Friday, January 29, 2010

2010 Karl Barth Blog Conference: This Just In!!!

Yes, the 4th installation of the Karl Barth Blog Conference is in its planning stages. I am pleased to announce that I am no longer shouldering the burden of putting on this conference alone, as my good friend and colleague David Congdon (Fire and Rose) is helping me out.

And boy, are we planning a great blog conference!!! I don’t want to reveal too many details yet, but, here is what I can tell you:

  1. The conference theme is “Karl Barth in Conversation with…” where the blank is filled in with another notable theological or philosophical thinker.
  2. We already have papers lined up to put Barth in conversation with Bultmann, Torrance, Tanner, Jenson, Gadamer, Coakley, Bonhoeffer, Zizek, and Schleiermacher!
  3. The conference will be posted in the Fall of this year.
  4. There is now a Barth Blog Conference page on Facebook, so check it out. Updates will be posted there as well.
  5. Its not too late to get involved. If you want to propose a plenary post and put Barth in conversation with someone, or if you are interested in serving as a respondent (either to a particular plenary or just in general), don’t hesitate to e-mail: derevth at gmail dot com.
That’s all for now. Stay tuned for all the latest!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gerrish on Calvin on Faith as Knowledge

I can’t say that I’ve read all that Brian Gerrish has ever written, but I have spent some time with his Grace and Gratitude, which provides a reading of Calvin’s theology as a whole and argues that it is a deeply eucharistic theology, in both the broader and narrower senses of that term. While I’m not 100% sold, I do find him to be rather insightful on a number of points. What he has to say about faith as knowledge in the Reformed tradition is one of the many gems hidden in this volume, and I thought it worthy of note here:
B.A. Gerrish, Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2002):63-4.

“Calvin’s well-known definition of faith appears in book three, chapter two, of his 1559 Institutes: ‘Now we can agree on the right definition of faith if we say that it is firm and certain knowledge of the divine good will (benevolentiae) toward us, based on the truth of the free promise in Christ, and both revealed to our minds and sealed on our hearts through the Holy Spirit.’ Calvin’s assignment of faith to the domain of knowledge (cognition) has often been perceived as a contrast between him and Luther, whose emphasis was rather on faith as confidence or trust (fiducia). The contrast is easily overdone. But it is certainly true that there has been a marked tendency throughout the history of the Reformed tradition, from Zwingli to Karl Barth (1886-1968), to frame the cardinal theological question in cognitive terms. Calvin is no exception. Gustaf Wingren, indeed, accused Barth of exchanging the Reformation question of righteousness for the modern question of knowledge. But this is to identify the Reformation with Martin Luther. Among the Reformed, it was a question of knowledge from the very first.

“It would be a mistake, however, to take ‘knowledge’ in Calvin’s definition of faith to denote mere acquaintance with information provided. Faith is a matter of the heart, not just of the brain. Perhaps the initial moment in faith, as Calvin sees it, can best be termed in English ‘recognition’: it has to do, above all, with recognizing God in his true character, seeing God for who he is. No principle is more fundamental to Calvin’s theology than what he calls his ‘rule of piety’: to be clear about who the God we worship is. From this rule it follows that only the firm and certain knowledge of God that is faith can draw the line between true worship and idolatry or superstition. There is no religion where truth does not reign: if the end of life is to serve God’s glory, knowledge of God must come first. Calvin by no means belittles confidence in God, or love for God either; rather, he holds tenaciously to the axiom that there cannot be either one where the character of God is misperceived. Faith must lead the way.”

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Interesting Stats on Marriage in the 1st Century

I don’t have a point to make with all this – I simply found it interesting. Maybe you will too.
Lynn H. Cohick, Women in the World of the Earliest Christians: Illuminating Ancient Ways of Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009): 119.

“Based on a survey of inscriptional evidence, men married for the first time in their mid to late twenties. Women entered marriage for the first time by their late teens or early twenties. Using statistics from modern, preindustrial communities to estimate demographics in the ancient world, we find that the average live expectancy was twenty-five years. If a woman married at age twenty, and her husband was thirty years old, then the likelihood that her father was alive at her wedding was approximately fifty percent.
I will say, however, that this makes me feel old…

Friday, January 15, 2010

TF Torrance - Pertinent to the Hour

"The church of the risen Lord has no right to be a prophet of gloom or despair, for this world has been redeemed and sanctified by Christ and he will not let it go. The corruptible clay of our poor earth has been taken up in Jesus, is consecrated through his sacrifice and resurrection, and he will not allow it to sink back into corruption. Hence the whole creation groans and travails waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, looking forward with eager expectation to the hour of final liberation and renewal in the advent of its risen saviour."
Thomas F. Torrance, Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ (Robert T. walker, ed.; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic and Paternoster, 2009): 263, emphasis added.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Frei on Barth and Barthians

Hans Frei, Types of Christian Theology (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992): 157.

“Readers of Barth’s Church Dogmatics usually come up with the same experience: Whether one agrees with Barth or not, and despite the endless repetition of themes and the stylistic heaviness, much increased by the translation, which loses the almost colloquial vigor of the German original, there is an increasingly compelling, engrossing quality to the material. And it is much more accessible than much Modern theology: Even the technical terms don’t lose sight of ordinary language, and Barth possesses astonishing descriptive powers. But then, as one tries to restate it afterwards the material dies on one’s hands. It can be done, but there is nothing as wooden to read as one’s own or others’ restatements of Barth’s terms, his technical themes and their development. It is as though he had preempted that particular language and its deployment. For that reason, reading ‘Barthians,’ unlike Barth himself, can often be painfully boring.”
I am happy to agree with Frei’s description of Barth, and with his implicit warning to would-be-Barthians concerning the extra effort that should be taken to avoid being boring, but I cannot say that I have myself found reading ‘Barthians’ boring. The only way that I know how to explain this is by saying that the Barthians I read all came along after Frei passed from the scene. Perhaps there were earlier Barthians who were boring in the way Frei suggests, whom history has – mercifully – allowed to pass from the scene such that I have not come across them. Perhaps, also, who Frei has in mind here are the North American neo-orthodox of the mid 20th-century.

In any case, may God save me from – among other things – being or becoming a painfully boring Barthian!