Barth on Doctrine as event

"... Pure doctrine is a deed, not a thing -- not even a matter of thoughts and words. Therefore pure doctrine is not identical with any existing text -- whether it is that of specific theological formulae, or that of a specific theological system; or that of the Church's creed, or even the text of the Bible. Pure doctrine is an event.

It is the same with the proclamation of the Church as it is with revelation and Holy Scripture. We have seen that revelation as God's Word is the unity of the act of incarnation and of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. And we have seen that Holy Scripture as God's Word is the unity of the act of God's speaking to the prophets and apostles and through them to the Church. So the proclamation of the Church is God's Word as the unity of the life-giving act in which the Church hears and speaks. At all these points, especially the second and the third, the older Protestantism of the 17th century fell into the error of splitting up the unity of this act and regarding it synergistically, with an objective divine giving on the one hand, and on the other a subjective human taking and assimilating. In this way, Scripture especially became for it an inspired text, as did also doctrine as the norm of the Church's proclamation. And the result (for we cannot trifle with synergism) was to prepare the way for what was least of all desired, viz. the transformation of the authority and freedom of the Word of God into the very human authority and freedom of those who thought they held the Word of God in the form of these texts, and in that opinion quite consistently went on more and more to control it.

Pure doctrine as the fulfillment of the promise given to Church proclamation is an event. It is the event of the grace of the Word of God and of the obedience of faith created by this grace." I/2, 768.

Very interesting move. As stated prior to this, "pure doctrine" isn't orthos doxa, "correct opinion" -- it's AC7, and the fact that the two elements of the satis est are inseparable in practice: the right administration of the sacraments, and the right preaching of the Gospel. It is Gospel and Law -- note the obedience follows from faith which follows from grace, and not from the law, which does strictly what Luther would have it do: convict of sin and hand the sinner over, bound, to Christ who releases into the custody of the Spirit. (I have Hendel's ordination sermon of yesterday night ringing in my ears still.) It is an ethos of preaching the Gospel.

Where does this leave "command ethics"? I'm reminded of Althaus, with whom Barth disagreed, but who distinguished Gesetz from Gebot, law from command. A Gospel ethos is not free from obligation -- we're constantly talking about the locus transformed from the code of law to the law in the other. Perhaps it is unwise to speak of that as "law," but it is certainly Gebot, as we follow the two great Geboten of the Synoptics. I need to go back through II/2 with this.


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