The Chair and the Desk, 10/5/15

From the chair:

I find myself once again in need of this warning story that Jesus told:

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ ” 

-Luke 16:19-31


From the desk:

“In virtue of [the Church’s] proclamation of a general, timeless, neutral and blunted instead of concrete truth, it might still claim and even to some degree enjoy a certain validity in the eyes of men as one of the constructs and forces of world-occurrence. In this way it might make it easier for the world to recognize and tolerate if not to accept itself and its function. For what particular objection can the world have to a Church which understands and discharges its task in so innocuous a way? Its contradiction and opposition will usually be directed only against a community which brings out the concrete relevance of the Gospel. But if the Church does in fact make itself invisible, and the Gospel is being made or has already been made timeless and irrelevant on its lips, it has to realize that it has forfeited its own true right to exist, that it cannot expect any serious respect on the part of the world, that it cannot be sure of its own cause in face of it, and above all that its vitally necessary connexion with its Lord has been hopelessly broken. As salt which has lost its savor (Mt. 5:13), it is good for nothing be to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.”

-Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/3/2, T&T Clark study ed., p. 816

It’s scary to be specific, to say what we mean, to “speak truth to power,” but our Lord has called us, and he is our Lord, so we must speak with bold specificity to the world in which he has put us.


“The chair” is the one Annie aptly chose for the corner of our living room, and it’s where I am committed to daily hearing from God’s Word–the Word I above all else hope to speak to others. “The desk” is the one by my coffee grounds and spare charger (if I get to the library early enough); it’s where I have the privilege of reading and thinking all day, where I intend to learn for others’ sake.

2 thoughts on “The Chair and the Desk, 10/5/15”

    1. I’m reading in English, and I’m finding that I generally appreciate Barth–in every assigned passage, I’ve found ideas that challenge me in really helpful ways–but I don’t appreciate Barth hagiography. I’m increasingly convinced that he thought a lot less of himself that most of the secondary sources on him do.

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