Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Barth On the Weakness of the Church

You can’t get too much Karl Barth. Here are some thoughts on the brokenness and human frailty of the church, recently come across in a collection of Barth’s sermons, The Word in the World.

The church of Jesus Christ in the world—oh, what is it, this church? Must we not continually acknowledge that it is no different than any of those many other more or less good and hopeful human ventures? But especially full of sin and especially threatened because people are attempting something especially bold here: to proclaim the truth about the true God, to serve and worship this God! How could humankind in all its dubiousness and all its defenselessness emerge any more clearly than it does here? And how could this venture not continually be met by difficulties from the inside and from without? And how could this venture not secretly be afflicted, and in a particularly intense and severe way at certain moments in time such as the one in which we are now living? What remains of the church then? Where should it turn? What is to become of Jesus’ disciples when they find themselves in exactly the same boat as the rest of humanity? They are no better off or stronger than the rest, no less lost and helpless than the world as a whole; indeed, more lost and helpless, perhaps, than all the rest.


  1. The trouble is of course that Christians are all sinners.
    There is no truly human life until sin is utterly transcended. Or put in another way there is no truly human life without Divine-Communion, or the submission/surrender of the entire conscious and functional being to the Absolute Divine Reality within which it appears,, on which it depends completely, even for the next breath. Without that Divine-Communion, there is no true humanity, no real responsibility, no real freedom. Without Divine-Communion the individual is simply a functional entity living an unconscious pre-patterned adventure of functional relations, There is no sacred or Divine plane to his or her awareness.
    Sin, or the always present-time active negation of Divine-Communion is the worst cancer in the universe. It is the worst sickness. It is the most horrific dis-ease. Its implications cover the entirety of everyone’s life. The world is filled with its symptoms and reeks with its torments and potentials, coming from all directions, most of which people cannot even see.

    And of course doing or reading theology cannot in any sense change this situation. Indeed the very Spirit-killing left-brained mind that does theology creates, and, more importantly keeps the entire individual and collective sinful edifice, or tower of babel/babble in place.

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