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Barth on Edification…

Posted by on Jan 18, 2007 in books, community, edification | Comments Off

The following quote is from Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics IV.2 (Trans. G.W. Bromiley Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1958, page 627):

In modern times, under the influence of Pietism, we have come to think in terms of the edification of the individual Christians—in the sense of their inward inspiration and strengthening and encouragement and assurance. The cognate idea has also arisen of that which is specifically edifying. Now all this is not denied. It is, included in a serious theological concept of upbuilding. But it is only included. In the abstract, it is quite impossible. Even in Jude 20, which as far as I know is the only verse to which appeal may be made, epoikodomein [to edify, to build up] cannot possibly mean private edification. No such thing is ever envisaged in the New Testament. The New Testament speaks always of the upbuilding of the community. I can edify myself only as I edify the community.

When I was reading through this passage the first time, that last statement stopped me in my tracks: “I can edify myself only as I edify the community.” How many times have I gathered together with the church only to consider what would build me up? How many times have I looked back on songs sung, Scripture read, or sermons preached only to consider what I got out of them myself?

If we are supposed to edify one another at all times, and especially when the church gathers, then our thoughts should not be on ourselves. Instead, we must consider what builds up (matures) the community as a whole. If we are obedient in this, then we are obeying, honoring, and worshiping God.

Are we building up the individual or the community?