Saturday, 2 May 2009

Karl Barth on preaching

Following Aaron’s post yesterday, I noticed this post by Dustin, quoting Karl Barth on both the weakness and the obligation of preaching. Barth’s Göttingen Dogmatics offers probably the best theology of preaching I’ve ever read – here’s an excerpt from the passage quoted in Dustin’s post:

“But, some might say, how can we theologians come to speak God’s Word in our words? Or, some congregation might say, how can we come to hear God’s Word in the words of this or that pastor who has nothing to offer us, or in the words of all pastors, none of whom we trust? … If we expected to hear God's Word more, we would hear it more even in the weak and perverted sermons. The statement that there was nothing in it for me should often read that I was not ready to let anything be said to me. What is needed here is repentance by both pastors and congregations…. This does not mean that congregations must say Yea and Amen to all the words of their reverend pastors. Pastors are sinners. They are unprofitable servants with all their words even though they do all that they are under obligation to do (cf. Luke 17:10). Nevertheless, they are servants of the Most High (cf. Dan. 3:26). They speak in his name. They carry out his commission, which is a reality even today. No matter how well or how badly they do it, this in the presupposition of listening to them…. They know fear and trembling whenever they mount the pulpit. They are crushed by the feeling of being poor human beings who are probably more unworthy than all those who sit before them. Nevertheless, precisely then it is still a matter of God’s Word. The Word of God that they have to proclaim is what judges them, but this does not alter the fact – indeed, it means – that they have to proclaim it. This is the presupposition of their proclaiming it.”

—Karl Barth, The Göttingen Dogmatics, Vol. 1, 33-35.


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