In his book, The Sermon as God’s Word: Theologies for Preaching, Robert W. Duke “examines a variety of theologies in order to show how the preacher’s choice and development of a text is shaped by the assumptions of which he or she may not consciously be aware” (11).
In the first chapter Duke considers the theology and preaching of neo-orthodoxy’s champion, Karl Barth. Duke writes one particular paragraph that is chock-full of important Barthian concepts and buzz-words. Having studied Barth a fair amount over the last five months, I could not help but to nod in happy agreement as I read the following:
This strange book—this Bible—was for Barth a testimony to God’s dealings with people. It is not essentially a record of our quest for God, but rather of God’s quest, in the person of Jesus Christ, for us. Nowhere else are we told of this movement of God toward us. Nor can God’s self-revelation be charted by human reason or discerned from any experience of culture, poetry, or science. God is wholly other than our thoughts. To become involved with the Bible is to enter into a strange new world. Barth never tired of creating images out of his experience. He writes that our situation is like that of a wayfarer who journeys through life “absorbed in his own thoughts and desires,” with eyes fixed ahead on the bend in the road—the curve that appears to be the goal sought. This is a familiar world, with all its sights and sounds soothing to the ears, and the traveler retains this sense of well-being until a crisis arises. But occasionally there occurs a foreign word, a sermon that moves him, excites him, and disturbs this ordered life. The bend in the road ahead reveals not a continuation of the way he has been traveling, but a strange new land, “distance undreamed of, a vista he does not see, a place he does not know, the beyond! This new land, shall we seek it? . . . To bring me to this point, to this sign of God’s highway, . . . to the end of what is earthly, and so to the beginning of things divine, just this is the aim of every thought and word of the Bible” (18).
The paragraph is Duke’s, but the quotations within it come from one of Barth’s sermons as recorded in Karl Barth and Eduard Thurneysen, Come Holy Spirit: Sermons, 196-197.