Showing posts from December, 2010

Karl Barth on the Church in Excess and Defect - The Small Print

This is from the posthumously published ethics section of CD 4.4, entitled The Christian Life , 136-8. The bold sections are large print given to set the stage; the normal text is Barth's small print: The one form of the denial and apostasy is the church in excess, the presumptuous church which exalts itself and puffs itself up. At this point one is naturally inclined as a Protestant to think especially of the Roman church. There may be something in this. But one should keep in view that the Roman church is not just a church in excess, involved in apostasy only on this side. One should also keep in view that, even if in less striking and classical form, the church in excess, in apostasy on this side, may be very clearly seen in the non-Roman Christian world, not only on its right wing among the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans, but also on the left wing, even down to the Baptists, though only on the margin. [Ed: It's very interesting to me that Barth puts Luther

Philip Schaff compares Zwingli and Luther

This is just good fun. I doubt that one could get away with making these sorts of sweeping statements today, but they have a sort of intuitive weight that commends them. And of course, they are entertaining. I’ve highlighted some of my favorite bits with bold. 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]) : §9, 34-6. The training of Zwingli for his life-work differs considerably from that of Luther. This difference affected their future work, and accounts in part for their collision when they met as antagonists in writing, and on one occasion (at Marburg) face to face, in debate on the real presence. Comparisons are odious when partisan or sectarian feeling is involved, but necessary and useful if impartial. Both Reformers were of humble origin, but with thi

5 Must-Read Recent Books on Barth, or, How to Spend Bookseller Gift Cards that You Received for Christmas

In the land of academics, it is currently Christmas break. Most students have turned in their final projects from the Fall semester, and are waiting to begin a new one. Furthermore, many theology ner...I mean...students, now posses gift cards for book-selling businesses given to them by well-meaning loved ones (note: if you really love a theology ner...I mean...student, next year you should get them a James Bond movie, or some good music). If you find yourself in such a position, here is a list to help you spend those gift cards. This is something of an update to my earlier post, So, You Want To Read Karl Barth? Be sure to check that out if you haven’t already. These works are presented in not much of a particular order: Paul Nimmo, Being in Action : Wonder what Barth has to say about ethics? Look here first. Adam Neder, Participation in Christ : How does Barth conceive of how God and human beings relate and interact? What does “participation” in Christ mean for Barth? What light

Did Barth understand Przywara?

After another of the increasingly predictable discussions between myself and my Princeton/Wheaton/theo-blogosphere co-belligerent on this question, I thought another bit from Johnson was warranted. As always, bold is mine. Keith L. Johnson, Karl Barth and the Analogia entis, T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (London; T&T Clark, 2010). [D]id Barth truly understand Przywara’s theology in general and the analogia entis in particular? To address this question, it will be helpful to summarize what we know of Barth and Przywara’s encounters…We know that Barth had positive feelings for Przywara personally, both from their letters to one another and from Barth’s remarks…to Thurneysen. It is clear as well that Barth did not have a negative preconception of the analogia entis before he read Przywara’s book and met him personally, because he had used the principle in his own dogmatic theology. We know that Barth read at least the first two parts of Przywara’s Religionsphilo

Episcopal Letter-writing in the Early Fifth Century

This is an exchange recounted in Augustine’s letter, and I find it rather interesting. Maybe you will too. Augustine, “Letter 98” in Letters 1-99 (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2001): 431-2. [I]n bringing what you wrote to an end, you go on to say, “I ask you, then, please reply briefly to these questions, not so that you state what the practice of the Church demands, but so that you give reasons.” To begin, it is hilarious – I think – that this other bishop would be so pointed in asking Augustine for reasons rather than an appeal to tradition. You could almost read this as an insult to Augustine. In any case, it shows that this other bishop knew Augustine’s texts and his habitual manners of responding to arguments and questions on the topic of baptism. Moving on to Augustine’s rejoinder… Having read and reread this letter of yours and having considered it to the extent that the limitations on my time permitted, I was reminded of my friend, Nebridius. Since he was most diligen

Two PTS Theology Blogs You Should Start Reading (with some miscellaneous reflections)

When I was about to make the transition from undergraduate study of theology to graduate study of theology (the latter being my MDiv stage), I asked my undergraduate advisor whether he thought I was any good. I’ve never forgotten his reply, which was to this effect: “I’m going to be honest with you, and over the next few years people will tell you what I’m about to tell you so often that it will cause you no end of frustration – you have potential.” He was right – I was destined to hear this many times, and it did become quite frustrating. However, he was right about something else – it takes a long time to move beyond the state of possessing potential to actually becoming a halfway decent theologian. My wife used to make a similar point: whenever I would refer to myself as a “theologian,” she was quick to remind me that I am merely a student of theology. Of course, toward the end of one’s doctoral program – and especially in the process of writing one’s dissertation – one begins to

God Wants You To Be Happy – or, Announcing the Publication of Ellen Charry’s Latest Book

I served as Ellen Charry’s research assistant working on her latest book for an entire calendar year. When it came time to start thinking about possible titles, my suggestion was the first part of this post title: God Wants You to be Happy . It was felt at the time – the opinion being expressed definitively by the publisher – that this title was too “up market” (whatever that means) for such a serious treatise. Luckily, the final title of the volume is only very slightly less perfect than my original suggestion: God and the Art of Happiness . First, let’s get the nitty-gritty out of the way: this book is ~300 pages of dense theological text, divided into two parts. It is not for the faint of heart. The first part treats the history of doctrine for the question of happiness in the Western Christian tradition – I know of no other such treatment, so this part alone provides a valuable service. If my recollections serve me, the quality of the chapter on Augustine stands out for its excel

Gathering of Graduate Students of Theology in Boston / Cambridge

Some folks up at Harvard got in touch with me and asked if I would spread the word about an event they are planning. Since it looks like a good event, I figured that I would post about it here. The below is reproduced from their flyer - check it out and think about participating. ================================= Theological Times A Workshop Hosted by the Harvard Theology Salon and the Theology and Ethics Collaborative Announcing the 2011 Gathering for Doctoral Students of Theology: Boston, February 18-19, 2011 All current doctoral students of theology are invited to a workshop exploring ‘Why’s, ‘What’s, and ‘Who’s of theology and theological education. The Harvard Theology Salon and the Theology and Ethics Collaborative will host a workshop this February in Cambridge and Boston for current doctoral students who consider themselves to do theology. This workshop will critically and self-reflexively explore “theology” as it is being practiced, taught, and creatively rethough

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

Melanie Webb reviews Yaroslav Viazovski, Karl Barth's Doubts about John Calvin's Assurance: A Study of Two Doctrines of Assurance (VDMV, 2009). Be sure to check it out .

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

David W. Congdon reviews Edwin Chr. van Driel, Incarnation Anyway: Arguments for Supralapsarian Christology (OUP, 2008). Its a lengthy, in-depth review so be sure to check it out .

2010 KBBC – Conclusion and TOC

Well, that's the 'end' of this year's KBBC - I've run out of posts! It took a while, but it has finally happened. Of course, you're all free to continue commenting and discussing the various posts - in fact, I encourage you to do so! Its never too late to learn something new. Thanks to everyone for making this year's KBBC the most successful ever: special thanks to David Congdon for helping me organize it; individual thanks to every author and respondent for turning in quality work that generated much good discussion; and collective thanks to all of you – readers and commentators – who came by to read and participate. The KBBC is the premier event of the theo-blogosphere, but it is not so because of anything I do. My role is rather banal – I just try and get material in one place for a specified period of time. All of you who write, comment, and read are the ones who make it great year in and year out. As has been mentioned before, a selected and expand

2010 KBBC: Week 3, Day 4

Pauline apocalyptic and political nihilism: Jacob Taubes and Karl Barth By Benjamin Myers ‘Here is a Messiah who is condemned according to the law. Tant pis , so much the worse for law.’ —Jacob Taubes Taubes The Jewish intellectual Jacob Taubes (1923-87) is surely one of the most eccentric figures of twentieth-century philosophy. A political thinker of the far left, Taubes’ greatest intellectual debt was to the arch-conservative German jurist Carl Schmitt. An ordained rabbi, his work was driven by a lifelong engagement with Christian theology, in an attempt to lay bare the roots of modern political power. With Schmitt, Taubes believed that in today’s world everything is theological – except perhaps the chatter of theologians (ACS 34). He began his career with a doctoral dissertation on the secularisation of Christian apocalyptic – a response to Hans Urs von Balthasar’s work on the same theme – and ended his career, just weeks before his death, with lectures on the explosive pol

2010 KBBC: Week 3, Day 3

Beauty, Glory and Trinity in Karl Barth and David Bentley Hart By Keith Starkenburg According to John Betz, Barth’s difficulty with the analogia entis comes from “an aesthetic prejudice for the sublime against the beautiful” (John R. Betz, “Beyond the Sublime,” Modern Theology (2005), 370 ). David Bentley Hart, who is a close collaborator of Betz, makes similar claims in The Beauty of the Infinite (229-230). If aesthetics has to do strictly with the escapability of the known from the knower, then the analogia entis will be difficult to maintain. Conversely, for Hart, the analogia entis is a way to maintain properly both the beauty of the Triune God’s and creation. As Hart makes this claim, he positions himself against Barth. In this essay, I approach this question indirectly. Instead of analyzing Barth’s concepts of the analogia entis and the analogia fidei , I argue that Barth’s doctrine of glory achieves the same purposes that Hart sets out for his own theology of beaut

2010 KBBC: Week 3, Day 2

Barth and Badiou: A Tale of Two Events By Michael Jimenez The year 1968 was an important one for both Karl Barth and Alain Badiou. For the young Badiou, he went through his self-proclaimed Damascus experience during the failed events of the 1968 Revolution. For Barth, he died. Therefore, the attempt to have both Barth and Badiou in conversation is fictional to some extent. The fact that Barth was unable to read Badiou’s Being and Event or St. Paul forces us to wonder what the real Barth would think of Badiou’s Paul. Of course, Badiou could still interact with Barth’s thought even though Badiou does not seem to be interested in theology outside of criticizing the turn to the religious in philosophical thought, or in the use of Paul as a model of the event. Even though Badiou would perhaps regard Barth as an anti-philosopher (as he does with figures like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and even St. Paul; see St. Paul , 17), he does not totally ignore these thinkers because they have