christianity theology

barth on theology

I read this and especially liked these points:

  • Theology, in light of the greatness of God, is best characterized as human “sighing” and “stammering” —regardless of its sophistication, expansiveness, or insight: “Now we have only a dim perception of him, the living God. There can be no talk of knowing him, of ‘having’ him. What awkward sighing and stammering there is, when we try to say something about him”.
  • Theology enters into God’s self-mediation to us; it is not humanity’s attempt to mediate God to us; theology is, then, a response not an initiative.
  • Theology is living and active; because its object is terrifyingly alive, theology takes on the active, ever-on-its-toes flavor of painting a bird in flight. It can never be locked down into a “system.”
  • Theology encounters a God who is wholly other; this is not the God of 19th century theological liberalism that Barth famously described as “Speaking of God by speaking of man in a really loud voice.”
  • Theology operates primarily in the mode of “describing” rather than “proving” or “defining.”
  • Theology and ethics are intimately linked, hence the descriptive task of theology should never be far from the ethical consequences for God’s people.

4 replies on “barth on theology”

Have you read any Barth yet? It’s tricky, the sentences run on for line after line after line and he has a unique way of making his points (he goes round and round a subject from different angles to make sure he’s covered it all).

I’ve decided to read Church Dogmatics from start to finish (since I finished my MDiv last year.) I picked a cheap set from before Christmas – currently I’m halfway through I.1 and although it’s a hard slog I’m finding it pretty mindblowingly awesome!

I’ve looked at his Romans commentary for an exegesis, but other than that it’s been just reading people quote him. Everything I see I like :)

Duane, as a comment, in regards to 1Corinthinas and Romans (I have not studied his other letters in great detail) think Barth is like St Paul in that he also paints a picture from multiple angles to make a few core points.

Dale (and readers) I find the ones who study theology (nothing to do with grades here) who are more closed minded prefer straight black and white biblicalism or the safety net of systematic theology. Comparatively, would it be fair to say that those who study… no, who truly engage philosophically in Socrates style and continue to study theology have become more inclined to liberalism? I prefer to think I am in the latter category and find it colourful, scary and exciting. But I now find myself struggling with finding a lot of concrete to stand upon. i.e. So much of the Bible to me is culturally-bound and great for them… but not so absolute for me. In transference to anything applicable today, I find in my study and thinking that it comes back to the “love thy neighbour thing” (but knowing full-well that it is only the love of God that can allow me to truly get beyond my selfish, fallen nature of “favourtisms” etc, to fully live out this beautiful standard/way of life). So my rock is our Lord Christ, but everything else seems to be about living well and wisely. [This does not negate that it is Biblical studies that has opened my mind to know what is wisdom, Biblical studies to understand a slither (yet likely the best piece) of wonderful anthropology known to humankind, and find it a great source to compare all other classic literature to]. The issue is that the love of God brings truth and therefore liberty in mind. The problem is that with truth comes responsibility to it… and with knowledge (in any area) comes more propensity to rely on our knowledge rather than the ultimate knowledge giver – Christ. I think I just answered my own current demise. I have not been spending time with God as a consequence of my studies and struggling to get real with Him over books… My prayer life is seriously neglected. Thanks for listening… I feel motivated in getting my heart in a good place with God now… Time for him to search and talk to my heart and mine his.

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