Disagreeing with Barth

We cannot hear Christ otherwise than according to the particular leading and responsibility of the churches, each of us, that is, giving ear to the church to which we owe allegiance as members, within which we were baptized and brought belief… If a man says that he can hear the voice of Christ as well in this or that church as in his own, he had better ask himself whether or not he has come to substitute for the obedient mind and will which listens to Christ (in his own and other churches) one or other of the many available historical or aesthetic interests.

Karl Barth, The Church and the Churches, p 50

While I agree with Barth’s general point that each church must stick to its own theological guns (rather than agreeing to give up an element of belief purely for the sake of harmony), I disagree with this particular argument.

My model for the division of the churches is brokenness. If the una sancta is broken into pieces, then it stands to reason that no one church has all the gifts, all the graces, or all the gospel. And if so, one might very well be able to hear the voice of Christ equally well in more than one church. The gospel, the voice of Christ, might be equally blurred or distorted, although possibly in different ways.

Furthermore, suppose that the underlying model is of rightness and wrongness, rather than brokenness: suppose some churches are more “right” than others. Doesn’t it make sense then, that if a person had been “baptized and brought to belief” in a church that was “less right”, and then worshiped in a church that was “more right”, that he might hear the voice of Christ as clearly there?

(Of course, we would expect that in such a case, the person might well embark on the process of formal conversion to the new church.)

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