Monday, June 22, 2009

Latest from the PTS Barth Conference

The after-dinner talk on day 2 of the conference has concluded. It was delivered by Charles West, an emeritus professor here at PTS, and was entitled, “Barth, Bonhoeffer, and Kraemer on Religion.” He took as his main task comparing the polemical answers of these three figures to the 20th century question, “What is religion?” This is to be contrasted to the 21st century question of, “How do we engage with the myriad of religious expressions that surround us?” Although his commentary on these thinkers was insightful and thought provoking, I will not go into detail on that portion (read: I was too busy listening to take notes!). Here are some of the payoff points.

What can we learn from these thinkers?
  1. We should recognize, with Bonhoeffer, that it is possible and even natural in our increasingly technological would to be irreligious.
  2. To understand the world in this way is a theological statement. A non-religious world is in reality possible because despite human sin, God in Christ is its judge and redeemer. This is reality whether the world knows it or not. God makes the world secular and gives it historical direction and purpose. Mission is therefore an urgent calling. The world depends on the faith and witness of believers. In this, Kraemer is right.
  3. Barth is the theological powerhouse behind this mission. He provided, and still provides, for Christians the copious exposition of revelation that guides and corrects the church in its encounter with religious temptations throughout the world.
Watch for more from the conference tomorrow.

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