Monday, 20 December 2010

Another reference to baptism

"If a man, the Church, Church proclamation and dogmatics think they can handle the Word and faith like capital at their disposal, they simply prove thereby that they have neither the Word nor faith. When we have them, we do not regard them as a possession but strain after them, hungering and thirsting, and for that reason blessed. The same is true of the possibility of knowledge of God's Word. When we know it, we expect to know it. The assurance of its affirmation is thus the assurance of its expectation - the expectation which rests on its previous presence, on the apprehended promise, or, as we can already say here, on received and believed baptism - but still the expectation." CD I.1, p225

Monday, 13 December 2010

First comment on baptism?

According to the index at least...

"Baptism was instituted for this reason, as a sign of this true and supreme power of God's Word. As a real act on man, as an act of sovereign disposition, it proclaims for its part that man belongs to the sphere of Christ's lordship prior to all his experiences and decisions. Even before he can take up an attitude to God, God has taken up an attitude to him. Whatever attitude he may adopt, it will be done within and on the ground of the attitude that God has adopted to him. If he believes, this will be just a confirmation of the fact that he has God's promise and is claimed, judged and blessed by God. If he does not believe, this again will not be a possibility he can freely choose. He will sin against God's Word. He will not show himself to be free, but unfree. He will not choose, but will be rejected. He will grasp, not a possibility, but an impossibility. In a Word, in his very unbelief he will be measured by the Word of God and smitten by its power. This preceding attitude of God to him will make his unbelief unbelief, his sin sin. Only in the sphere of grace is there faith and unbelief, righteousness and sin. Only through the power of God's Word are there the two categories, those who are saved and those who are lost." CD I.1, p154

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Barth the Failure?

You guys will have to forgive me. I recently moved and my first volume of Church Dogmatics is still packed away somewhere, so as you can imagine, I'm going to be a bit behind. But I thought I'd offer this, a quote from Vol. 1 of Barth's The Gottingen Dogmatics, that I recently purchased. It's actually quoted from a letter that he wrote to his friend Eduard Thurneysen as Barth was about to quit his pastoral duties and recorded in Migliore's introduction:
"When Barth left his pastorate in Safenwil, Switzerland, in 1921 to take up his new academic post in Gottingen, Germany, he was not optimistic about his chances of success. He wrote to his friend Eduard Thurneysen: 'I dare not even think about having to lecture three or six or eight hours each week.' 'I just can't imagine myself in the situation and cannot think that I will be anything but a great failure.'"
I find that to be an utterly amazing confession.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Rudolf Otto's holy

"Whatever 'the holy' of Rudolf Otto may be, it certainly cannot be understood as the Word of God, for it is the numinous, and the numinous is the irrational, and the irrational can no longer be differentiated from an absolutised natural force. But everything depends on this differentiation if we are to understand the concept of the Word of God." CD I.1, p135

Thursday, 2 December 2010

"...the disaster of the 18th century."

"The catastrophic crash of orthodoxy in the 18th century, the consequences of which we still have to carry to this day, is no more puzzling than the collapse of a house whose foundations are giving way. Responsibility for the disaster must be borne, not by the philosophy of the world which had become critical, but by the theology of the Church which had become too uncritical, which no longer understood itself at the centre. For all our great respect for the work done by orthodoxy, and for all our understanding of the ultimate intentions of this work, our task to-day must be the different one of re-adopting Luther's concepts and taking proclamation seriously again as the work of the Church in and through which God is to be served and not man, and God is to speak. On that basis we must then try to understand once again in what sense first the Bible, and even before that revelation, is really the Word of God. It was here that forgetfulness set in before the disaster of the 18th century." CD I.1, p124

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Bible is the Canon

"What is it that makes the Bible of the Old and New Testaments the Canon? Why must the Church's recollection of God's past revelation always have the Bible as its concrete object? It is no evasion of this question, which we are always right to raise afresh, if in the first instance we reply at once that the Bible itself constitutes the Canon. It is the Canon because it imposed itself upon the Church as such, and continually does so. ... If we thought we could say why this is so, we should again be acting as if we had in our hands a measure by which we could measure the Bible and on this basis assign it its distinctive position. Our ultimate and decisive wisdom would then be once again the wisdom of a self-dialogue, even if a self-dialogue about the Bible. No, the Bible is the Canon just because it is so. It is so by imposing itself as such."

CD I.1, p107

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Preaching and sacrament

"For [Roman Catholic dogmatics], then, preaching can have a place only on the extreme margin of the Church's action. In Roman Catholic practice it cannot seek to be more than instruction and exhortation. When the grace of Jesus Christ can be understood as a causare gratiam ex opere operato, all is in order, and this is the only possible order.

The Reformers, however, did not see themselves as in a position to construe the grace of Jesus Christ in this way. They thought it should be understood, not as cause and effect, but as Word and faith. For this reason, they regarded the representative event at the centre of the Church's life as proclamation, as an act concerned with speaking and hearing, indicative of the fact that what is at issue in the thing proclaimed too [sic] is not a material connexion but a personal encounter.

...the sacrament for the sake of preaching, not vice versa..." CD I.1, p69,70

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

On Preaching

I'm pretty sure that it is dangerous to quote Barth in snippets. His writing and thinking, his argument, is always complete only in thinking through the paragraphs as units. However, for the purposes of this blog, which is really just a log of reading through Church Dogmatics, snippets are brilliant.

Writing about the proclamation and announcement of the promise that God has given to the Church, Barth says this:

"It must be homily, i.e., discourse which as the exposition of Scripture is controlled and guided. But if it is to be real repetition of this promise, it cannot consist in the mere reading of Scripture or in repeating and paraphrasing the actual wording of the biblical witness. This can be only its presupposition. The concrete encounter of God and man to-day, whose actuality, of course, can be created only by the Word of God Himself, must find a couterpart in the human event of proclamation, i.e., the person called must be ready to make the promise given to the Church intelligible in his own words to the men of his own time. Calling, promise, exposition of Scripture, actuality - these are the decisive definitions of the concept of preaching." CD I.1, p59

Friday, 12 November 2010

Luther and Aquinas on the Theologian

"Doctors of arts, medicine, law and philosophy, can be made by the pope, the emperor, and the universities; but be quite sure that no one can make a doctor of Holy Scripture save only the Holy Ghost from heaven, as Christ says in John vi: 'They must all be taught of God himself.' Now the Holy Ghost does not ask after red or brown robes, or what is showy, nor whether a man is young or old, lay or clerical, monastic or secular, virgin or married. Indeed, He once spake by an ass against the prophet that rode on it. Would God we were worthy that such doctors be given us..." (Martin Luther, cited in CD I.1, 19).

"The story is also told of Thomas Aquinas, whose Summa theologica obviously remained a torso, that when asked to write more he replied: 'Reginald, I cannot, for all that I have written is like chaff to me. I hope that God will soon put an end to my life and thinking'" (cited in CD I.1, 21).

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Dogmatics as Enquiry

Barth tells us that "true content of Christian talk about God can be known by man" (CD I.1, 12). That such talk has "true content" when it conforms to the being of the church, in other words when it conforms to Christ. Further down the page he says, "In relation to its subject, every statement in dogmatics, as a statement of faith, must be ventured with the assurance of speaking divine and not just human truth."
In the next section of "Dogmatics as Enquiry" Barth tells us that dogmatics (which presupposes the "true content" of Christian talk about God) is not just possibly known, but "must" be known by humans. This more specifically falls under the category of "enquiry," by which knowledge is attained via "a laborious movement from one partial human insight to another with the intention though with no guarantee of advance" (CD I.1, 14).
What caught my eye at the bottom of this page was his single-sentence statement: "Dogmatics is possible only as theologia crucis." He means here that dogmatics is a humble act of obedience in faith and that the task of dogmatics is laborious. Here he references Augustine's Sermon 43 where the church father discusses faith preceding knowledge.
After a discussion of the differences Barth's view of dogmatics has with Roman Catholic dogmatics (and some forms of Protestant dogmatics), he relates how "exegetical theology" and dogmatics complement one another. The work of dogmatics must be done with exegesis in view: "Hence dogmatics as such does not ask what the apostles and prophets said but what we must say on the basis of the apostles and prophets" (CD I.1, 16). In small print Barth sums up Calvin's theological enterprise in the Institutes commenting that it took the direction of "Christian thought and speech to its own contemporary responsibility." While the formularies of the early church creeds are important, none-the-less they should not "replace our dogmatic labours in virtue of their authority" (CD I.1, 15-16).

I found this entire section to be compelling. Dogmatics, according to Barth, is a humble attempt to speak the cross-message in the context of the world as the dogmatician knows it. It is speech about God, by the church, that is spoken in light of earlier speech about God, yet is in submission to God's revealed authority (Note: "The freely acting God Himself and alone is the truth of revelation" [CD I.1, 15]).

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

let's call them paragraphs, not sections, i think


"Human affairs - even those over which we think we have some control - often take a different course from the one planned."

"...I have had no option but to say No at this point. I regard the analogia entis as the invention of Antichrist..."