To the Physicist
In true encounter with heresy faith is plunged into conflict with itself, because, so long and so far as it is not free of heresy, so long and so far as heresy affects it, so long and so far as it must accept responsibility in relation to it, it cannot allow even the voice of unbelief which it thinks it hears in heresy to cause it to treat it as not at least also faith but simply as unbelief. It must understand it as a possibility of faith. p.33 CD 1.1.2
The word heresy appears almost complete lost in the lingua franca of the 21st century church. Labels such as Pelgianism or Arianism or Modalism are spoken of mostly in the past tense.
The Post Modern preference that everyone should be free to believe as they wish has lead to the situation in which whilst we may describe different theological positions by particular labels e.g. ‘evangelical’ ‘liberal’ ‘progressive’ but rarely, if ever is the word heresy used by one group about another. Although. Often it is still inferred that one set of truths or one particular church has it right in contrast to other churches.
Barth’s conversation around the issue of heresy enters the quagmire and difficult of the topic and pushes us to the edges on the paradox of the true articulation of the Christian faith by the Church. It appears almost as if in the search to articulate and preserve the truth of Jesus Christ dogmatics needs heresy as a foil. In the cut and thrust of the argument we discover right belief. I was struck by Barth’s comment that in the encounter with heresy and unbelief “It must understand it as the possibility of faith.” Do I hear in this a humble admission such as Paul’s we only see through a dark glass? A humility that despite grasping hold of faith so doggedly even Barth had room for the possibility that there may be in error in his thinking?
Having said this Barth appears very much a proponent of true knowing coming only through revelation. Is revelation for Barth simply the event of Jesus Christ in history? Or is it, which I suspect it is, the ongoing revelation of the risen Christ throughout history?