Friday, 26 August 2005

Jesus and the Word

The discussion of my six theological theses has continued, with this thoughtful response from Jim West. Jim explains his own understanding of the “Word of God” in greater detail, and he clarifies the fact that he and I were not (as I had suggested) simply “saying the same thing in different ways.”

Here is the basic difference: Jim does not agree with the Barmen Declaration’s statement that Jesus Christ is “the one Word of God”—whereas I consider this to be one of the most fundamental and most decisive of all theological statements. It seems to me that without this theological insight Christian theology is neither possible nor legitimate.

I appreciate Jim’s intention here: as a learned and sensitive biblical scholar, he is concerned that many isolated parts of the Bible (e.g. in the Old Testament) would become “totally meaningless” if we said that Jesus alone is the Word of God. But on the other hand, it seems to me that the entire Bible as a whole is rendered meaningless and incoherent if we fail to perceive it as a witness to this one Word of God.

Jim thinks, then, that God speaks “most clearly in Christ,” but that he also “speaks elsewhere too.” For my part though, I can’t help thinking that the Barmen Declaration was right to reject exactly this conception of the “Word of God.” Here again are the words from Barmen: “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death. We reject the false doctrine that the Church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God's revelation.”

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