Quotable Barth: Our “Paper Pope”

This is how Karl Barth describes the shift towards Biblicism that took place in much of Protestantism after the Reformation:

The Bible was now grounded upon itself apart from the mystery of Christ and the holy Ghost. It became a “paper Pope,” and unlike the living Pope in Rome it was wholly given up into the hands of its interpreters. It was no longer a free and spiritual force, but an instrument of human power. (CD I.2, p 525)

Here is where Barth finds the great sin of Biblicism. Rather than submitting to the Word made flesh revealed in the Bible (i.e. Jesus), we have all-to-often submitted simply to the book, to the Bible. Which ultimately takes the authority away from Christ and places it into the hands of the interpreter of Scripture.

I hope to blog more about Barth and Biblicism in the near future (as Barth will actually be addressing the subject more directly in chapter 20, which I am about to start). Christian Smith’s eye-opening book,  The Bible Made Impossible (which I read in December), is a devastating critique of Biblicism… and actually offers Barth’s Christocentric hermeneutic as as a way forward.

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