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Essay on The Visible and Invisible Church in Karl Barth and Henri De Lubac

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The Visible and Invisible Church in Karl Barth and Henri De Lubac


Since the Reformation there has been a question of what is the nature of the Church. Is it visible, invisible or both? Karl Barth and Henri de Lubac both try to answer this question. Barth believes that Church is visible in as much as it is a human community and invisible in the reality of the faith that forms it. De Lubac agrees with Barth this far, yet De Lubac takes his theology to a higher level. In that the Church also participates in the Divine life of Christ.
Karl Barth believes that the human community is what makes up the visible church. The visible Church flows out of the invisible Church. It’s invisible only in the sense that that community is called together in faith to be the Church. According to Barth, the invisible aspect of the Church should never been seen as being in identity with Christ or a second version of him or extension of him. The Church should never be the following words; "vicarius Christi, or a corredemptrix or a mediatrix omnium gratiarum" because by using these words the Church can only surrender, harm or lose its true invisible being. This leads to Barth's belief that the community is the earthly historical form of the existence of Christ and also that Christ has a heavenly historical existence. Through his heavenly exaltation Christ is and becomes Lord of his community and the Head of his body. Therefore "the acting community of saints can be regarded as secondary, and the order of the community must be respected and the relationship should not be reversed." Barth writes that the distinction between Christ and Church must be maintained because the community is made up of mortal, sinful men. He goes on to write that we are "...


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...ce, Rev. Prof. T.F., D.D., D.Theol., editors, (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1962).

Barth, Karl Dogmatics in Outline (New York: Harper Torch Books, 1959)

Barth, Karl. Karl Barth's Table Talk, Scottish Journal of Theology Occasional Papers No.10, Godsey, D. John, editor, (Edinburgh: Oliver and Tweed, 1963)

De Lubac, Henri. The Splendor of the Church, trans by Michael Mason (San Francisco: Ignatius Press,1999)

Hunsinger, George. Karl Barth: The Church as Witness (http://ptsm.edu/grow/Barth/church_as_witness.htm, 2000)

O'Grady, Colin, M.S.C. The Church in the Theology of Karl Barth, (Cleveland: Corpus Books,1968).

von Balthasar, Hans Urs. The Theology of Karl Barth, Drury, John, trans., (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1962).

Weber, Otto. Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics, Cochrane, Arthur C., trans., (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1950).


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