In a recent discussion on the yahoo group discussion board barthianmilieu, someone asked for responses to the charge that Barth took a “cavalier” attitude to Scripture. Here is my response:
“I think that the use of the word “cavalier” is more of an ad hominem caricature of a legitimate difference between Barth and many
theologians. What Barth does teach is called the threefold word of God. For Barth Scripture is the “2nd tier” in the sense that it sheds light on the Word of God incarnate, Jesus, the full revelation of God (cf Jn 1).
So obviously for Barth, Scripture is vital. However, for Barth it is unacceptable to put even the Bible above the risen Christ. So in a
sense, Barth doesn’t hold Scripture as highly as many segments of the church. Rather, he is always looking for Christ to have the
supremacy. This leads to two ramifications that i can see initially:
1) Concerning ethics, the bible is informative, and is able to “thoroughly equip” the Christian (Tim 3:16), but since for Barth all of Scripture must be filtered through the revelation of God in Jesus Christ (who is risen and present to the believer/church in the Spirit), we must read the Bible with an ear tuned to Christ. In a ord, the bible “equips us preparatorily” us for what Christ will reveal.
2) This leads us, admittedly, into a realm of uncertainty or subjectivity. However, if we affirm the risen Christ and His presence among us now, it is hard to argue against the notion that He wants to speak into the concrete realities of our lives. This being the case, we are left to depend on the grace and faithfulness of God, seeking above all to be faithful to Him.
So while i agree with the sentiment that Barth handles scripture in a different way, to call him cavalier is unfair since for him he is
seeking above all to be faithful to and dependent on Christ. For Barth, even hermeneutical theory must bow to Him.”