Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Barth on (Neo?) Orthodoxy

This is the conclusion of a longish fine print section wherein Barth traces, from Calvin through the 17th century Reformed scholastics, the way in which sources (various modes of natural theology) other than the scope of Scripture (in Luther’s sense) - and, earlier, even Scripture itself when not properly related to its scope – crept into the theological undertaking, especially where the doctrine of sin (hamartiology) is concerned. The final sentence stands apart, however, as a timeless warning to theologians. It is this toward which I gesture with this post’s title.

Church Dogmatics 4.1, 371-2:
It must be noted that the voice which we have heard is not that of 18th century rationalism but 17th century orthodoxy. This theology had not been taught by the Reformers themselves to learn from Jesus Christ as the substance and centre of Scripture what is the will and Law of God and therefore what the sin of man is. And the theology itself obviously had no power of itself to rectify the omission. For this reason it could and indeed had to think with a growing intensity and speak with an increasing clarity along the lines discussed. At this critical point in its exposition of revelation – hesitantly at first, but then more confidently – it could and had to go beyond the Scripture principle which it proclaimed so loudly to another principle, that of reason. The transition to the Enlightenment and all that that involved was not the terrible innovation that it has often been called. In many respects, and in this respect also, orthodoxy itself was engaged in a wholehearted transition to the Enlightenment – a further proof that the slogan “Back to Orthodoxy,” and even the slogan “Back to the Reformers,” cannot promise us the help that we need to-day. “Back to …” is never a good slogan.

4 comments:

Alex Kupsch said...

Love that picture. How many different drinks is he actually having here?

ken oakes said...

A nice quotation. As a Barthian myself, I am trying to think what theology (or more particularly theology and philosophy) would look like after Barth that is not 'back to Barth.'

W. Travis McMaken said...

Ken - I'm not sure Anglophone theology has yet caught up with Barth, much less gone beyond him so far that we can speak of going back!

ken oakes said...

You're right. That's the (my) problem with spending so much time with Barth: it all becomes a matter of course.