Monday, February 26, 2007

Adding to Christ II

I want to return to a question I put forth a couple posts ago, that of adding to Christ. I quoted Barth in Church Dogmatics concerning the Christian that as part of their vocation as witness they are to bear witness to Christ and not to the benefits that one gains as a Christian. I want to add a few more quotes and expound on this idea in areas I've found personally challenging.

1. Barth makes this distinction:
"It must be noted rather than proclaimed that liberation has come to [the Christian] too, and to [the Christian] specifically.(CD IV.3.2 p. 676)
This is interesting. The personal liberation of the Christian is not to be ignored, but it is not the basis of the message. As Christians, we are not necessarily to bear witness to what Christ has done in our own lives, per se, but to what God has done in Christ as an objective reality. We are not necessarily to hide or obscure the benefits we have received, but again, this is not the central message we are to proclaim.

2. This frees us to be witnesses:
"In [the Christian's discipleship and witness of/to Christ] he/she is impressed into service irrespective of his/her personal qualification, fitness or ability."(CD IV.3.2 p. 677)
If the message is not us, not our holiness, our blessed life, our changed life, the benefits we have received, we are free to point to Christ. We are not required to look perfect, to be perfect. This is an amazing freedom. This is not to say that we are to live lives of wretched debauchery.

For me, this is both a troubling and freeing idea. I think so much of "evangelism" in the past has been some kind of attempt to either win someone to the cause or explain the benefits of the Christian life and the infusion of the Holy Spirit, somehow weaving one's story into THE story as if to legitamize our witness. But that is not, as Barth explains what we are to do. If we try to win someone over, we inevitably add to the gospel, the good news of Christ. If we try to explain our story as THE story, how Christ has changed us, we become that which we are witnessing to, even if we do not mean to. Our witness becomes an infomercial for God. We cease to bear witness to God and try to sell God as a product for the human predicament.

This is troubling in that it seems many of the "tools" and "methods" of historic and contemporary evangelism are called into question. It is freeing in that we are enabled to be who we are, in process, enroute, incomplete pilgrims and still witnesses because we bear witness to that which is outside ourselves, that which has happened and that which we too are called to, and to bear witness to...


jlee said...

Don, great thoughts as always. My reading of Barth's IV.3.2 provided the foundation for boldness in proclaiming the truth without feeling the need to sell my "story" or "the goods" to whomever is listening. I like how you noted that we end up witnessing to ourselves instead of Christ. That is one of the reasons why Barth refers to Jesus as the "true witness."

Mr. Higs said...

Barth certainly does take the focus off our selves and puts in back on Christ, in terms of witness. But I wonder how much he does that at the expense of making Christ sound somewhat removed from our lives. I think Rev. 12:11 talks about how we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. There is room for our experience of Christ in witness.

In Acts, 2:32-33, Peter preaches this "objective" message of Christ crucified andd resurrected, but also of the Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh. The God who lives and dwells and works creatively among us today.