The Paper Pope

“Barth accepts and welcomes scholarly criticism of the Bible, even when it shows the Scriptures to be full of errors and inconsistencies. He does not consider the Bible infallible, and he deplores orthodox Protestants who make it into “a paper Pope.” Nevertheless, the Bible testifies to God’s Word, which is revealed to man through human speech. The words that the Biblical writers use may not always be the appropriate ones, but they must be accepted as words elected by God. “

~ Witness to an Ancient Truth, TIME magazine (20 April 1962)


This is a quote about theologian Karl Barth I found browsing the internet. If it is true that this is what Barth thought about the Bible, then I find it very interesting. I have been thinking along these lines. I have sometimes wondered how we can call the Bible the infallible word of God when it has been translated and interpreted by men. Men who have their own opinions colouring every page. I have also seen the problem when it is elevated above all else and become a yard stick, rule book, ultimate authority. It’s dangerous.

In my developing ideas on this I’ve thought that the Bible is divinely inspired (as are great inventions, medicine, prophecy, creativity etc) as well as historical documents which point to the revelation of God throughout time. It’s a God-inspired and special record of His interactions with the human race (in Israel mostly…surely He revealed Himself to other people groups throughout history only we have no records of this?). I believe in it’s truth. However I don’t believe every jot and letter of it has come to us in absolute perfection. I believe the ultimate authority is the Word of God (Jesus Himself) which is why the Bible interpreted dogmatically without relationship with Jesus creates horrendous misrepresentations of God, is used to lord it over people, and all the other dastardly things we’ve seen in history done in the name of God, (slavery, racism, colonialism, religious wars, religion).

Your thoughts?


3 thoughts on “The Paper Pope

  1. […] The Paper Pope ( […]

  2. dc says:

    “I believe the ultimate authority is the Word of God (Jesus Himself)”

    From where do you get this idea if not the Bible?? What if those parts of the Bible (regarding Jesus and his authority) are the parts that are fallible? Oh oh.

    God is revealed in three main ways.
    1. Creation
    2. The Person of Jesus
    3. The Bible

    I think you’ll find that very few believe that the NIV or NASB or even KJV are infalible, inerrant word of God. Rather, most believe that the original documents as originally given were. Which then raises the question, who decided what books should be included and left out?

    It’s a huge, foundational topic.

  3. Thinky Think says:

    I agree with what you have said above re the ways God has revealed Himself to us…we believe in the Person of Christ because of what the Bible says about Him. So, yeah the truth and reliability of scripture is pretty important. I think my problem is that I’m not entirely sure about HOW to read the Bible…it’s not the same as picking up a novel, newspaper, or text book. It’s a diverse collection of ancient writings. I think it’s been misunderstood, and misinterpreted A LOT of the time.

    I’m a complete novice. So much to learn.

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