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.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Brian McLaren on Barth

Dear Brian,
. . . What is your experience with Barth?

Answer: I have read quite a bit of Barth, but I am by no means a Barth expert. It’s interesting you ask about my experience with Barth, because once, many years ago, while reading a section early in volume 1 of Church Dogmatics, I remember having this intense, gripping, almost scary sense of the glory and transcendence of God. I put the book down and just sat in a state of awe and worship. It was an afternoon I’ll never forget.


Thursday, December 29, 2005

Barth Society Meeting on 1/2/05

Hey guys,
Please come by to the TerryNelson crib at 7:30pm this coming Monday. For those of you with packets, feel free to read "Talk about God and Church Proclamation," pp. 47-71. This is a rather long section of Barth, and so we'll probably only get through half of it. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Possibility of Dogmatic Prolegomena

Barth immediately launches into debate with two movements: Liberal Proestantism and Roman Catholicism. Liberal protestantism begins its prolegomena on a foundation of anthropological, historical, and general existential concerns. Karl Barth's brother, Heinrich Barth, provides Karl w/ three key points on page 39 in the excurses: "1. The juxtaposition of the general and hte particular does not imply a rationalistic attempt to master the particular, i.e., the problem of special historical reality, by subsuming it under a general concept. 2. (And this is most revolutionary for Karl Barth's epistemology!) The truth of existence which shines forth in the history of revelation is not to be regarded as identical withthe general truth of existence, with which existential philosophy as such is concerned, but rather as the light which shines forht here and not elsewhere. THe philosophical or general concept of existence odes not offer knowledge of GOd, but only ananalogy to such knowledge. THus philosophy neither can nor does seek to integrate or subordinate theology to its own nexus of problems, but simply attempts to display its own attitude to dogmatics, which it may well do on the basis of that transcendent understanding. 3. Only in retrospect from revealed truth, i.e., by way of recapitulation and not anticipation, does the philosophyical concept of existence seek to be an analogy to the knowledge of GOd. In nose sense, therefore can it be accepted as an instrument of knowledge of God. It is only to be wished that this self-interpretation of the "critical philosophy of existence" could have been brought into the public debate in a far more unmistakeable form than is the case in the essay quoted. It is alsois also to be wished that towards this end the use of such loaded categories as the general and the particular, positive and historical, might have been abandoned. Again, it must be left to philosophy to assume responsibility for the assertion that in that transcendent knowledge of human existence we have an "analogy" to the knowledge of GOd, since this asseriton cannot possibly be a theological statement. FOr it is hard to see what theological foundation could be found for it. A sharp warning should thus be given to the theologian that his new use of the "old Scholastic term" cannot give any philosophical certainty to his work, so that he must not be entied by any fresh possibility of natural theology. Even the "critical philosophy of existence" cannot give rise to any dogmatic prolegmena. If the assertion of analogy is really to be regarded as recapitulatory rather than anticipatory, then this warning is also to be found inthe meaning of this philosophy itself" (pp. 39-40)
Roman Catholicism seeks a foundation in Scripture with far greater refinement, but does so in such a way that in the end the possibility is still a human one, for while it finds a place for God's action, it merges it into a constantly available relationship to man as God's creation. This is the famous "analogia entis," or "analogy of being," which Barth calls an invention of the "anti-Christ" in the preface. Just as faith is not a deposit with which we claim hold of, nor is our relationship to grace inherent in nature, even our own nature (Brunner gives nature and grace a point of contact in the doctrine of the Imago Dei, or Image of God). Jesus Christ comes to us again and again, and we are thus never capable of holding onto him.
Here Glen and Scott and Leah and I came to discuss the "antennae" in man," whereby we must have SOME capacity to understand revelation. If God gave us this antennae, is this not grace itself simply deposited into us, into our nature? For Barth, I believe that he found such a claim irrelevant to dogmatics, and necessarily irrelevant due to what we might wish to make of our nature. Even if we do have some capacity, what of it? Is it a capacity which we can act within? Or does God awaken that capacity when the moment is right? I believe Barth would say the latter, but would find it lacking any depth to say such a thing. Instead, the analogia entis has historically acted as a step (however small a step) for humanity's unreadiness for grace.

Barth introduces the next section by emphasizing that the Word of God shall be measured by Christ Himself, and so shall any corrections of dogmatics. We shall visit this again on 1/2/06.

No Barth meeting on 12/26

After talking it over, looks like we'll take a break the day after Christmas. However, we shall continue on 1/2/06!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Barth meeting tonight at Glen's House

Hey guys,
So Barth will be at Glen's house tonight. He lives on 94 Leverett Road in Shutesbury. If you're coming up the hill from Amherst, and you hit the center of Shutesbury (post office, townhall, church, etc.) then you've gone too far. He's the 2nd house on the right after Pelham Hill Road. We'll be reading the section entitled "The Possibility of Dogmatic Prolegomena" tonight. Also, we'll feel out whether people want to meet the 26th or not, seeing as it's the day after Christmas and all.
Hope to see you there!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Baird's Take on Barth/Baird Takes on Barth

Baird calls this his entrail . . . :-)

Feeling creative?

So I'd like to put a challenge out on the table for all you artistic types:
Can I get someone to put together a 1-page advertisement for college campuses for the Karl Barth Society of Amherst? I will personally buy the cheapest copy I can find of CD I/1 for the best ad, if that's enough incentive. :-) Email me for a rough concept of what I'm looking for. I made a little something in Word format.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Picture of the Editor

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The grant granted in our place?

Chris Nelson, Glenn Franklin and I have mused about hosting a theology conference in the area.
It sounds like this AAR money might be useful for such an endeavor.
Scott Jackson

To the Members of the AAR New England Maritimes Region:

As many of you will remember, the Steering Committee of the New England/Maritimes Region of the American Academy of Religion concluded two years ago that low member involvement and attendance at regional meetings suggested that these meetings might not be the most effective way for the Region to support its members. With the assistance of the AAR office in Atlanta, we conducted a survey, asking what kinds of alternative activities would benefit members in different parts of the region.

The results indicated that members favored:

1) More local conferences (funding up to $800), to benefit more members throughout the region

2) Teaching workshops (funding up to $800)

3) Local lunch and dinner series to discuss different regional authors’ work (funding up to $400)

All of these activities would be organized by members and supported with regional financial and promotional assistance, provided that they were open to any regional member.

We posted a call for related proposals on the AAR website: http://www.aarweb.org/regions/calls/call-ne.asp. Our goal was to sponsor events in different parts of the region, so that more of our members would benefit.

To date, however, and to our great surprise, we have received no proposals! So, we think that regional members may not know that these proposals are simple to prepare, and that faculty, and graduate students with a faculty mentor, are all eligible to apply. We have also set a rolling deadline, to make it possible to submit an application at any time.

If you have an idea for any of these activities, which can be held at your institution, we welcome proposals. Applications should include a narrative description of the project, not to exceed two pages, detailing the project, and including an explanation of how it also promises to benefit the scholarly and professional life of AAR members and the work of our region. The application should state the time period covered by the project and provide a detailed budget (office expenses, travel expenses, honoraria, stipend, costs related to using a space, etc). Institutional overhead costs, however, should not be included.

The region will provide funding, and use our regional email resources to help promote the activity.

If you have an idea or inquiry, and want feedback, please send either to me, at linda.barnes@bmc.org. Applications can either be sent to me, or to the individuals listed in the call.

With all good wishes,

Linda L. Barnes, PhD, MTS

Associate Professor

Boston University School of Medicine

91 East Concord Street 4102

Boston, MA 02118

The Necessity of Dogmatic Prolegomena

Last night's meeting was a lot of work as we struggled to find the primary verb in Barth's sentences. However, it was also very rewarding. In this section, Barth makes clear from the outset that writing "prolegomena" (or introductions that specify how we begin to attain knowledge of the object in question) has not always been necessary. Many good works in dogmatics have gone quite well without explaining the reason for their method. In fact, often by way of application, the reason for a particular method has become obvious.
Since the 17th century, Barth has noticed prolegomena getting larger and larger in dogmatics, and much to his disdain. These prolegomena deal with apologetics or polemics against the modern skepticism which encroaches upon the dogmatic task. As Emil Brunner put it: "The problem to-day is not the nature of God but His existence, not what is revealed but whether there is such a thing as revelation, not rationalistic corruption at individual points but the questioning of the miracle of revelation as such. It is the problem of the sign and norm of all Christian theology, of the concept of revelation and not its contents. In short, it is the problem of reason and revelation."
In Barth's view, apologetics or polemics (or "eristics," as Brunner likes to call it)
suffer from the disadvantage that they might become a distraction from the true dogmatic task. Furthermore, although it aims at "relevance," it can easily miss this altogether by taking itself too seriously. Theology which does its own job will be the best apologetics. If prolegomena are needed, the necessity arises, not in relation to unbelief, but in relation to error in the church itself. Alongside truth in the church there is also heresy. Dogmatics, having a primary concern for the content of the Church's confession and proclamation, must obviously learn how to distinguish between heresy and truth. Barth finds in the modern period two erroneous movements: Roman Catholicism on the one side, and Liberal Protestantism on the other. The presence of these two movements constitutes the real necessity of dogmatic prolegomena.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Next Barth Meeting for 12/12/05

For those of you who still have packets, please finish reading them up to page 24. Be prepared to receive new ones tomorrow. We'll cover Chapter 2, "The Task of Prolegomena to Dogmatics," Section 1, "The Necessity of Dogmatic Prolegomena," which is pp. 25-36. The following Monday (12/19/05), which shall be held at Glen Franklin's house in Shutesbury, will cover section two, "The Possibility of Dogmatic Prolegomena, pp. 36-44. I will try and copy both these sections for you tomorrow.

Please RSVP if you plan on coming. This way, if there's more than 8 people, I can move it to the Ark at UMass.

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."
See you next week: same Barth time, same Barth channel.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Next Karl Barth Meeting

Hey guys,
So those of you who took home reading packets, feel free to review last week's pages (3-11). I'll try and sum it up before plowing ahead during the meeting. This week we'll be looking at sections 2, "Dogmatics as Enquiry," pages 11-17. If anyone can translate the latin beforehand, I'd be much obliged. If people want to move past this so that we finish section 3 on page 24, then so be it. I'm really enjoying this lectio reading of Barth, and hope that you are too.

We'll have it at our home again. 7:30pm-9:00pm. 58 N.East St. in Amherst, 6-1.