Karl Barth on the Church

Karl Barth, in turning to the subject of the Church, makes sure we understand that we must see it as it is, in all the ugliness and deformity which comes with its historical existence. Yet, there is a “hope and a yearning”:

The credo ecclesiam [I believe in the Church : Apostle’s Creed] can and necessarily will involve much distinguishing and questioning, much concern and shame. It can and necessarily will be a very critical credo. In relation to the side of the Church which is generally visible it can and necessarily will express what does not amount to much more than a hope and a yearning. But it does take the Church quite seriously in its common visibility—which is its earthly and historical existence. It confesses faith in the invisible aspect which is the secret of the visible. Believing in the ecclesia invisibilis [invisible Church] we will enter the sphere of labour and conflict with the ecclesia visibilis [visible Church]. Without doing this, without a discriminate but serious participation in the historical life of the community, its activity, its upbuilding, its mission, in a kind of purely theoretical and abstract churchliness, no one has ever seriously repeated the credo ecclesiam. (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/1, 654)

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