Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

Jeffrey Skaff, currently a doctoral student at Princeton Theological Seminary, reviews Thomas Joseph White (ed.), The Analogy of Being: Invention of Antichrist or the Wisdom of God? (Eerdmans, 2011). Skaff’s review is quite lengthy, and he does a good job of sketching the various contributions in the volume. He also offers some helpful comments toward the end to help situate this volume and the discussion it represents within the ongoing context of Barth studies. This is definitely a review that you want to read if you haven’t had time to read the volume and, even if you’ve read the volume, surf on over to see if you agree with what Skaff has to say. In other words, be sure to check out this review!

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Barth on the triune relationships

I recently administered midterm exams, and I decided to do something useful with the time that would be on my hands as my students furiously wrote their exam answers. So I read some Barth on the Trinity. This particular passage stood out to me as a particularly powerful expression of the dialectic in Barth’s trinitarian thought between God’s one-ness which is also God’s threeness and God’s threeness which is also God’s oneness, in this case in conceptual contact with patristic thinking about processions. Enjoy!

Barth, Church Dogmatics 1.1, 363:
Quite rightly reference has been made here first and foremost to the New Testament names of Father, Son and Spirit. If these three names are really in their threeness the one name of the one God, then it follows that in this one God there is primarily at least—let us put it cautiously, something like fatherhood and sonship, and therefore something like begetting and being begotten, and then a third thing common to both, which is not a being begotten, nor a proceeding merely from the begetter, but, to put it generally, a bringing forth which originates in concert in both begetter and begotten. But then, applying our ternary of revealer, revelation and being revealed, we can also say quite confidently that there is a source, an authorship, a ground of revelation, a revealer of himself just as distinct from revelation itself as revelation implies absolutely something new in relation to the mystery of the revealer which is set aside in revelation as such. As a second in distinction from the first there is thus revelation itself as the event of making manifest what was previously hidden. And as the result of the first two there is then a third, a being revealed, the reality which is the purpose of the revealer and therefore at the same time the point or goal of the revelation. More briefly, it is only because there is a veiling of God that there can be an unveiling, and only as there is a veiling and unveiling of God that there can be a self-impartation of God.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Troeltsch’s distinction between Dogmatics and Glaubenslehre

So, more about Troeltsch. I found this distinction to be rather interesting and thought-provoking, especially when viewed in terms of Troeltsch’s interactions with Hermann.

Hans-Georg Drescher, Ernst Troeltsch: His Life and Work (Fortress, 1993), 202.
When in 1900 the publishing house Mohr/Siebeck in Tübingen was considering whether to found a new journal for systematic theology, Troeltsch was also asked for his opinion. He wrote: “Systematic theology belongs in general journals. . . I do not believe that anyone will have the courage to devote a special journal to it at a time when dogmatic theology is falling apart.” The fact that Troeltsch had always had the intention to publish a collection of his “positive” views does not contradict these thoughts.

The idea of the dissolution of dogmatic theology is to be seen against the background of Troeltsch’s distinction between dogmatics and the doctrine of faith (Glaubenslehre). In the history of religion Troeltsch sees dogmatics as a distinctive feature of Christianity which emerged in connection with the formation of a community, an exclusivist view of history and a speculative development of ideas. The concept of “the doctrine of faith” resulted from the Protestant criticism of the idea of the authoritative laying down of teaching by the church and the assumption of universal normative validity in matters of faith. According to Troeltsch, modern Protestantism fundamentally overcame the domination of dogma and dogmatics by the destruction of the supernaturalist way of thinking and an understanding of revelation extending to the whole of Christianity. The summary description of ideas of Christian faith and the life of faith resting on personal conviction is aimed at handing down insights of faith to others, with the goal of evoking a corresponding personal resonance in them.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Augustine and the Sacramental Argument for Infant Baptism - Mondays with McMaken

Part of what I do in my volume on baptism is to identify the two primary arguments presented by the theological tradition in support of infant baptism. The first of these arguments, both chronologically and in terms of my presentation-order, is the sacramental argument. Augustine is the primogenitor of this argument, at least insofar as it achieves a theologically robust formulation. Here’s an excerpt to flesh things out a bit more:

W. Travis McMaken, The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth, Emerging Scholars (Fortress, 2013), 20.
Infant baptism was practiced in extremis in the early Christian centuries, but it was always something of a practice in search of a theology. By pressing it into service in his dispute with the Pelagians, Augustine “provided the theology that led to infant baptism becoming general practice for the first time in the history of the church.” This was not his intent. In fact, he argued that it was already the church’s general practice, and had been since the time of the apostles. Other sources considered above belie this claim. Further, the logic of his argument moved away from the practice of infant baptism and toward the establishment of his doctrine of original sin and guilt. However, once “original sin was established as the basic framework for thinking, then it was natural for it to become the principal reason for infant baptism.” This resulted in infant baptism quickly becoming established as a standard practice—and, indeed, the definitive form of baptism—rather than an in extremis concession. As Karen Spierling notes, “infant baptism was an established practice of the Christian church” within one hundred years of Augustine’s dispute with the Pelagians.

In this way, Augustine provided Christian theology with the first of its two great arguments in support of infant baptism, namely, the sacramental argument . . .
To see precisely how I define the sacramental argument, you’ll have to buy the book. So, go do that.

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

…or, Something to keep you busy over the weekend…

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

I’m overdue on this post in a number of ways, and there’s no reason to beat around the bush. So here you go.

Here is the last link post in case you need to catch up.

Here’s what’s been up at DET:


No a ton, but what’s there is good stuff, imho. Anyway, here are your links from elsewhere in the theoblogosphere:


A brief parting note to those theobloggers who write their titles in all caps – why? It’s ugly. Cut it out.

That is all. Happy reading!

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