Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pour the Drinks and Light the Candles: DET is 4 Years Old!

That’s right, gentle readers: another year has come and gone. This blog has been here for four years now. I started it going into my senior MDiv year, and now I’m entering my 4th PhD year. We’ve had some good times: we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, etc. Who knows what the future may bring?

While it is easy to generate content when doing intensive reading, it is a bit harder to do so when doing intensive writing. With dissertation writing in full swing, I am now solidly in the later camp. All my professional attention is directed to one project, and few things catch my interest long enough for me to want to mention them here. So, this next year might be a bit dicey. We’ll just have to see how it goes.

However, there is one flash of light in the darkness – and its quite a big flash at that. Of what do I speak? The 4th annual Karl Barth Blog Conference, of course! This year’s theme – for the umpteenth time – is “Karl Barth in Conversation with…” We’ve got a good set of papers lined up, and some of them have even been turned in already! This year’s blog conference will be far more extensive than any of the previous installations, so stay tuned. I’ll be sure to give you amble warning when dates are finally determined for the blog conference.

Well, that’s enough for now. Thanks for reading DET, and I hope that you find it a helpful and useful sight. Here’s to another year!

*blows out the candles

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

Sung-Sup Kim reviews David Gibson, Reading the Decree: Exegesis, Election and Christology in Calvin and Barth, T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (London: T&T Clark, 2009). Be sure to go and read it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reflections on my Intensive Reading of “Church Dogmatics” 4 in its Entirety

As some of you know, I spent 3 1/2 weeks in June reading through Church Dogmatics 4 as preparation to begin work in earnest on my dissertation (which I began writing in earnest today: ~1000 words isn’t a bad start!). Here are some reflections on the experience.

(1) Reading Barth (like Calvin) makes me want to read the Bible. This is about the highest praise one can give a theologian (as far as I’m concerned).

(2) One of the things that drives in the direction of my point #1 is Barth’s own exegesis. Right now I’m thinking specifically of his OT work in CD 4.2, and his exegesis of Job in CD 4.3.1. And who can overlook § 59.1 in this regard?

(3) Barth is incredibly repetitive. This is great if you’re dipping into one § and want to get a sense of the whole, but it is murder when you are trying to blitz through large tracks. It can easily become a tedious redundancy under such conditions.

(4) Barth’s theology is beautiful, by which I mean, the architecture of his thought is breathtaking. It is simply incredible how the various pieces fit together, and do so consistently. This demands that those who aspire to writing on Barth (alas, wretched man that I am!) labor long on this dimension of their own thought.

(5) Barth’s sections on sin might just be the best things to make beginning students read. They are incredibly insightful as far as the human situation is concerned, they come packed with great exegesis (often of the Old Testament, which is a joy to read), they are closely coordinated with his christological sections, and they are a concrete demonstration of his theological method.

(6) I didn’t much like The Christian Life, the posthumously published, fragmentary lecture material that would have been included in a full version of CD 4.4. There are certainly some great sections, but I found it very hard to get through. Perhaps it just needed good revision.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Barth on Faith

A very brief but compelling passage:

Church Dogmatics 4.1, 748:
Faith is at once the most wonderful and the simplest of things. In it a man opens his eyes and sees and accepts everything as it - objectively, really and ontologically - is. Faith is the simple discovery of the church which finds itself in the father's house and on the mother's lap.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Adam Neder on Barth on History

Adam Neder did his PhD here at Princeton Theological Seminary, and was gone before I arrived. I have heard him talked about in the most glowing terms , and so it was with expectation that I picked up the published version of his dissertation, Participation with Christ (the Center for Barth Studies has published a review). Weighing in at a tidy 92 pages (plus bibliography, endnotes, and index), this volume nevertheless packs some punch. His treatments are concise and to the point, which is always admirable.

The following is from Neder’s discussion of Church Dogmatics 3.2.
Adam Neder, Participation in Christ: An Entry into Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, Columbia Series in Reformed Theology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009): 33.

“[H]istory occurs as a being in a state is encountered by a different kind of being and when the being thus encountered responds correspondingly with an action that is not within the range of its own inherent possibilities. The different between a history and a state is not that the latter is not dynamic or involves no change, cut rather that the movement that takes place within a state is generated from within that state, is intrinsic to that state, whereas for an even to be ‘historical’ it requires a transcendent action that intersects and interrupts the state. Furthermore, if this is the case, if a being in a state has such a history, then the nature of that being is located within the history itself. It has no nature in and for itself, because its existence is not isolated, but rather occurs in relationship with the transcending factor. A being with a history is as this history occurs, and its nature is therefore located wholly within the history.

After offering these rather technical definitions, Barth proceeds to show that they derive directly from the existence of Jesus Christ. Indeed, apart from him, all extant beings could be fully described within the concept of a state – as beings variously described according to the inherent limits of their own possibilities. In Jesus Christ, however, we are ‘forced’ to apply the concept of history.”
*UPDATE* Since I wrote this post, I had the chance to meet Adam at the most recent Barth conference, and am only sorry that I did not get to spend more time in his company.