Thursday, July 25, 2013


"This is how it happens between God and those who belong to him!  This is why they are all such broken, human, dissatisfying figures.  Each one is an anti-hero.  Their life histories are inconclusive.  Their life's work is incomplete.  The condition of their souls and their success are more than problematic..." - Barth, "Biblical Questions, Insights, and Vistas," in The Word of God and Theology, Kindle Location 2309
The above quote comes from a lecture by Barth to a group of students in 1920.  His lecture, apparently, was not well received and was criticized as being somewhat aimless.  As I read Barth's lecture, however, I felt that the meaning he wanted to convey to an audience seeking to know how the Bible could be "practical" or "relevant" in the modern age was that the Bible can only be practical and relevant by calling into question everything that we would consider practical and relevant.  Barth's lecture is more a thundering gospel sermon than a true lecture.  Perhaps that is why it was so poorly received.

Barth  himself was a picture of the contradiction that is the Christian believer.  We are simul iustus et peccator, simultaneously justified and sinful.  We hear God's "Yes" only by hearing God's "No."  Conversely, we only truly realize how sinful our sin is after we've come to the knowledge of our forgiveness in Jesus.  Barth was simultaneously proud and humble.  He was not faithful to his marriage.  In many ways, he was a poor disciple.  Yet he also grasped the gospel like few ever have.  He understood Christ.  He endeavored, in his own somewhat pathetic way, to maintain his marriage.  Barth was simul iustus et peccator.  Barth knew brokenness.  He saw the glory of God in the failures of the patriarchs and the shortcomings of the church.  Barth knew brokenness.

Within the Pentecostal community, with our rightly emphasized focus on holiness, what do we do with the continued brokenness of the church and of believers?  Do we continue our pattern of separation?  Do we call into question the salvation of those whose walk with Jesus is, lets be honest, a mess?  Do we quake within ourselves at our own ongoing sinfulness, ashamed and scared to admit how far we still have to go? 

As Pentecostals, what do we do with brokenness?

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