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..."