Karl Barth’s little book The German Church Conflict is remarkable reading. I read it and hear much of what he writes speaking to the condition of the church today. (More on that in another post on another day.)
In the first essay in the book, he speaks of conflict in the church and how to resolve it. The Confessing Church in Germany was accused by the National Socialists and moderates of stirring up trouble and conflict. The Nazis wanted the church to adopt Nazi theology. The moderates — like the preachers in Birmingham who admonished Martin Luther King Jr. — just wanted the conflict to go away. Barth wrote, in part, to reject the moderate’s arguments that the conflict could not be resolved and should therefore be avoided.
When there is strife in the Church, there is no reason at all for thinking that everybody may be right or perhaps nobody, and that the best course will doubtless be to break off the conflict. No, in the Church there is a judge. The judge alone may end the conflict. And the judge was then and is still today the Word of the apostles and prophets, who for this reason are called the foundation of the Church in Eph. 2:20. They were and are the witnesses whom Jesus Christ has appointed for Himself. They knew what right and truth are, and in their Word, and thus in the Holy Scriptures, the contestants in the Church can and must be able to hear the right and the truth unmistakably at all times.
I often find myself in the moderate camp in our church conflicts. I find Barth’s message a bracing challenge.