Daily Riches: The Dangerous Drowsing of the Laity (Karl Barth)

“No one, however, can be content at this point to be a mere ‘layman,’ to be indolent, to be no more than a passive spectator or reader. No one is excused the task of asking questions or the more difficult task of providing and assessing answers. Preaching in the congregation, and the theology which serves its preparation, can be faithful to its theme and therefore relevant and adapted to the circumstances and edifying to the community, only if it is surrounded, sustained and constantly stimulated and fructified by the questions and answers of the community. With his own questions and answers in matters of right understanding
and doctrine, each individual Christian thus participates in what the community is commanded to do. If he holds aloof, or slackens, or allows himself to sleep, or wanders into speculation and error, he must not be surprised if sooner or later the same will have to be said about the community as such and particularly about its more responsible members. How many complaints about the ‘Church’ would never be made if only those who make them were to realise that we ourselves are the Church, so that what it has or has not to say stands or falls with us. There can be no doubt that all the great errors which have overtaken the preaching and theology of the community in the course of its history have had their true origin, not so much in the studies of the well-known errorists and heretics who have merely blabbed them out, but rather in the secret inattention and neglect, the private drowsing and wandering and erring, of innumerable nameless Christians who were not prepared to regard the listening of the community to the Word as their own concern, who wanted privacy in their thinking, and who thus created the atmosphere in which heresy and error became possible and even inevitable in the community.” Karl Barth

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Have you thought about your responsibility to be a skillful and critical thinker in the congregation? …are you simply going with the flow?
  • Does your church encourage not only community but individuality? …not only conformity to Biblical norms, but sensitivity to violation of those norms?
  • Do you know the great Christian tradition well enough to know when it’s being ignored or perverted?

Abba, may we love you with our minds as well as our hearts.

For More: Church Dogmatics: A Selection … by Helmut Gollwitzer


These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow and share my blog. My goal is to share something of unique value with you daily in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

4 thoughts on “Daily Riches: The Dangerous Drowsing of the Laity (Karl Barth)

  1. False teachers don’t like it when you expose their error and their adoring flock also despises those who stand for the truth. I’m not sure what Barth is talking about. Look at the example of Jesus Christ, He exposed the apostasy of the religious community and was crucified for His fidelity to the truth. I think that Barth is speaking about the world (the religious organizations that go by the name of church), not Christ’s body, and although he exhorts the people in the pews to ask questions, he doesn’t specify that those questions must be driven by a faithful understanding of the Bible, which alone is the Word of God. His exhortation is way too vague. God bless us.


    • I only started reading Barth, so I don’t have a good sense of where his may be coming from. I liked though that he put responsibility on people in the pews. I’m not sure he thinks they’re often lived up to that, but then there is a general sense that certain things will not be tolerated from the pulpit. The question is, is there intolerance where there should be, or is it often misplaced. Yes, God have mercy on us – and he does or the church would not have limped along through all these generations.


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