Saturday, January 22, 2011

Church Dogmatics 1.1.3 Preaching as "the audible sacrament"

This section was a complete challenge to me. Barth not only discusses preaching, but he discusses why preaching exists, how it is arrived at by an ecclesiology that is itself immersed (baptized) in revelation.

Preaching has always been a given from my youth. We read the Bible. We talk to others about what we’ve read or hear from them what they’ve read. Preaching is this same thing but broadcast out with greater authority due to the calling of the preacher and the deference of the community of hearers.

Yet, this isn’t a preaching supported by dogmatics, rather sociology or cultural anthropology. This is an emotional or intellectual appeal. Not that the preachers from my youth have not been sincere men. Not that they did not understand their own ministries dogmatically--they may have and probably did. No, I mean my understanding was largely a shallow one.

Later Reformed theology taught me to respect the Word preached, but the dogmatic apparatus was still missing.

Now I completely see the oversight; “in this dogmatics preaching is not only assigned less importance, but virtually no importance at all“ (65)! And without the confessional apparatus, how can one truly address oneself to or urge the church on to attend to proclamation? How can one understand what should be preached and why? “Proclamation along these lines can only end with its dissolution. Proclamation as self-exposition (read, oh twenty-first century, the term “authentic” or “authenticity”) must in the long run turn out to be a superfluous and impossible undertaking” (64). Indeed, without preaching the church is either the mystery of performance or a center of social justice practiced by human beings “alone in and with (the) world” (Ibid).

And now I am left to wonder about proclamation as a sacrament. “The Word is the audible sacrament and the sacrament, the visible Word” (71). I may be instructed by preaching, but do I receive grace in the hearing--a grace that allows for the “hearing of the promise” and for “obedience to it” (67)? So is grace available--I speak as if it is a substance--as a punctiliar judgment once-for-all applied or is it an ever flowing stream “whose waters make glad”?