Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Barth’

What do I know but…

CALVIN:  Above all we must recognize that God stoops to reveal Himself.

BARTH:  Above all we must recognize that God stoops to reveal Himself.

CALVIN:  No but it’s a stooping revelation.

BARTH:  Yes but it’s a stooping revelation.

CALVIN:  But what we see is God in His condescension.

BARTH:  Amen!  We see God in His condescension.

CALVIN:  But we can’t know God except that He accommodates Himself to us.

BARTH:  Yes but we do know God as the One who accommodates Himself to us.

CALVIN:  In all humility we cannot presume to know God apart from His condescension.

BARTH:  In all humility we cannot presume that God is any other than the One who condescends.

CALVIN:  No but when He condescends He clothes Himself in a character foreign to Himself. (see here or here)

BARTH:  … And how do we know that it’s foreign to Himself?

.

By the way, I love em both.  I love Calvin when he sounds like Barth and Barth when he sounds like Calvin.  But on this issue – if I’ve understood them both (which I may not have!) – I’m with Karl.

.

Read Full Post »

Recently I quoted Dick Lucas on the duty of preachers to be waiters not chefs.  We don’t cook up its material, we serve it up.  Thus…

The Bible is not asking us to interpret it. The Bible is an interpretation.

Some might wonder at that statement.  Surely we’re always interpreting. Isn’t that what Kant taught us?

Well it’s interesting what Barth has to say about interpretation.  He sometimes gets tarred with a Kantian brush (bizarrely in my opinion).  But just listen to him blow away that kind of dualism in his Romans commentary:

Preface to First Edition:  ‘Paul, as a child of his age, addressed his contemporaries. It is, however, far more important that, as Prophet and Apostle of the Kingdom of God, he veritably speaks to all men of every age. The differences between then and now, there and here, no doubt require careful investigation and consideration. But the purpose of such investigation can only be to demonstrate that these differences are, in fact, purely trivial. The historical-critical method of Biblical investigation has its rightful place: it is concerned with the preparation of the intelligence – and this can never be superfluous. But were I driven to choose between it and the venerable doctrine of Inspiration, I should without hesitation adopt the latter, which has a broader, deeper, more important justification. The doctrine of Inspiration is concerned with the labour of apprehending, without which no technical equipment, however complete, is of any use whatever. Fortunately I am not compelled to choose between the two. Nevertheless, my whole energy of interpreting has been expended in an endeavour to see through and beyond history into the spirit of the Bible, which is the Eternal Spirit. What was once of grave importance, is so still. What is today of grave importance – and not merely crotchety and incidental – stands in direct connection with that ancient gravity. If we rightly understand ourselves, our problems are the problems of Paul; and if we be enlightened by the brightness of his answers, those answers must be ours.”

Preface to Second Edition:  ‘By genuine understanding I mean that creative energy which Luther exercised with intuitive certainty in his exegesis; which underlies the systematic interpretation of Calvin…How energetically Calvin, having first established what stands in the text, sets himself to re-think the whole material and to wrestle with it, till the walls which separate the sixteenth century from the first become transparent! Paul speaks, and the man of the sixteenth century hears. The conversation between the original record and the reader moves round the subject-matter until a distinction between yesterday and today becomes impossible. If a man persuades himself that Calvin’s method can be dismissed with the old-fashioned motto, ‘The Compulsion of Inspiration’, he betrays himself as one who has never worked upon the interpretation of Scripture. Taking Julicher’s work as typical of much modern exegesis, we observe how closely he keeps to the mere deciphering of words as though they were runes. But, when all is done, they still remain largely unintelligible. How quick he is, without any real struggling with the raw material of the Epistle, to dismiss this or that difficult passage as simply a peculiar doctrine or opinion of Paul! How quick he is to treat a matter as explained, when it is said to belong to the religious thought, feeling, experience, conscience or conviction – of Paul!’

Preface to Third Edition:  ‘The commentator is thus presented with a clear ‘Either – Or’. The question is whether or no he is to place himself in a relation to his author of utter loyalty. Is he to read him, determined to follow him to the very last word, wholly aware of what he is doing, and assuming that the author also knew what he was doing? Loyalty surely cannot end at a particular point, and certainly cannot be exhausted by an exposure of the author’s literary affinities. Anything short of utter loyalty means a commentary ON Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, not a commentary so far as is possible WITH him – even to his last word.’

.

Read Full Post »

Unlike the scuttling basements of many a blog page, the comments section of Christ the Truth is its most redeeming feature.  For those who only get the RSS feed you are missing out.

I thought I’d give you excerpts from some of Paul Blackham’s comments which would otherwise languish in the blog’s underbelly.

Jesus – centre of all reality
…what if Jesus actually IS God? What if the prayer/holiness/sovereignty stuff is actually all about our relationship with LORD Jesus? What if Jesus is not the agent but the content, the substance and all these other things are ‘agents’ for Him? What if Jesus is the centre and substance of every creature’s relation to the Living God? What if the LORD God of the Scriptures is Jesus?…

Jesus – centre of our Doctrine of God
…what would happen if all the attribute/substance stuff was only described in a Trinitarian context? What if Jesus was allowed to be the centre and soul of the doctrine of God? Ok, I know that is just fantasy and it will never happen…. but wouldn’t it be amazing if Jesus was really taken that seriously!!!…

Jesus – centre of the Scriptures
…If the Bible reveals the Living God then it just has to be deeply connected to Jesus. The more I go on and realise just how completely Jesus surrounds us in creation then it makes more and more sense that He is present in the Scripture in a much deeper way than is often described. Too often the doctrines of Scripture spend all the time working at issues of inerrancy, when that might come a lot easier if the Bible is seen as the ever-living presence/clothing of Jesus…

Changing the world through love
…the ancient Christians changed the world when their gospel living, their sheer ‘unreasonable’ love for Jesus was so intense and so ‘impractical’ that it could not be ignored. By trusting the Spirit and obeying Jesus even when it seems impossible or foolish… By trusting the Spirit to really change the world to the pattern of Jesus… we aim for something much more than a re-adjustment of the furniture on the sinking ship… we join Jesus in aiming for a really new world where sorrow, injustice and death are illegal and impossible…

On Apologetics
…if we are trying to render the ‘concept of god’ as reasonable or if we are trying to ‘demonstrate’ that the Bible is the Word of God or if we are deploying philosophical arguments that never end up with ‘ergo, Jesus is the glory of God, the eternal Son of the Father’… then we are obviously trusting in the flesh. Of course we want to believe that if only we work hard enough or organise well enough or develop the best campaign or get the new ‘technique’ then we don’t really need to fast and pray, we don’t need to follow Jesus in sheer dependence on the Spirit on the way to crucifixion. Yet, the truth is that when the apostle Peter spoke of giving an apologia, he did so in a letter that consistently argues that the glory comes after suffering, that we will be thought strange for the way we live, that we should be living such good lives that people ask us about Jesus…

On engaging atheists
…The great temptation is to want to be ‘reasonable’ – i.e. to find a non-’religious’ foundation that will show us to be wise and the atheist to be foolish. The only foundation is Jesus. He is why we believe in God…

God’s glory – not the glory of Allah
…It is not arbitrary to say that God’s glory is His grace – because the apostle John makes it so very clear that God’s eternal glory is manifested at the Cross. The specific words of Jesus concerning His own glory have to be our starting point here. My most common conversation partners in theology these days are various Islamic theologians [especially those amazing guys from the 8th/9th centuries] – and their understanding of the transcendant glory of Allah is really serious. If you really want an exaltation of divine glory that is utterly, utterly opposed to human autonomy/glory then those are the guys you really want to be reading. However, is that what the Living God Himself said about glory when He walked among us? Where did He say that His glory was to be seen? Is the glory of Allah substantially different than the glory of the Trinity?…

On Christ Alone
Matthew 11:25-3o – Everything is in the hands of Jesus – whether revelation or redemption. We can know nothing of any god other than what Jesus chooses to tell us. How do we know that there is a Father other than what Jesus tells us? How can we prove the deity of the Father other than through Jesus? How can we find rest for our souls other than through Jesus?

Recently we were challenged to ‘get serious with god’ over the summer… but Jesus wasn’t mentioned. I imagined a follower of Odin heading home to get on his viking helmet and wielding his battle-axe with more passion and commitment or a follower of Baal putting aside his tiredness and heading out for some serious immorality after work.

If we are not dealing with Jesus then does it matter whether we get serious with Odin or Ra or Vishnu or Artemis or Allah or the Prime Mover.

Christ alone… in all the Scriptures… or else why bother at all?

On the Enlightenment
I think the Enlightenment brought a re-structuring of European thought generally – from specifics to universals. Think of the contrast between John Owen and John Wesley. Both are such amazing Christians, but they live on different sides of the Enlightenment fence. Wesley is a ‘global’ or universal man, thinking of a truth for all humanity. Think of the way that Wesley relates to the empiricist philosophers of his day, whereas Owen is related to a much older philosophical world. Wesley is ‘modern’ in a way that could never be said of Owen. Owen was still thinking in that more ancient mode where the universal vision was very much at the edge of his thinking… or perhaps it is more to do with the ‘universal’ being at the edge of ‘feeling’ rather than ‘thinking’. Wesley traveled around the world, around his global parish – but the Puritans didn’t really feel that need.

Is it possible for us to have the global heart of Wesley while rejecting the Enlightenment ‘objectivity’ that feels so shocked that we are condemned sinners? Of course, the very last thing we want is to dig up a scholastic zombie as if the missing ingredient is more Aristotle!

Jesus Himself, of course, is the glorious solution – a great love for everybody He meets but without that ‘objectifying’ train of Enlightenment thinking. He faces the chaos and suffering without any of the self-pity or bitterness… yet joy and hope pour out of Him. Glory! What a mess we make of our thinking and feeling… and we only realise what a mess we make as we look at His glory and maturity!

Sex
This is important. I’ve been reading some of the books and sermons on sex/virginity from the early centuries after the apostles. The contrast with especially modern evangelical thought is shocking. Today, in the church community almost as much as outside, sex is something to be simply ‘celebrated’ and enjoyed – and there are plenty of Christian sex manuals etc etc. Sex problems are seen as resolved through better techniques or losing repression or ‘communication’. The idea that a closer relationship with Jesus might be helpful is not a common solution. Of course, when the most intense experience of intimacy in the culture is ‘mind-blowing sex’… then of course sex is seen as an end in itself. To celebrate sex is seen as a big enough goal in itself and why shouldn’t the Bible be forced to have such a limited horizon? The deep damage that this kind of attitude has for single and LGBT Christians is frightening. How can we really hold sexual practice up as the most intense relationship/intimacy, constantly trying to pair everybody up, and also pretend to be so shocked when single and LGBT Christians believe the hype?

…The best sex help we can offer is to remind us/seduce us back to the Divine Romance. That is the full and complete and ultimate human experience of intimacy… and from that ecstasy we do begin to see both the joys and sorrows of our fallen human sexuality… not in hopeless frustration or obsession, but as a grace given to some of us in order to lead us to our true Spouse.

On Song of Songs as a love triangle
I think that there are two men after the bride – the wealthy and powerful king with his many lovers and the humble, rural Shepherd who has eyes only for His love. The bride is caught up into the king’s seduction/power… but her heart is always really for her true Love. Will she be one of many in the glittering palace… or will she be the ‘one, true love’ out on the mountains, in the shepherd’s home?…

On biblical masculinity
…think of the different kinds of men within the Bible. Would artistic, multi-media Ezekiel spend his free-time with Jehu?

Who is the proper man – Esau or Jacob, Cain or Abel, Joseph with his fancy clothes and fear of ‘sex’ or Judah with fairly ‘relaxed’ view of what’s on offer sexually speaking? Would bi-polar, zealous Elijah fit well with the very reliable/stable Daniel?

David himself is such a complex character. On the one hand he is a sorry figure, hunched over his roof-top porn… setting a destructive example to his sons… yet on the other hand he is capable of such profound and deeply masculine expression in the psalms; tremendous integrity and courage before Saul and Goliath.. but cowardice and stupidity before the Philistine king; passion for the LORD Jesus when enacting the ascension in transporting the ark, but the seedy and humiliating “hot-water bottle” of the latter years.

On Calvin and Barth
…Calvin begins with the utterly transcendent God before the world began… whereas Barth wants to always begin with the actual point of contact, the one mediator, Jesus Christ. I find that both theologians lead me to worship.. reading them both is like walking into a grand cathedral. Calvin carries me away to eternity, to divine counsels and the being of god in a more classical sense. Barth confronts me with the Word of God, Jesus Christ, here and now.

.

Read Full Post »

CALVIN:  Above all we must recognize that God stoops to reveal Himself.

BARTH:  Above all we must recognize that God stoops to reveal Himself.

CALVIN:  No but it’s a stooping revelation.

BARTH:  Yes but it’s a stooping revelation.

CALVIN:  But what we see is God in His condescension.

BARTH:  Amen!  We see God in His condescension.

CALVIN:  But we can’t know God except that He accommodates Himself to us.

BARTH:  Yes but we do know God as the One who accommodates Himself to us.

CALVIN:  In all humility we cannot presume to know God apart from His condescension.

BARTH:  In all humility we cannot presume that God is any other than the One who condescends.

CALVIN:  No but when He condescends He clothes Himself in a character foreign to Himself.

BARTH:  … And how do we know that it’s foreign to Himself?

.

Who do you like in this battle of the reformed giants?

.

Read Full Post »

What do you see when you look up?

This?

or this:

ht Mark Meynell

A theological revolution occured early last century when Karl Barth turned from his liberal protestant heritage to jump with both feet into “the strange new world of the bible” (the title of an early book of his).

Have you jumped in, or only dipped your toe?  It’s a very hard thing to do.

It’s so hard, you might just need Mike Reeves, Michael Ward and CS Lewis as guides.  So if you haven’t listened to this brilliant podcast – do so forthwith.

.

Read Full Post »

Here’s a great post on Christmas preaching.  Three points Barth emphasized about Christmas.

I’ll summarize them in my own way, but read the original:

1) The inclusion of Bethlehem, Caesar Augustus, and Quirinius in the Christmas narrative reminds us that this not a myth, a legend, or fairy tale, nor even a morality tale of “peace and goodwill to all men.

We don’t preach Christmas spirit but concrete fact, in the town of David a Saviour is born.  We must embrace the scandal of particularity.

2) Not only is Christmas a mystery of God with us, it is a miracle of God with us.

This is the in-breaking of God into the world.  A surprising and earth-shattering personal presence.

3) “The message of Christmas already includes within itself the message of Good Friday.” (CD II/2, 122.)

The crib and the cross are cut from the same piece of wood.

Read the whole thing here.

.

Read Full Post »

Karl Barth died 41 years ago today.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes from him:

On his own theology:

My whole theology, you see, is fundamentally a theology for parsons. It grew out of my own situation when I had to teach and preach and counsel a little. (From a radio broadcast made shortly before Barth’s death. Quoted from William Willimon, Conversations with Barth on Preaching, Abingdon Press, 2006.)

On the reason for theology:

The normal and central fact with which dogmatics has to do is, very simply, the Church’s Sunday sermon of yesterday and to-morrow, and so it will continue to be.” (Church Dogmatics I/1, p91)

On theological method

Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death.  (Article 1 of the Barmen Declaration)


On the bible:

“The Bible says all sorts of things, certainly; but in all this multiplicity and variety, it says in truth only one thing – just this: the name of Jesus Christ… The Bible becomes clear when it is clear that is says this one thing… The Bible remains dark to us if we do not hear in it this sovereign name… Interpretation stands in the service of the clarity which the Bible as God’s Word makes for itself; and we can properly interpret the Bible, in whole or part, only when we perceive and show that what it says is said from the point of view of that… name of Jesus Christ.”  (Church Dogmatics I/2, p720)

At bottom, the Church is in the world only with a book in its hands. We have no other possibility to bear witness except to explain this book.” (God in Action, p107-8)

On creation and covenant

Creation is the outward basis of the covenant and the covenant is the inward basis of creation.  (Church Dogmatics III/1, ch41)

On church:

The essence of the Church is proclamation.  (Homiletics, p40)

On the Christian life:

“Ye shall be witnesses unto me” (Acts 1:8) – this is enough for the one to whom Christ speaks and who has heard Him. Whether strong or weak, willing or unwilling, successful or unsuccessful, the Christian is a witness, irrespective of whether the miracle occurs, or whether it occurs visibly or invisibly. In all circumstances and with the whole of his existence he is a responsible witness of the Word of God. He is called to be this. As such he is set at the side of God in the world, and therefore set over against the world.’ (Church Dogmatics IV/3, p609)

On proofs for God:

Note well: in the whole Bible of the Old and New Testaments not the slightest attempt is ever made to prove God. This attempt has always been made only outside the biblical view of God, and only where it has been forgotten with whom we have to do, when we speak of God. What sort of attempts were they, after all, where the attempt was make to prove a perfect Being alongside imperfect ones? Or from the existence of the world to prove the ordering Power? Or the moral proof of God from the face of man’s conscience? I will not enter into these proofs of God. I don’t know whether you can at once see the humour and the fragility of these proofs. These proofs may avail for the alleged gods; if it were my task to make you acquainted with these allegedly supreme beings, I would occupy myself with the five famous proofs of God. In the Bible there is no such argumentation; the Bible simply speaks of God simply as of One who needs no proof. It speaks of a God who proves Himself on every hand: Here I am, and since I am and live and act it is superfluous that I should be proved. On the basis of this divine self-proof the prophets and apostles speak. In the Christian Church there can be no speaking about God in any other way. God has not the slightest need for our proofs. (Dogmatics in Outline, 38)

On apologetics:

The great danger of apologetics is “the domesticating of revelation… the process of making the Gospel respectable. When the Gospel is offered to man, and he stretches out his hand to receive it and takes it into his hand, an acute danger arises which is greater than the danger that he may not understand it and angrily reject it. The danger is that he may accept it and peacefully and at once make himself its lord and possessor, thus rendering it inoccuous, making that which chooses him something which he himself has chosen, which therefore comes to stand as such alongside all the other things that he can also choose, and therefore control.” (Church Dogmatics II/1, p141)

On assurance (this is perhaps my favourite Barth quote):

“We might imagine the conversation…  The man to whom [the Word of grace is spoken] thinks and says that he is not this new, peaceful, joyful man living in fellowship. He asks leave honestly to admit that he does not know this man, or at least himself as this man.

The Word of grace replies: ‘All honour to your honesty, but my truth transcends it. Allow yourself, therefore, to be told in all truth and on the most solid grounds what you do not know, namely, that you are this man in spite of what you think.’

Man: ‘ You think that I can and should become this man in the course of time? But I do not have sufficient confidence in myself to believe this. Knowing myself, I shall never become this man.’

The Word of grace: ‘You do well not to have confidence in yourself. But the point is not that you can and should become this man. What I am telling you is that, as I know you, you already are.’

Man: ‘I understand that you mean this eschatologically. You are referring to the man I perhaps will be one day in some not very clearly known transfiguration in a distant eternity. If only I had attained to this! And if only I could be certain that even then I should be this new man!’

The Word of grace: ‘You need to understand both yourself and me better than you do. I am not inviting you to speculate about your being in eternity, but to receive and ponder the news that here and now you begin to be the new man, and are already that which you will be eternally.’

Man: ‘How can I accept this news? On what guarantee can I make bold to take is seriously?’

The Word of grace: ‘I, Jesus Christ, am the One who speaks to you. You are what you are in Me, as I will to be in you. Hold fast to Me. I am your guarantee. My boldness is yours. With this boldness dare to be what you are?’

Man: ‘I certainly hear the message, but…’

In this perplexed and startled ‘but’ we see the attack, and who it is that is attacked.” (Church Dogmatics, V/2, p250)

.

Do you have a favourite Barth quote?  Why not leave it in comments.

.

“My whole theology, you see, is fundamentally a theology for parsons.  It grew out of my own situation when I had to teach and preach and counsel a little.

Read Full Post »

Check out this definition of the church’s mission.

‘The Church’s commission, which is the foundation of its freedom, consists in this: in Christ’s stead, and so in the service of his own Word and work, to deliver to all people, through preaching and sacrament, the message of the free grace of God.’

That’s it.  That’s the mission of the church.  Proclamation.

Now, without cheating, see if you can guess where this comes from.  And when.

Any guesses?

.

.

Well maybe you think these are the words of some one-eyed fundamentalist, divorced from any pressing social or political needs.  Perhaps you think this definition represent a cowardly retreat from the social and political realities of the day?

Well the year was 1934, the place was Germany and this is article 6 of the Barmen Declaration – the document that founded the German Confessing Church.

And into that context, this determination to view the church’s mission simply as gospel proclamation proved to be the most provocative political challenge possible.  This is precisely because it refuses to engage with the world on its own terms.  The Nazis are confronted because the Confessing Church occupies itself with its one true Fuhrer (Christ), its one true Reich (God’s Kingdom) and its one true commission: delivering ‘the message of the free grace of God’.  Far from creating an ‘ecclesiastical ghetto’ for the Confessing Christians, this single-minded determination to let the Gospel set the agenda for the Church brings it into its most significant contact with the surrounding culture.

Barmen is profoundly political.  But it is so by refusing any other agenda but the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Nothing could be more explosive.

A few years later, Karl Barth (who authored Barmen) was back in his native Switzerland.  (Interestingly it was his lectures on preaching that were the last straw for the Nazis, the Gestapo bursting in and forcibly deporting him.  Apparently his last words to his students on the train platform was the admonition: “Exegesis, exegesis, exegesis!”)  Anway, a young pastor from Brandenburg wrote to him in distress.  He had been sacked after preaching against Mein Kampf from the pulpit.  The pastor expected sympathy.  Instead Barth replied that the pastor had made a “decisive mistake”:

Your job, when you stand in the pulpit, is to again make well the sick church of Germany.  That can be done only by the Word alone.  You are to serve that Word and no other.  But you can’t do that if you seize on Mein Kampf… Was it not a shame, each minute that you wasted with this book instead of reading the Bible?   (William Willimon, Conversations with Barth on Preaching, p248-249)

Interesting huh?

.

Read Full Post »

Sermon introductions

It’s confession time:  I began my sermon tonight with “”a joke””.  You know, feed-line, punch-line, wait for response, polite church laughter, tenuous link to sermon.

ugggh.  I think I need a shower.

I post this quotation as penance.  Here’s Barth warning us all away from such ‘plain heresy’:

The theological damage of sermon introductions is in any event incredibly extensive… For what do they really involve at root?  Nothing other than the search for a point of contact, for an analogue in us which can be a point of entry for the Word of God.  It is believed that this little door to the inner self must first be found and opened before it is worthwhile to bring the message.  No! This is plain heresy…. We have simply to approach people knowing that there is nothing in them that we can address, no humanum, no analogia entis of any kind that we can put in touch with the divinum, but only the one great possibility which has no need of our skills, which alone is efficacious, and which does not need us as advocates… We have simply to assume the attitude of a messenger who has something to say.  We have no need to build a slowly ascending ramp, for there is no height that we have to reach.  No!  Something has to come down from above.  And this can happen only when the Bible speaks from the very outset. (Homiletics, p124-125)

.

Read Full Post »

A parable

Nice huh?

.

Read Full Post »

Like little children

Nothing transforms my prayer life like quoting Matthew 18:3 to myself:

Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Here’s Barth on coming to our Father in heaven as child-like beginners:

In invocation of God the Father everything depends on whether or not it is done in sheer need (not self-won competence), in sheer readiness to learn (not schooled erudition), and in sheer helplessness (not the application of a technique of self-help). This can be the work only of very weak and very little and very poor children, of those who in their littleness, weakness, and poverty can only get up and run with empty hands to their Father, appealing to him. Nor should we forget to add that it can only be the work only of naughty children of God who have wilfully run away again from their Father’s house, found themselves among swine in the far country, turned their thoughts back home, and then – if they could – returned to their Father … Christians who regard themselves as big and strong and rich and even dear and good children of God, Christian who refuse to sit with their Master at the table of publicans and sinners, are not Christians at all, have still to become so, and need not be surprised if heaven is gray above them and their calling upon God sounds hollow and finds no hearing. The glory, splendour, truth, and power of divine sonship, and of the freedom to invoke God as Father, and therefore the use of this freedom – the Christian ethos in big and little things alike – depends at every time and in every situation on whether or not Christians come before God as beginners, as people who cannot make anything very imposing out of their faith in Jesus Christ, who even with this faith of theirs – and how else could it be if it is faith in Jesus Christ? – venture to draw near to his presence only with the prayer: “Help my unbelief” (Mk. 9:24). Mark well that this has nothing to do with Christian defeatism. It describes Christians on their best side and not their worst, in their strength and not their weakness (2 Cor. 12:10).

Karl Barth, The Christian Life: Church Dogmatics IV.4: Lecture Fragments (trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1981), 80.

Source: Jason Goroncy

Have you ever heard a more heart-warming doctrine lecture??

.

Read Full Post »

blues-brothers-mission-god

When Karl Barth addressed the Brandenburg Missionary Conference in 1932 he introduced a missiological perspective which has determined the shape of mission theology in every part of the Church. 

“Must not even the most faithful missionary, the most convinced friend of missions, have reason to reflect that the term missio was in the ancient Church an expression of the doctrine of the Trinity-namely the expression of the divine sending forth of self, the sending of the Son and Holy Spirit to the world? Can we indeed claim that we do it any other way?”

Barth cuts through soteriological or eschatological consideration to bring us right back to the Source of mission.  It is not that ‘Salvation is like this therefore mission should be like that.’  It is not that ‘The End will be like this, so mission should be like that.’   No, the real argument is that ‘God’s being is like this, therefore mission should be like that!’  There are missions because of the missio Dei – because God is a sending God.  In Himself, in eternity, God’s being is a being of outgoing love.  This is the Fountainhead for mission.

David Bosch has memorably put it like this:

To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.

This insight has been picked up by all wings of the Church, from the conciliar to the Anabaptist, from the Roman Catholic to the evangelical. 

More important than all this consensus however is the bible’s own testimony.

 Consider the Johannine ‘great commission’: 

As the Father has sent me I am sending you.  (John 20:21; cf 17:18).

We ought to take that little word ‘as’ with full seriousness.  In the same way that the Father sends the Son, so the Son sends His church.  Let us ask, how has the Father sent the Son?

Lest we be Arians we must acknowledge that the Son’s generation from the Father is not a mere product of the Father’s will in time.  It is rather an eternal begetting that is of the very essence of the eternal Godhead.  There is not a God and then a sending.  There has only ever been a sending God – the missio Dei.  Both Father and Son are eternally constituted in these relations of Sending and Sent.

The Son’s being and act is a being and act found and expressed in the Father’s sending.  The Son’s own life is a life in mission.  This has always been true in eternity and it was made manifest in incarnation.

Christ’s most common self-identification in John is as the One sent from the Father.  And His most common articulation of His mission was always to do the will of His Father – a will expressed in thoroughly evangelistic terms – e.g. John 3:16; 4:23; 6:29; 6:38-40.  Christ is sent as the world’s Saviour, the One who seeks worshippers for the Father, who glorifies the Father in His saving death and only then says ‘it is finished’ (John 19:30).

Therefore, because Christ’s being is a missionary being, so His activity is a missionary activity. 

On the cross, the true being and glory of the Son was manifested, and in Him the glory of the triune God  (e.g. John 13:32; 17:5).  Here was demonstrated Christ’s obedience to the Father and, at one and the same time, His love for the world.  Christ’s being and act are laid bare at Golgotha, and shown to be a missionary being and act.

Therefore, returning to John 20:21, we see the continuity of Christ’s mission with ours.  Just as Christ has His being in sent-ness for the world’s salvation, so does the church.  We have received a commission that was passed from the Father to the Son in the depths of eternity.  Our missionary activity finds its origin not in any human enthusiasm for witness but in the being of God.  And our sent-ness for the salvation of the world is not only our activity.  It is, like God’s own missio, constitutive of our very life.

‘The Christian community is not sent into the world haphazardly or at random, but with a very definite task. It does not exist before its task and later acquire it.  Nor does it exist apart from it, so that there can be no question whether or not it might have or execute it.  It exists for the world.  Its task constitutes and fashions it from the very outset.  If it had not been given it, it would not have come into being.  If it were to lose it, it would not continue.  It is not then a kind of imparted dignity.  It exists only as it has it, or rather only as the task has it. Nor is it a kind of burden laid upon it.  It is the inalienable foundation which bears it.  Every moment of its history it is measured by it. It stands or falls with it in all its expressions, in all its action or abstention. It either understands itself in the light of its task or not at all.’ (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/3, p796.)

‘[The task of the Church] is no less, no more and no other than the ministry of witness required of it and constituting it.’ (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/3, p834))

.

Read Full Post »

Rediscovered this old quote from Barth’s Homiletics:

“The theological damage of sermon introductions is in any event incredibly extensive… For what do they really involve at root?  Nothing other than the search for a point of contact, for an analogue in us which can be a point of entry for the Word of God.  It is believed that this little door to the inner self must first be found and opened before it is worthwhile to bring the message.  No! This is plain heresy…. We have simply to approach people knowing that there is nothing in them that we can address, no humanum, no analogia entis of any kind that we can put in touch with the divinum, but only the one great possibility which has no need of our skills, which alone is efficacious, and which does not need us as advocates… We have simply to assume the attitude of a messenger who has something to say.  We have no need to build a slowly ascending ramp, for there is no height that we have to reach.  No!  Something has to come down from above.  And this can happen only when the Bible speaks from the very outset.” (Homiletics, p124-125)

.

You’ve been told!

.

Read Full Post »

“One can never say of a single part of the narrative, doctrine and proclamation of the New Testament, that in itself it is original or important or the object of the witness intended. Neither the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount nor the eschatology of Mk 13 and parallels, nor the healing of the blind, lame and possessed, nor the battle with the Pharisees and the Cleansing of the Temple, nor the statements of the Pauline and Johannine metaphysics and mysticism (so far as there are any), nor love to God nor love to neighbour, nor the passion and death of Christ, nor the miraculous raising from the dead – nothing of all that has any value, inner importance or abstract significance of its own in the New Testament, apart from Jesus Christ being the subject of it all. His is the name in which it is all true and real, living and moving, by which, therefore, everything must be attested.” I/2, p10-11

.

Read Full Post »

Apologetics? Nein!

Some nice moments from Barth against apologetics

“Knowledge of revelation… begins with certitude. Either God has spoken or He has not spoken. If He has spoken, He has done so in such a manner that it is impossible not to heed Him. Among others, the question of His existence and nature are then decided and can be answered only a posteriori. Doubt and despair, human unbelief, and even a sea of uncertainties on our part, will not be able to change the certitude of His presence. Revelation is this divine presence.” (God in Action, p8)

“And we are certainly not ministers of the Word if we feel ourselves called to be benevolent protectors, or big-hearted friends or representatives of whom the Word of God has need.” (God in Action, p67)

“What God speaks is never known or true anywhere in abstraction from God Himself. It is known and true for no other reason than that He Himself says it, that He in person is in and accompanies what is said by Him.” (I/1, 155)

The great danger of apologetics is “the domesticating of revelation… the process of making the Gospel respectable. When the Gospel is offered to man, and he stretches out his hand to receive it and takes it into his hand, an acute danger arises which is greater than the danger that he may not understand it and angrily reject it. The danger is that he may accept it and peacefully and at once make himself its lord and possessor, thus rendering it inoccuous, making that which chooses him something which he himself has chosen, which therefore comes to stand as such alongside all the other things that he can also choose, and therefore control.” (II/1, p141)

“For we know nothing of our created state from our created state, but only through the Word of God, from which we can derive no independent, generally true items of knowledge, different from the Word of God and therefore leading up to it.” (I/1, p148)

When people say ‘God’ “far too often what is meant by it is… the unsubstantial, unprofitable and fundamentally very tedious magnitude known as transcendence, not as a genuine counterpart, nor a true other, nor a real outside and beyond, but as an illusory reflection of human freedom, as its projection into the vacuum of utter abstraction.” (III/4, 479)

 “If grace is alongside nature, however high above it may be put, it is obviously no longer the grace of God, but the grace which man ascribes to himself. If God’s revelation is alongside a knowledge of God proper to man as such, even though it may never be advanced except as a prolegomenon, it is obviously no longer the revelation of God, but a new expression (borrowed or even stolen) for the revelation which encounters man in his own reflection.” (II/1, p139)

.

Read Full Post »

For Barth the three-fold Word – Christ, Scripture and Proclamation – means that preaching should always be Scriptural and always witness to Christ.   Here he makes it clear that christo-centrism is not something the preacher (or the biblical theologian) bestows on the Bible.  Rather, the Bible is already and inherently witness to Christ:

“The Bible says all sorts of things, certainly; but in all this multiplicity and variety, it says in truth only one thing – just this: the name of Jesus Christ… The Bible becomes clear when it is clear that is says this one thing… The Bible remains dark to us if we do not hear in it this sovereign name… Interpretation stands in the service of the clarity which the Bible as God’s Word makes for itself; and we can properly interpret the Bible, in whole or part, only when we perceive and show that what it says is said from the point of view of that… name of Jesus Christ.” (I/2, p720)

What about the Old Testament?  For Barth…

“the Old Testament is witness to Christ, before Christ but not without Christ… As a wholly Jewish book, the Old Testament is a pointer to Christ.” (Homiletics, p80)

Barth does not consider the christo-centric meaning to be a sensus plenior in addition to the literal sense. 

“the natural sense is the issue… [we do not] give the passage a second sense… This passage in its immanence points beyond itself… The Old Testament points forward, the New Testament points backward, and both point to Christ.” Homiletics, p80-81.

As for the New Testament, Barth insists that christocentric preaching is no less important here.

“One can never say of a single part of the narrative, doctrine and proclamation of the New Testament, that in itself it is original or important or the object of the witness intended. Neither the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount nor the eschatology of Mk 13 and parallels, nor the healing of the blind, lame and possessed, nor the battle with the Pharisees and the Cleansing of the Temple, nor the statements of the Pauline and Johannine metaphysics and mysticism (so far as there are any), nor love to God nor love to neighbour, nor the passion and death of Christ, nor the miraculous raising from the dead – nothing of all that has any value, inner importance or abstract significance of its own in the New Testament, apart from Jesus Christ being the subject of it all. His is the name in which it is all true and real, living and moving, by which, therefore, everything must be attested.” I/2, p10-11

This is a helpful reminder.  We usually hear from the Old Testament sermon some “bridge to Christ” (however tenuous!).  Yet what does it say when the same preacher can manage to preach Christlessly from the New?  

Do preachers really believe that the Scriptures are already Christ-focused?  Or is it our job to add a second layer of Christ-centredness?  If a preacher breathes a sigh of relief once they’re in New Testament waters, and if they then fail to witness to Christ while there – what does it say about their view of the Old and New Testaments?

Barth is really helpful here.  Scripture exists within the perichoresis of the three-fold Word.  It exists to be preached.  And it exists (every part of it) as witness to Christ.  It is not the preacher’s job to make it into a witness to Christ.  If we find our Old Testament sermons involve some weird change of gears in order to ‘get to Christ’, we’ve not understood the bible properly.  If we find that our New Testament sermons fail to point people to Christ, we’ve not understood the bible properly.   These issues might be a sign you’ve bought into the wrong biblical theology. 

Just a thought.

.

         Here’s my length paper on Barth and Preaching.

Read Full Post »

That’s what Heinrich Bullinger asserted in the Second Helvetic Confession.  And he’s not alone.  Check out Luther:

“Tis a right excellent thing, that every honest pastor’s and preacher’s mouth is Christ’s mouth, and his word and forgiveness is Christ’s word and forgiveness… For the office is not the pastor’s or preacher’s but God’s; and the Word which he preacheth is likewise not the pastor’s and preacher’s but God’s.” (Quoted from CD I/1, p107)

Or Calvin:

“When a man has climbed up into the pulpit… it is [so] that God may speak to us by the mouth of a man.” (Sermon XXII on 1 Tim 3:2 “apt to teach”, quoted in THL Parker, Calvin’s Preaching, Westminster/ John Knox, 1992, p24)

Or, more to the point, check out the Bible!

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thes 2:13)

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands for ever.”  And this is the word that was evangelized to you. (1 Pet 1:23-25)

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. (Heb 13:7)

So do we agree that ‘Preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God’?  Or would we rather Bullinger had maintained a more modest: ‘Preaching of the Word of God explains and applies the Word of God’?  Can we seriously maintain the word ‘is’ in that statement?

Karl Barth did.  Emphatically.  If you want to read more, go here to a very lengthy essay on Barth and preaching.  Here I’ll sketch out the argument in point form:

.

1) The Word of God is a three-fold Word.  That is, Christ, the Bible and preaching are all called ‘the Word’ in the Bible.  And yet there are not three competing words or revelations but One Word of God (Christ) who comes to us in the Spirit-mediated modes of Scripture and proclamation.  Thus we have one Word in three modes.  This is Barth’s primary analogy of the trinity.

2) Just as in the trinity we have distinct Persons who, nonetheless, are one, so with the Word we have distinct modes which nonetheless have a perichoretic unity.   The Son is one with the Father in His mediation of the Father.  He is no less God for being a witness of God.  But He is also no less distinct from the Father in this oneness.  In the same way preaching is no less the Word for being a witness (a Scriptural witness) to Christ. But simultaneously it is no less distinct from Christ (and Scripture) for being one with it. We need a perichoretic ontology not only for God but for the Word also.

 3) There is divinity and humanity to all three forms of the Word.  Yet, for all that, we must avoid the danger of Nestorianiam – that is, we must not conceive of the humanity as a separate existence from the divinity.  Barth is adamant that you cannot get around the worldliness of the Word – whether of Christ, Scripture or preaching.  In fact, it is not at all desirable that you should get around it.  For the Word as grace meets us where we are.  Christ the Man says ‘If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father.’  Christ the Man says ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’  The humanity of Christ in no way jeopardizes divine revelation or salvation.  Equally, the humanity of the apostles and prophets and the humanity of the preacher does not prevent the Word from being still a divine Word.  

Just as the eternal Word did not come in a man but as a man, so on Sunday morning, God’s Word does not come contained somewhere within the preaching but it comes as this human preacher in this situation witnesses to Christ.

4) We must remember the divine initiative in all this.  It is not a question of ‘Can we hear God’s Word in the preacher?’ Rather the question is: ‘Is it Christ Himself who encounters us in the preacher?’  It’s not a case of pulling Christ down through correct exegesis.  If we think like this we’re basically falling for an ex opere operato of the pulpit.   That is, we’re imagining that our correct priestly exercises ensure a divine encounter.  We must resist this – we must begin from above.  Revelation is grace.  It is Christ who chooses to condescend in Scripture and Proclamation (not we who bring Him down).  But in this divine condescension it is Christ Himself who encounters us. 

.

Let’s take all these points together.  Preaching is a mode of the Word of God.  It is distinct from Scripture and Christ but inextricably linked to it.  And in relation to Christ and Scripture – that is, as Christ is proclaimed Scripturally – it is itself the Word of God.  Not a competing revelation to the Bible but rather a ‘Word from Word’ (parallel to Christ’s divinity as ‘God from God’).   The humanity of the preacher is not a barrier to divine revelation but instead is the very worldiness in which the Word must meet us.  Thus the congregation on a Sunday morning is not confronted with explanation and application of the Word.  They are confronted with Christ Himself. 

Think of a preacher who challenges the congregation to confess Christ as ‘My Lord and My God.’ (John 20:28)  If the hearer does not trust Christ, is it only the preacher they’ve disobeyed? Have they not more fundamentally disobeyed Christ?  Isn’t it Christ Himself who confronts them in this preaching?  It is a daunting prospect for preachers, but such is the humbling authority of ‘the keys of the kingdom’ (Matt 16:19; John 20:23).)

[Preaching is] “the speaking of God himself through the lips of the minister.” (Karl Barth, Homiletics, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991, p67.)

“…in what Church preaching says of God, God Himself speaks for Himself.” (Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics, vol. 1, part 2, trans. Geoffrey Bromiley, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1956, p800)

.

           This post contains reworking from my comments at Faith and Theology

Read Full Post »

Barth for Beginners

Hello all,

I’m going on a blog-fast for the next week.  Feel free to comment on anything but I will resist replying – for a bit anyway.

In the meantime enjoy this!   Barth 101:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »