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, December 06, 2005

Last Night's Meeting

So it was Scott, Leah, and I last night. We had a grand old time, and feeling rather enthusiastic, went and did a bad thing: we read through TWO sections and went till 10pm. An apology for those reading to catch up! However, here's a summary, which uses Geoffrey Bromiley's Introduction to Barth.
In section 2, entitled "Dogmatics as an Enquiry," Barth makes the content of dogmatics must be known as DIVINE truth. This divine truth, however, lest we make the assumption that it is abstract general truth, is rather different: it is PERSONAL truth, i.e. the truth in Jesus Christ. For this very reason, it is truth known in the posture of obedience. Barth adds that dogmatic theology is a science of DOGMA, and not DOGMAS. What's the difference? Barth is weary of being "systematic" theologian in the sense that much of Roman Catholic and older Protestant orthodoxy is guilty of being concerned with finding the correct "system" for an entire set of truths handed down to us through the ages (i.e., in the creeds). Barth loves creeds, and believes they guide the dogmatic task, yet they are fallible human works and cannot be the sole basis of the content of theology, even one concerned with dogma! Barth defines dogmatics as an enquiry that investigates the content of theology with the practical aim of considering how it is to be correctly stated and conveyed in each new age, language, culture, and society. Scott pointed out that he is very much in line w/ Schliermacher here, against the wishes of, say, the postliberals in Lindbeck's tradition (Chris Sykes) or the evangelicals in Carl Henry's tradition (kudos to Leah for this bit). How would Hans Frei think of Barth's view of creeds, I wonder.

The third section is where Barth furthers his thesis that theology can be done only in the Church and in obedience. Dogmatics is an act of faith, as the title says. Outside, people may still talk about God but not in relation to the true object - divine truth (Jesus Christ). Faith ultimately depends on grace, but its human reference very pointedly raises the question of the personal faith, piety, existential disposition of the theologian. This is a valid question for Barth, yet it is not the only one, for even the believing theologian can still engage in theology as though it were an abstact intellectual pursuit. In contrast, Barth contends that dogmatics itself must always be undertaken as an act of penitence, obedience, and prayer - all three of which are specific constituents of faith!
Now my favorite part of this is his quotes of different theologians, particularly Aquinas, who apparently at the end of this life and his massive Summa Theologica, stated that all this work was "chaff, and I wish God would end my life and my thinking."
Amen.
See you next week: same Barth time, same Barth channel.

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