Our First Barth Society Meeting
Reading aloud, however difficult it is to digest, made for the perfect pace with which to read Barth. This makes sense, given that Church Dogmatics was really his public lectures pasted into book-form. Thus, one can read aloud as if one were preaching. And I personally like pretending to preach someone else's sermon. I could start a new fad: reading the sermons of people who knew how to preach! Now now . . .
I have made copies of the readings, and so if you wish to look them over before next Monday's meeting, gimme a call and I can drop them off for you.
As a way of summarizing and spitting back to Barth what he spat at us, I had us read the headliner on page 3: "As a theological discipline dogmatics is the scientific self-examination of the Christian Church with respect to the content of its distinctive talk about God." We unpacked the terms "theological discipline," "scientific," "self-examination of the Christian Church," "content," and "distinctive talk about God." First, theology is a CHURCH discipline. It is a discipline that has a special object - namely Jesus Christ, who is the "being of the Church" and "God who graciously reveals Himself and reconciles Himself to man." This object, which forms the basis, goal, and content of all Christian proclamation, is not only spoken of by theology. Theology should not be arrogant, thinking that it "holds special keys to special doors."
There were two things that Barth was trying to hold, which made for very complicated reading. On the one hand, Barth is saying that theology is a discipline, a science. It has an object of knowledge that it studies and describes, and often times uses the voices of other disciplines in its own. On the other hand, Barth doesn't just want to baptize the thoughts of others as HE sees fit for theology, but also wants to emphasize the solidarity theology has with the sciences. He says on p. 11 that theology is a SECULAR science." It is a "human" science, in that it is just as concerned with the search for Truth. It is also fallible! Instead of "resigning the title of science to others," Barth is keenly aware that we should not let a "general concept of science . . . which is admittedly pagan" (i.e. Aristotelian) dictate the agenda or define the concept of theology. He was speaking to the Church about how much it had sold-out to the methods of "scientia" (natural science, sociology, history, psychology, education or pedagogics, etc.). While there is no principle of necessity for calling theology a "science," Barth must do so, he believes, out of practical concerns. By assuming the title of science, Barth is both giving theology a solidarity with other disciplines, yet challenging them to be a true science - i.e. (and this is something his student Thomas Torrance picked up on heavily!) by letting the object of inquiry reveal itself, dictate the agenda, form the method, and give us knowledge. The theological revolution that Barth was engaged in was similar to that (and parallel in time-frame) to Einstein's revolution in science. We see in Barth a common move: critiquing the Church directly, thereby critiquing the world indirectly.
There are plenty of things that I haven't covered, but we'll summarize this once more during the next meeting before moving on to Section 2: "Dogmatics as Inquiry," pp. 11-16.
Major props to those who could translate the German and Latin phrases! I'll start brushing up on my Greek for next week!
Have a great evening!