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Commentary on the Barmen Declaration: First Article

Commentary on the Barmen Declaration: First Article

1. “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

”Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved.” John 10:1,9

The first article of the Barmen declaration is a dozy. I enjoy much of it and it is what drew me into studying this declaration more intimately. In a response to corruption in the Church and horrendous ethics in the world the primacy of Christ must be the cornerstone of the church's confessional response.

The Scriptures

There are few passages in the Gospel of John that exalt Jesus Christ more than these verses. The full deliverance of true salvation can be found in no one nor nothing else. The exclusivity of Jesus Christ was no small thing for the church during the time of this Declaration. But it remains true that the exclusivity of Jesus Christ in all of His sovereignty was ultimately important in this Declaration and in the ongoing health of the church.

The Affirmation

Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

There are interesting elements of Neo-Orthodoxy and conservative theology throughout this affirmation. Jesus Christ is who He is "in Holy Scripture." There is no reason to search for a "Historical Jesus" since for the church it is the attestation of witness to whom Christ was, is and will be that is predominantly important. In the modern church, attempting to describe a Jesus not portrayed by the Scriptures themselves are thus potentially dangerous. The Christ the church must proclaim must come straight out of the Scriptures.

At the same time, the theology of Karl Barth calling Jesus Christ "the one Word of God" is present and plain. Nevertheless the affirmation is strong in its conclusion. It is Christ that must be heard (as oppose to those we'll see in the rejection section). And it is Him we must obey "in life and in death" (hints of the Heidelberg). 

The Rejection

We reject the false doctrine that the Church could and should recognize as a source of its proclamation, beyond and besides this one Word of God, yet other events, powers, historic figures and truths as God’s revelation.

This section has great historical relevance but it is also impact theology for the present. Jesus Christ (In The Scriptures) is the source of the church's proclamation. No just wait and return to that. Not stories. Not antidotes. Not secular writings. Not even if those secular writings were written by Christians. Those these things can be edifying and can be used in "sermons" the church must understand that it plays no part in the "proclamation" of the church.

Beyond these simple examples, any bending of the church to ideologies and modern historical paradigm shifts is to be rejected. There are no worldly or spiritual powers to be consulted. There are no new great men who are able to place themselves alongside Jesus Christ as reveal-er of what the church proclaims. There are no political mouths or prophetic voices that can reveal or add the proclamation of Jesus Christ.

God's revelation is Jesus Christ. As He is witnessed to in the Scriptures. It is not our "trajectories" of His teaching or His behavior. Our revelation of God is Him in history and time as He was, so He will be and the church cannot accept anything that seeks to change Him.

Book Review: The Cross & Gendercide by Elizabeth Gerhardt

Book Review: The Cross & Gendercide by Elizabeth Gerhardt

Book Review: The New Testament and Ethics (editor Joel Green)