This We Believe: The Theological Declaration of Barmen affirmation 1

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“I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14.6) “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber…I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” (John 10.1, 9)

Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.

We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.

Each of the 6 affirmations of this declaration of faith begins with a scripture quote (or two)–which is in itself an affirmation, that Scripture speaks to particular issues and contexts, and must be interpreted and applied to each context.

We have heard words like these before–The Brief Statement of Faith picked up this language from both the Scots Confession and Barmen–that we hear, trust, obey, and serve only one: the God made known to us in Christ. Here we find Jesus referred to as God’s Word (capital W), which picks up on the first few verses of John 1, in which Jesus is called the Logos or Word of God. It is this Word that we look to when ordering our lives, this Word we obey in all things, this Word we turn to in times of distress or wonder. In the PCUSA one of our foundational statements is that “Jesus Christ is head of the church”–there is no person or doctrine or book that we look to first or that has more authority. The church is under the authority of Jesus Christ, the Word of God.

This “yes” also means a “no”–there is no other authority for the church. The state, the culture, the government, an individual, the military, or a piece of writing can never be the source or authority for the gospel. The Word of God, who is known to us through the Holy Spirit and through the word written, is the sole source of our proclamation of good news. The Nazi government was trying to force the church to proclaim a different message than that seen in Christ, and here they push back, insisting that it is impossible to preach the gospel when pulling from a source other than Christ.

In this statement, the confessing church movement also declares that other forms of God’s revelation are not to be trusted, because God has chosen to reveal God’s self through Christ, whom we know through scripture and through his presence in our midst. This implies that so-called “natural theology” (in which one can glean knowledge of God from God’s creation) is also suspect. I doubt many of us would take it that far, though we might affirm that it’s only possible to know God in a very limited way through creation, without also interacting with the word written and proclaimed and the Word incarnate.

This is the very first affirmation for a reason–on this hangs all the rest of the argument. Our faith is not founded on an idea, a concept, a book, a feeling. Our faith is founded on a person–a relationship with a person who was (and is) the embodiment of God. There is no other foundation than this, however hard the government, the economy, the culture, the media, or even we ourselves as individuals might try.

What do you think about this affirmation? How does it speak to our context today? What difficulties do you have? What questions? How does it help or hinder your understanding of your own faith?

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One response »

  1. Pingback: peeking in on the Men’s Breakfast talk…Church and State « the Blog of RCLPC

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