Monday, June 30, 2008

Barth: problematizing the adjective “Christian”

What, then, is meant by such phrases as “Christian” view of the universe, “Christian” morality, “Christian” art? Where are “Christian” personalities, “Christian” families, “Christian” groups, “Christian” newspapers, “Christian” societies, endeavors, and institutions? Who gives us permission to use this adjective so profusely? Especially when we must know that to confer this adjective, in its peculiarly serious import, is withdrawn altogether from any authority we have. This, if you like, unimportant misuse of language: does it not become evil to anybody who reflects at all? Is it not just a presumption that can allude to a most general thing as though existing . . . Ought not a serious consideration of the office of the Holy Spirit to the pardoned sinner to have this small result, at least, namely: to make it more difficult in the future for such an adjective as this to drip from our lips and our pen?
—Karl Barth, The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life: The Theological Basis of Ethics, trans. R. Birch Hoyle (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1993), 37-38.

1 comment:

m@ said...

Brilliant. I tend to agree and believe that "Christian" should mostly never be used as an adjective, but only as a noun.

In my view there is no "Christian music", "Christian business", "Christian school", etc. Only Christians.