To Suffer and to Overcome: The Ecclesiology of James Cone and Karl Barth Open Access

Hankins, Timothy (2015)

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James Cone and Karl Barth have very different, but ultimately compatible and even complementary views of the nature and mission of the Church. A survey of the two theologians' work reveals an emphasis in Cone's writing on the Church as a community characterized by and participating in the suffering of Christ, and an emphasis in Barth's writing on the Church as a community characterized by and participating in the victory of Christ. It would seem that these two points of view are conflicting. However, since both theologians take as a point of departure the historical and theological reality of the incarnation of the Word of God, there is an intersection between their views of the Church. In the incarnation of Jesus Christ, we see the convergence of suffering and triumph, both the reality of death and the promise of resurrection. Jesus Christ, in the incarnation, is God's statement of solidarity with those who suffer, those who are oppressed. The Kingdom of God is ultimately a kingdom of the oppressed. God with and for God's people is the God who has shown willingness to suffer alongside those who suffer. The Church, which is the ongoing incarnation of Jesus Christ in the world, must suffer in order to experience the restoration of all things to their right relationship with God. The Church achieves the nexus of its praxis and its kerygma when it proclaims that, while suffering is not the last word in the life of the Church, its suffering is necessary in order to experience ultimate triumph over the kingdom of this world. The Church participates in Christ's final victory because the Church shares in Christ's suffering. There is no resurrection if there is no cross. Here the ecclesiological viewpoints of Barth and Cone come into conversation and find common ground with one another. This essay will examine Barth and Cone in their particular contexts as theologians, as teachers, and as pastors in order to articulate similarities and differences in their ecclesiological perspectives and to discern how these perspectives might apply to the Church today.

Table of Contents

Introduction 3

Barth the Red Pastor 5

Cone, the Black Church and the White World 9

Contexts in Conversation 15

Encounter with the Word of God 19

The Kerygmatic Ministry of the Church 30

A Scriptural Case Study 34

The Mission of the Church and God's Mission 42

Works Cited 49

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