the weblog of Alan Knox

Barth and Community

Posted by on Oct 7, 2008 in blog links, community | 4 comments

Joe (JR), at “More Than Cake“, has written an excellent article called “Barth’s Four Assumptions of Christian Community“. In this article, Joe tells us that in January 2009 he plans a weekly series examining the works of Karl Barth. Then, to give us a taste of this series, he shares with us Barth’s four assumptions concerning Christian community:

Assumption #1: Christian community is above culture, skin color, nationality, demographics, and humanity itself.

Assumption #2: Christian community is a living entity and superior to institutions and human organizations.

Application #3: Christian community is not an end, but a temporary witness to the person of Jesus Christ.

Assumption #4: Christian community demands that all Her members serve useful roles and that nobody sits on the sidelines of faith.

I believe these are very important “assumptions” for us to consider in reference to our community in Christ. By the way, Joe says that Barth defines Christian community as “disciples united in Christ to the cause of God”. Also, Joe allows Barth to explain what he means concerning each “assumption”. Make sure you read Joes’ post.

I’d like to make a few comments about Barth’s assumptions. First, if we define our community by anything other than Jesus Christ, then we do not have a Christian community. We may have an organizational community, or a community based on a charismatic leader, or even a community based on pragmatics. But, none of this makes a “Christian community”.

Second, the community cannot define itself by its organization and structure. Certainly there will be some type of organization within any community, whether that organization is codified or not. However, when the organization or structure begins to control the shape of the community, then the community is endangered. We must always allow the community to shape the organization and never the other way around.

Finally, our community is a community only when everyone within the community recognizes the necessity and worth of everyone else. Similarly, this requires each person within the community to serve others within the community. There may be a person or persons attached to the community who only receive from the community, but that person or those persons do not actually become part of the community until they begin serving as well.

What do you think about Barth’s assumptions concerning Christian community? Do you have anything to add?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 10-7-2008

    Nice to read your thoughts on these assumptions.

    Your final point about community serving one another reminds me of something I wrote a while back.

    ” In countering our consumer culture, I must emphasize that it is not wrong for people to come to the church in hopes of having their needs met. We live in a broken world with broken people, and, just like Jesus, we need to serve people by meeting their needs. However, we must not be satisfied to meet needs!!! We must strive to move people into a new season of life where they start serving others (even while they are being served).”

  2. 10-7-2008

    Could you give me some scripture for the statement that: “There may be a person or person attached to the community who only receive from the community, but that person or those person do not actually become part of the community until they begin serving as well.”

    Is it constant serving that makes them part of the community and at what intensity? Would taking the time to smile at me when they are having a crummy day them-self but that smile keeps me from despair, would that be serving? But who measures that? A humble person wouldn’t recognise that they have provided a service and no one else may have noticed, even me.

    I thought we were supposed to be inviting people to the banquet that we don’t intend to get a reciprocal invitation from.

    I thought that the community was the Church, I thought that acknowledgement of Jesus Christ, the death he died for sins and His resurrection and triumph over death was what included me in the “community”. I had no idea that my ticket in was a certain amount of service.

    I understand that being a doer, makes it hard to watch those who are not. And those thoughts come up not just out of times of resentment because we are working so hard, but I recognise that those feelings come up when we are content and receiving warm glowy feelings for our “serving” and we just want everyone to have the whole package, the complete experience.

    How then is “membership,” “adoption” solely based on God’s work in us and not good works that we do.

    But maybe I should stop now, I may have misunderstood and I am just flapping my yapper. I did ask for scripture so I’ll take it.

    But I was just thinking.

  3. 10-7-2008

    Hey Lanny,

    You said:

    “How then is “membership,” “adoption” solely based on God’s work in us and not good works that we do.”

    What would you do with these verses based of that statement?

    Eph 2:10
    10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

    Titus 2
    11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

    I know you know the scriptures quite well. But there seems to be a demphasizing of what God saved us to in your statement. What I hear today is a static move from a hellish position to a heavenly one and that is it. But in most of Paul’s writings He emphasizes the “good works” part of salvation just as much as the positional part of salvation.

    So I would say that God saved us for to walk not to sit. Community is likewise. If a man had half of his body that didn’t work we would call it dysfunctional, it seems that even in Eph 4 there is an emphasis on what we are to do which is to “build up”. I believe that the Ephesians would have though of community much like Barth, Joe and Alan are talking about.

    We do come to get our needs met and to meet needs. If we come only to meet needs we aren’t in community and if we come only getting our needs met we are not in community.

    I could be off but my two cents.

  4. 10-7-2008


    I like Barth’s assumptions, and your comments.

    It has been my joy to be served by brothers and sisters in Christ who would, in the secular world, be considered unable to do so; those with Down’s Syndrome, wheel chair bound, and even severely mentally disabled.

    I like Lionel’s words too. Of one thing I’m certain; if I had needed to contribute to my being a child of God, I wouldn’t have made it.

    Service is a result of what He has done, not a membership ticket purchased by my effort.