“The Church of Jesus Christ can never be a pompous Church” by Karl Barth

“Can it really be characteristic of the communion of saints to increase in consequence and prestige and influence and outward pomp in the world around: to command increasing authority and esteem for itself as a recognized force, both from the state and other human societies; to win an assured and generally acknowledged place in the structure and activity of worldly politics and scholarship and literature and art?

We need hardly demonstrate or bemoan the fact that the Church has often acted as if a positive answer had to be given to this question. But the very opposite is the case. The Church has the promise that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Mt 16:18), but it has no promise to this effect. Its glory will be manifest when that of its Lord is manifest to the world. In the time between it is thankful for all the necessary space that it is granted in the world to fulfill its task.

But the enlargement (or diminution) of this space has nothing whatever to do with its nature or commission. Its enlargement is not promised, nor its diminution demanded. It has its hands full with the task of filling it in the service of its cause according to measure in which it is given (whether great or small). It will not be surprised or annoyed if it is pushed into the corner; or if sometimes it is forcefully deprived of its outward majesty and pushed even more into the corner. It is always seriously mistaken if it tries to grow in this dimension.

The Church of Jesus Christ can never – in any respect – be a pompous Church.”

–Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of Reconciliation – Jesus Christ, the Servant as Lord. (London: T. & T. Clark Publishers; 1st Pbk. Ed edition, 2004), Vol. 4.2: 648.

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Filed under Christian Theology, Karl Barth, Quotable Quotes, The Church

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