The Church and the Gospel

'The appointment of Jesus to be the Christ takes place in the Spirit and must be apprehended in the Spirit. It is self-sufficient, unlimited, and in itself true. And moreover, it is what is altogether new, the decisive factor and turning-point in man's consideration of God. . . . To the proclamation and receiving of this Gospel the whole activity of the Christian community — its teaching, ethic, and worship — is strictly related. But the activity of the community is related to the Gospel only insofar as it is no more than a crater formed by the explosion of a shell that seeks to be no more than a void in which the Gospel reveals itself. The people of Christ, His community, know that no sacred word or work or thing exists in its own right: they know only those words and works and things which by their negation are sign-posts tot he Holy One. If anything Christian (!) be unrelated to the Gospel, it is a human by-product, a dangerous religious survival, a regrettable misunderstanding. For in this case content would be substituted for a void, convex for concave, positive for negative, and the characteristic marks of Christianity would be possession and self-sufficiency rather than deprivation and hope. If this be persisted in, there emerges, instead of the community of Christ, Christendom, and ineffective peace-pact or compromise with that existence which, moving with its own momentum, lies on this side of the resurrection. Christianity would then have lost all relation to the power of God."

– Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans

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