20.11.10

A Barthian subordination to Scripture

Subordination . . . cannot mean that we have to allow our ideas, thoughts and
convictions to be supplanted, so to speak, by those of the prophets and apostles, or that we have to speak the language of Canaan instead of our own tongue. In that case we should not have subordinated ourselves to them, but at most adorned ourselves with their feathers. In that case nothing would have been done in the interpretation of their words, for we should merely have repeated them parrot-like. Subordination, if it is to be sincere, must concern the purpose and meaning indicated in the ideas, thoughts, and convictions of the prophets and apostles, that is, the testimony which . . . they wish to bear. To this testimony of their words we must subordinate ourselves— and this is the essential form of scriptural exegesis (Barth 1956: 718)

I like this view of exegesis. It might save us from a dangerous fundamentalism (in the newer sense of the word 'fundamental', negative connotations remaining. It encourages an intelligent grappling and struggle with scripture, a humility in contrast to an over-sure knowing. Thank you Barth.

4 comments:

David Ould said...

Yes, this is Barth at his best.

Out of interest, what is this "fundamentalism" that you're referring to? Even the fundamentalists that I think you're pointing towards show due submission to the intent of Scripture. Who are they and how is it that you see them as interacting with the Scriptures in a different way to which Barth describes?

Rach said...

'This fundamentalism' - just any unquestioning application of scripture, taking the Word of God and applying it in ungodly ways. We can all be guilty of doing this. I like Barth's seeming advocacy of a certain kind of humility on the part of the person exegeting.

Rach said...

David Ould said, but I accidentally deleted it with clumsy fingers on an I-Phone,

"I see. Can you give an example? What does this "unquestioning application" look like in your experience of a particular text? How does a "Barthian" way (for want of a better term) actually improve matters?

Rach said...

Fundamentalist readings of the Bible can derive from scripture political conceptions and attitudes that are sometimes prejudiced or even contrary to the Christian gospel itself. People can sever the interpretation from the Spirit-guided tradition of the church. Scripture needs to be read in community so that its meaning can be discerned. Even then, great mis-readings have been used to uphold slavery, for example.

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