re-read that part of the text.

Tillich goes on to talk about the original meaning of holiness and how it has been distorted over the centuries. I don’t remember if he actual gives a clear meaning of it as it originally was used however. So that’s something I’d like to find out…what did holiness mean thousands of years ago when written in the Hebrew bible?

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