This post continues on from the last post, by thinking about the Protestant theology of the Word. This is something “Bible-believing-Christians” I think often take for granted. The Christian church was not always characterized by a bible-centric, or better, Wordcentric (Logocentric) approach to God; instead it was a churchcentric, or ecclesiocentric approach to God (i.e. all things salvific and otherwise were mediated through the Roman Catholic and/or Eastern Orthodox churches). It is the Protestant Reformation ignited by Martin Luther in 1517 that displaced the authority of the church with the authority of the Word of God; this reoriented the place that the church had. Indeed, the church still had a very important place (just read some Calvin on the importance of the church in echo of Augustine), but it no longer was the location where grace was dispensed (primarily), nor where God was first encountered; the scriptures took on this role in the magisterial Protestant Reformation. For the early Reformers (and the later) Holy Scripture was inextricably related to the eternal Word, Jesus Christ; but importantly was not confused for the incarnate Word of God. Muller writes,
Word and the history of revelation in the thought of the Reformers. The Reformers — Calvin, Bullinger, and Musculus — acknowledge a logical and chronological distinction between the essential Word of God, the Word spoken, and the Word written. The Scripture is not Christ — rather it “clothes” Christ and communicates Christ’s promise to us. Christ, the eternal and essential Word, is the ground and foundation, the underlying meaning of the Scriptures. The entire revelation of God in the Old Testament depended on the mediation of Christ as Word of God — first in the form of “secret revelations” and oracles given to the patriarchs, later in forms of the written law, the prophecies, the histories, and the psalms that are also “to be accounted part of his Word.” This sense of the historical path, indeed, the various administrations or dispensations of revelation, is a significant element of the early Reformed theology that must be counted as a beginning of the Reformed mediation on covenant that would ultimately yield the federal theology of the seventeenth century.
Just to twist this now, what we see in the description of these early Reformers is an emphasis that is not foreign (at all!) to what we end up with in Barth; i.e. an instrumentalization of the written Word of God (Scripture). Yes, Barth, again because of the categories he was working through (i.e. Kant, Hegel, Schleiermacher, et al.) articulated the “clothing of Christ” differently than his 16th and 17th forebears, but the precedent was there — Barth (and TF Torrance for that matter) did not think from a vacuum. Barth and Torrance both did their thinking from within a Reformed Protestant evangelical theology of the Word.
Further, Barth and Torrance both benefited from what Muller calls “federal theology,” which Muller believes is directly related to the Reformed Protestant emphasis upon the Word. Covenant was reified in Barth’s theology (under the pressure of his doctrine of election — which was also a reification of the Reformed double predestination), as it was in Torrance’s theology (where we see ‘mediation’ through the vicarious humanity of Christ within the covenantal framework functioning).
I have been trying to point-up at least two things in this post: 1) Evangelical Christians (Reformed or otherwise) should not take for granted what they have received as a result of the Protestant Reformation; i.e. an emphasis on the Bible (and all the implications of what that has meant and continues to mean whether that be in academic or popular expression). 2) Karl Barth and Thomas Torrance worked from and within the categories provided for by the Protestant Reformation as Reformed theologians operating in the spirit of the Reformed principle of semper reformanda (‘always reforming’).
On this latter point I just witnessed, once again, a neo-Post Reformed Orthodox thinker disparage Barth for being confused in his theology, and in his appropriation of Post-Reformed Orthodox history — the irony of this thinker’s assertion is that he also admitted he hasn’t really read Barth, nor Barth studies. Barth was fully aware of the tradition he was working from; the one that is grounded in a principial Word-based theological framework. Ultimately, though, it does not matter whether Barth or Torrance comprehensively appropriated the history right (who has?), what they produced, for my money, far outstrips (but does not leave behind) what the forbears opened up in Reformed theology. They offer a constructive theology deeply dependent upon Reformed theology in the main; a theology of retrieval that cares more about magnifying Jesus rather than repristinating some sort of golden-aged past that ostensibly has a purer theology than any age since.
 Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. Volume Two, Holy Scripture The Cognitive Foundation of Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2003), 188.