As I try to understand what Barth is saying in Church Dogmatics and write something meaningful about it, I become painfully aware of my limited ability to understand and more limited ability to articulate what I barely understand. This is particularly true regarding what Barth calls the Word of God revealed.
I have had to read this section again and parts of it multiple times; and still I’m still not confident I can pin down what Barth is saying about the Word of God revealed.
Barth begins his section on “The Word of God Revealed” by adding more thoughts about the Bible and Proclamation. He says, “The Bible, speaking to us and heard by us as God’s Word, bears witness to past revelation. Proclamation, speaking to us and heard by us as God’s Word, promises future revelation.” (p. 111). Later he says, “…revelation is originally and directly what the Bible and Church proclamation are derivatively and indirectly, i.e. God’s Word” (p. 117).
If I understand Barth, he is saying that the Bible is the written word of God and proclamation or preaching is the spoken word of God. And that the Bible and proclamation are both derived from the Word of God which is direct revelation. The closest Bart comes to a definition of revelation is this: “It is rather the event in which the free God causes His free grace to rule and work” (p. 117). He also says, “To say revelation is to say ‘The Word became flesh’” (p. 119).
From what I have read of Barth elsewhere, Church Dogmatics is derived from lectures he gave as a professor of theology at various universities in Germany and Switzerland. If I had been a student in Professor Barth’s class and heard this section on the Word of God revealed as a lecture, I would have raised my hand to ask professor Barth a few questions:
“Dr. Barth, do I understand you correctly to say that Jesus himself is the word of God revealed?”
“Would you include the instances recorded in the Bible when God spoke to the patriarchs and Moses and the prophets as the Word of God revealed?”
“And would you include include God’s revelation to Paul on the Damascus road and John on the Island of Patmos as instances of God’s Word revealed?”
“And if I recall correctly, the book of Hebrews starts out by saying that God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets in a variety of ways. Is this also a reference to the Word of God?”
I can imagine Professor Barth answering me by saying, “Thank you for those questions. It appears you know the Bible well, at least for an American. The general answer to your questions is Yes. God in his freedom has chosen to unveil himself at different times and in different ways. It is this event of unveiling that we call revelation.”