Karl Barth on the Modern Marginalization of Ecclesiology

In Church Dogmatics IV.1 p 150, Barth writes:

“It was an intolerable truncation of the Christian message when the older Protestantism steered the whole doctrine of the atonement—and with it, ultimately, the whole of theology—into the cul de sac of the question of the individual experience of grace, which is always an anxious one when taken in isolation, the question of individual conversion by it and to it, and of its presuppositions and consequences. The almost inevitable result was that the great concepts of justification and sanctification came more and more to be understood and filled out psychologically and biographically, and the doctrine of the Church seemed to be of value only as a description of the means of salvation and grace indispensable to this individual and personal process of salvation.”

I am in the process of trying to overcome my great ignorance of the work of Karl Barth. Since ChristianBook.com had works of the old edition for sale this summer for only $4.95 a volume, I filled in some of the parts missing from my collection. It’d be nice to have the new edition, but, alas, neither my budget nor my book shelf space had the room.

So here I am reading Barth on the doctrine of reconciliation. Once one gets past the wordiness, there’s lots of treasure here. He’s out to magnify Jesus – which sounds good to me.

In the section quoted above he’s taking the Protestant tradition to task for it marginalization of ecclesiology. We became so interested in the salvation of the individual that we forgot the church. I find his insights here completely on target. I’m looking forward to see what more he does with it, to see specifically if he goes beyond seeing the church as the arena of salvation, the place where the Spirit is at work. I have so much to learn.

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