There is a smattering of related blog posts across the theo-blogosphere...
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only designed to give us a life in common in this world, but hast also separated us from other heathen nations, and illuminated us by the Sun of Righteousness, thine only-begotten Son, in order to lead us into the inheritance of eternal salvation, - O grant, that having been rescued from the darkness of death, we may ever attend to that celestial light, by which thou guidest and invitest us to thyself; and may we so walk as the children of light, as never to wander from the course of our holy calling, but to advance in it continually, until we shall at length reach the goal which thou has set before us, so that having put off all the filth of the flesh, we may be transformed into that ineffable glory, of which we have now the image in thine only-begotten Son. – Amen.
Barth’s curiosity about thinkers outside of the typocal cast of Reformation figures was one of the earliest – but perhaps farthest-reaching – ecumenical move[s] that Barth made. While not ‘ecumenical’ in a contemporary sense of personal dialogue or joint statements on social and doctrinal issues, as ecumenism is carried out today, Barth’s decision to explore the wider history of Christian theology no doubt played a role in how he viewed the scope of his work, and how his work was received by Protestant and Catholic alike. On many levels, Barth’s openness to Christian theologians outside the Reformation was a signal that the wider history of the Church – including many thinkers that were authoritative in the Catholic Church – was as legitimate and useful to the needs and commitments of modern Protestantism as that of the Reformation. His exploration of the wider history of Christian theology bestowed the same value and power upon pre-Reformation (i.e. “Roman Catholic” theology) as that of the Reformation. Such a shift in vision in the early decades of the twentieth century signaled the inevitable weakening of the liberal Protestant stronghold on the interpretation and valuation of history. If the entirety of Christian history was legitimate for informing theology, there was no reason why Protestants and Catholics could not study this history in conversation with one another (28-29).
How did they know about this bias in his thought? His theology was ‘not simple enough’ and therefore ‘not biblical enough’; thus ‘the word of philosophy emerged from it more than the word of the Bible.’ His theology as well as his language lacked ‘simplicity’ and thus removed itself from ‘Christianity’ that is ‘so simple at its core.’ For this reason the Pietistic circles of that time felt justified in creating the impression that ‘Barth was a despiser of the Bible.’On to Busch’s numbered analysis. Busch undertakes in this section to argue for what would need to be the case, what conditions would have to be satisfied, for the Pietist criticism to be justified.
The fact that [Barth] used a language shaped by ‘philosophical’ concepts, that he had a complicated way of thinking does not really prove in itself that he did not also talk as an exegete at the same time. Conversely, a language and a simple way of thinking that dispenses with Kantian terminology does not in itself furnish any evidence that the language and way of thinking are shaped by the Bible.
Barth’s interpretation and critique could be certainly mistaken, but when they responded to it and rejected it, they referred to the fact that the position of the critic was itself not (‘fully’) biblical but also philosophically conditioned. They acted as if they knew they were immune to the danger they detected here, simply portraying their own concerns as ‘biblical.’ This naïve matter-of-factness had to appear suspicious.
The fact that their [the Pietists’] language and way of thinking is also conditioned by contemporary history does not by itself say anything for or against the truth and legitimacy of their concern. But it does say something against prematurely identifying their own concern with the biblical witness. Only by giving up such an identity does the freedom of the biblical witness to overcome all the limitations of its interpreters come into focus.
By limiting themselves to occasionally quoting a biblical statement to refute an assertion made by Barth, the Pietistic authors evidently assumed that the meaning of the quoted verse is a foregone conclusion. To be more precise, they assumed that the quoted verse can of course only be understood in terms of the opinion that in their view is supported by the verse.
This [selection] was done in a way that they not only refrained from exegeting biblical passages but also refrained from considering as broad a spectrum as possible of various biblical statements on a particular point… They also refrained from drawing on complementary biblical concepts… Thus they refrained from referring to those Bible verses that could complement their own statements or possibly correct them and put them in proper perspective.
By concentrating on the quotation of Bible verses supporting the Pietistic concern…other Bible verses were left out of consideration which could conversely be lacking in Pietistic theology. And this must be added: What happened to the claim of the Pietists that they could ‘communicate the total chorus of New Testament truth’ and open up ‘the full riches of Scripture’?Finally, a very fine indictment of proof-texting and the underlying hermeneutic it assumes:
They way they backed up their counterargument with Bible verses seems to be rooted in an understanding of Scripture that assumes faithfulness to Scripture is guaranteed by merely adding up Bible quotations and by stringing together proof texts. The problem with such an understanding of Scripture is that the danger of distorting the meaning of the Bible verses in question by taking them out of context is always lurking in the background. In addition, the never-ending but always essential issue of what is really crucial in the biblical witness is left out of consideration. Then we run the risk of making certain details the most important thing, even if those details may well be significant as such.
If the 'good nature' of human beings is not a condition in and of itself, it certainly only exists at all insofar as it is lived out by men and women. Persons who do not live out their being are not human persons; they have no being. Hence, if humans are only human insofar as they live out their good nature, and if they live out their good nature only as those who sin, then they only possess their good nature as a perverted, totally corrupted nature. Accordingly, Barth can only think of the corruption of human being or nature as the 'event of their corruption.' No sphere of human existence is exempted from the event of this corrupting. The human creature is 'godless precisely in the good as good...and has fallen prey to nothingness precisely in his essentiality.'
In sum: the being of the human creature qua sinner remains ontologically constituted by the grace of God. Humans constitute their being as sinners by sinning. Several things follow from this. First, there is no perennially good 'relic or core of goodness which persists in man and in spite of his sin'; the being of sinners does not relate to human being as one quantum to another. Humans remain totally human and are totally sinners. Second, there is no 'time in which man is not a transgressor.' And third, there are 'in the whole sphere of human activities...no exceptions to the sin and corruption of man,' for under God's grace there are 'no spheres which are neutral, but only spheres of decision,' and humans have chosen in favor of sin.
The momentousness of human guilt is reflected in the enacted existence of their being: sinful humans can no longer turn to God of their own accord and by their own power. indeed, through the misuse of freedom, the liberum arbitrium given humans by God becomes a servum arbitrium.
Augustine’s doctrine of happiness is primarily theological, eschatological, and conceptual, with room for atheological, temporal, and material happiness – unstable as it may be. Boethius’s teaching is theological, temporal, and noetic, not eschatological or material. Aquinas followed Augustine’s theological, eschatological, noetic precedent, but he made a small place for theological, temporal, and material happiness.Now, here are some tidbits:
Fitting Butler into this schema is not easy, because his treatment of happiness is inadvertent as he pursues another project. His understanding of self-love does not recognize happiness as a side effect of obedience to conscience. That remains outside his theological purview, though it is easily incorporated into his doctrine of self-love without damage to his separation of happiness form self-love. Still, we may conclude that his teaching on happiness is material and temporal, and mildly theological to the extent that he recognizes the joy in loving God. He does not ground temporal happiness in obedience to God.
The theological conversation on happiness has staggered across the centuries, with the theologians addressing salient issues of their days. As I have noted…this foray into the subject seeks to address two theological concerns: the heavy emphasis on future eschatology at the expense of temporal, realizing eschatology in the classical tradition, and the academic triumph of theology in the modern university that has obscured the practical task of theology. The first concern, causing an underemphasis on temporal happiness, resulted in the hyper-Augustinian Jansenism of Pascal, which, while it was condemned by the church, has left tracks that make Christians skittish about temporal material happiness, fearing it is untoward from a Christian perspective. The second concern, for the consequence of the scientizing of theology within the theoretical structures of modern academic convention, has made it difficult for theology to fulfill its proper calling of helping people in their life with God.
The proposal that follows [in Part 2] addresses the first concern by suggesting a theological, temporal, realizing eschatology. It addresses the second concern by offering a theological, temporal, and experiential doctrine of happiness in the proposal of asherism.
He drank deeply from the Platonist well but finally could not be satisfied there because the incarnate Christ brought God down from heaven to earth (24).Some more on Augustine:
The implicit teaching on happiness in The Trinity is soteriological. Salvation is the healing of the soul through the slow and painful recovery of the shattered and lost image of God that we are intrinsically by the grace of creation (49).Speaking in the context of treating Boethius:
For Augustine, happiness is the spiritual benefit of knowing, loving, and enjoying God, and loving self and others in pursuit of that goal. It is being at rest in God, as he so famously said: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you” (57).
[Augustine’s] soteriology is one of ascent, but ascent through knowing Christ enabled by divine grace (59).
The wicked are feral, and the more wickedness they pursue, the less human they become (83).Speaking in the context of treating Aquinas:
Self-realization is living as an agent of the divine will (98).Speaking of changes that occurred with Protestantism:
Although Protestants did not talk much about happiness, it implicitly became relief from anxiety before God…The search for peace of mind is a fresh form of Augustine’s resting in God, though [Protestants] do not use the language of felicity (111-2).Speaking of Thomas Hobbes:
Life is either a naked or disguised power struggle in which no one and nothing is secure. The Christian fear of divine wrath, which finds refuge in humility, becomes fear of one another, which finds security in power (118).==================================