public faith

A beautiful & brilliant account of why & how to confess our faith in public, with confidence & humility. Barth, CD I/2, p.588-589:

...the Church is constituted as the Church by a common hearing and receiving of the Word of God... The life of the Church is the life of the members of a body. Where there is any attempt to break loose from the community of hearing and receiving necessarily involved, any attempt to hear and receive the Word of God in isolation - even the Word of God in the form of Holy Scripture - there is no Church, and no real hearing and receiving of the Word of God; for the Word of God is not spoken to individuals, but to the Church of God and to individuals only in the Church. The Word of God itself, therefore, demands this community of hearing and receiving. Those who really hear and receive it do so in this community. They would not hear and receive it if they tried to withdraw from this community.

But this common action is made concrete in the Church's confession. We will take the concept first in its most general sense. Confession in the most general sense is the accounting and responding which in the Church we owe one another and have to receive from one another in relation to the hearing and receiving of the Word of God. Confessing is the confirmation of that common action. I have not heard and received alone and for myself, but as a member of the one body of the Church. In confessing, I make known in the Church the faith I have received by and from the Word of God. I declare that my faith cannot be kept to myself as though it were a private matter. I acknowledge the general and public character of my faith by laying it before the generality, the public of the Church. I do not do this to force it on the Church in the peculiar form in which I necessarily hold it, as though I were presuming either to want or be able to rule in the Church with my faith as it is mine. On the contrary, I do it to submit it to the verdict of the Church, to enter into debate with the rest of the Church about the common faith of the Church, a debate in which I may have to be guided, or even opposed and certainly corrected, i.e., an open debate in which I do not set my word on the same footing as the Word of God, but regard it as a question for general consideration according to the Word of God commonly given to the Church. But because my confession is limited in this way, I cannot refrain from confessing, I cannot bury my talent. Irrespective of what may come of it or whether it may be shown that I have received ten talents or only one - I owe it to the Church not to withhold from it my faith, which can be a true faith only in community with its own, just as conversely it cannot be too small a thing for the Church, in order to assure itself afresh of a true faith in the community of faith, in order not to miss anything in its encounter with the Word of God, to take account even of my confession of faith and to enter into a debate which is open on its side as well.

But it is obvious that before I myself make a confession I must myself have heard the confession of the Church, i.e., the confession of the rest of the Church. In my hearing and receiving of the Word of God I cannot separate myself from the Church to which it is addressed. I cannot thrust myself into the debate about a right faith which goes on in the Church without first having listened... If my confession is to have weight in the Church, it must first be weighted with the fact that I have heard the church. If I have not heard the Church, I cannot speak to it... If I am to confess my faith generally with the whole Church and in that confession be certain that my faith is the right faith, then I must begin with the community of faith and therefore hear the Church's confession of faith as it comes to me from other members of the Church. And for that very reason I recognise an authority, a superiority in the Church: namely, that the confession of others who were before me in the Church and are beside me in the Church is superior to my confession if this really is an accounting and responding in relation to my hearing and receiving.