Welcome to The Karl Barth Society of Amherst, Massachusetts - a local chapter of the The Karl Barth Society of North America. This site is maintained by Chris TerryNelson. Please let me know how I can make this page a better resource for you. Email me, view my profile. You can also visit my new personal website, Disruptive Grace.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Welcome to the Karl Barth Society of Amherst. We hope to enjoy a long life-span, even as people come and go from our most transient home: the town of Amherst. The churches of the Pioneer Valley are in desparate need of serious theological inquiry, and this society is intended to meet this need in a particular way. We open our doors for public reflection on a Swiss-German theologian (1886-1968) who wrote the longest systematic theology in history (over 9,000 pages). There might be some good concern as to why we should NOT study theology, let alone Karl Barth.

Question: Theology is a wasteful enterprise, filled with arm-chair thinkers in ivory towers. Doing true theology consists of reading one's Bible, right? So why look at another dead white dude when we have so much to learn about God in Scripture? Shouldn't we be doing a Bible study as a mission to the biblically illiterate Valley?

Answer: Theology is a wasteful enterprise only when it fits the above definition. And to be sure, the Bible is the witness of God's Word, the source of theological inquiry of God in Jesus Christ. The Bible should not be side-swiped in any fashion. The importance of the biblical texts are not diminished by theological inquiry, especially when we're talking of Karl Barth. This theologian is Reformed, and thus takes the Bible very seriously! To engage Barth's dogmatics, we shall indeed require the Bible (and our spotty knowledge of it) in the other hand at all times. The mission of theology, as we shall see with Church Dogmatics I/1 is to, as the Church of Jesus Christ, to scientifically compare our own proclamation with that of God, who spoke through and to Israel and the Church. He is still speaking to us this day, and so we must listen. In short, a study of Barth is a way of studying the Scriptures. It shall challenge us to know our Bible better, and perhaps even rebuke Barth for the moves he makes exegetically and theologically. Finally, concerning mission to the Pioneer Valley to increase biblical knowledge, we must realize that this mission is ecumenical, and spans both the Church and the World. All are welcome!

Question: Of all the great theologians (Athanasius, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Schliermacher, to name a few), why Karl Barth? Isn't he too dense?

Anwer: The density of Barth is often attributed to both his content and his writing style. Here is a systmatic theologian who, in great continental fashion it seems, does not write theology as a system. Linear Western thought is somehow missing here with Barth, and so there is great uproar at his writings for giving easy and insprirational titles to his excurses (ex. "Christ - The Judge Judged In Our Place") while making the excurses incredibly hard to understand. We shall learn to read Barth in the only way possible - by reading Karl Barth. There is some excellent secondary literature on reading Barth and that interprets and summarizes Barth well, but we should not let this deter us from the text itself (in the same way reading a commentary on Matthew should not engross one to the point of putting Matthew down).

One task still remains: we need to think through what time to meet. I would prefer people either email me at teologia@hotmail.com or respond to this blog below.

I am excited to begin this inquiry with all of you.

We shall use the reading methods of Princeton Theological Seminary by:

A. Reading and discussing together weekly.
B. Reading 5 pages at a time.
C. Reading aloud first, THEN discussing the text, so as to make for a CLOSE reading.
D. Meeting for 1.5 hours.

Any further suggestions are appreciated. We are in need of a specific time to meet. It can be early morning or night-time, and it can be weekday or weekend.

I will keep you posted on what space shall be open to us weekly. This might involve a combination of place, such as The Ark (http://www.thearkcenter.org), Rao's, the Whately Diner, or perhaps our own homes. Wherever we are, we shall need SOMETHING to drink (coffee for morning, beer for night).

The Lord be with you.


Blogger EvilEutychus said...

Here's where I get to be positive. This valley really needs theological discussion. Three cheers to Nelly for offering a starting point. Love him or not, understand him or not, Barth may as well be the place to start. Rather, Nelly is the person to start with. He cares!

4:00 PM  
Blogger TharbusKhan said...

does evileutychus = dave thom? because he sure sounds like him.

8:17 AM  
Blogger GoobyNelly said...

that's what I thought. but perhaps he's supposed to remain anonymous.

7:34 AM  
Blogger TharbusKhan said...

ok sorry. lets leave the mistery unsloved then!

10:44 AM  

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