Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Did Philip Schaff Predict Barth’s Accomplishment 6 Years After Barth’s Birth?

A friend and sometimes blog interlocutor recently included this quote in a post. I've had it sitting in my blog post draft pile for a while now, but figured I'd post it now and add my voice to his to get it a little recognition.

Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church: Volume 8, The Swiss Reformation, The Protestant Reformation in German, Italian, and French Switzerland up to the Close of the Sixteenth Century, 1529-1605 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2002 [orig pub. 1892]): 544.
Calvinism has the advantage of logical compactness, consistency, and completeness. Admitting its premises, it is difficult to escape its conclusions. A system can only be overthrown by a system. It requires a theological genius of the order of Augustin and Calvin, who shall rise above the antagonism of divine sovereignty and human freedom, and shall lead us to a system built upon the rock of the historic Christ, and inspired from beginning to end with the love of God to all mankind.
I don’t know about you, but I got chills when I first read this. It is a bit unsettling how Schaff’s description of the “system” that would someday arise and overthrow Calvinism sounds very much like Barth’s theology. Solving the divine sovereignty / human freedom problem? Christological through and through? God’s love for all humanity?

*shivers

9 comments:

Jon Coutts said...

eerily awesome

Justin said...

I heard Schaff is also thinking of someone who's name starts with the letter R - 'R' - does that ring a bell with anyone here in the audience today? Okay, maybe it's a place that begins with R? Somebody please speak up, b/c I'm definitely getting something here.

Darren said...

Win.

Really, it makes me curious if Schaff did have in mind one of his own contemporaries ...

W. Travis McMaken said...

You're going to have to say more, Justin.

I doubt Schaff had a contemporary in mind. This is his judgment on the existing state of affairs and what it would take to overcome the stalemate. He surveys his contemporaries to get to this point.

Jon Coutts said...

Interesting that in the later prefaces to Romerbrief Barth pondered whether he was just the one putting voice to something that was already "in the air"

Sorin said...

Schaff's insight is a proof of his powerful mind. Perhaps I will dare to add the need for a more comprehensive pneumatology.

W. Travis McMaken said...

Dare away. I have a colleague working on something that might just amount to that.

Solly Gratia said...

Interesting, although I would think that KB would not accept the description of his work as a 'system', nor an an overthrow.

Solly Gratia said...

The only R that comes to mind is Ritschl.