Barth's "Göttingen Dogmatics" - §4: Man and His Question

The androcentric nature of Barth's language notwithstanding, in this section he addresses the human condition and the "contradiction" at the heart of our existence, as well as reflecting on how it can be that God encounters us in the midst of that contradiction as "the answer to our question" (Diktatsatz).

Karl Barth, The Göttingen Dogmatics: Instruction in the Christian Religion

This is part 5 of a multi-part series, and you can find the series index here.

I begin the audio recordings by reading Barth’s Diktatsatz, so I will begin reproducing that here as well. The bold is mine and indicates where I find emphasis:

God's revelation, which is the basis of Christian preaching, is the answer to our question how we can overcome the contradiction in our existence, which we have to view not as our destiny but as our responsible act, and which we know that we cannot overcome. But we know ourselves in this regard only as God makes himself known to us. We would not ask about God had God not already answered us. Because of this, we can neither evade the question about God nor settle it in any sense.

What follows are some brief quotes from my commentary on Barth’s text:
“Christian preaching always comes from God...and it's always on the way to humanity.”

“Lots of movements in church and theology at this time...were very concerned with undergirding German culture and supporting German nationality.”

“Barth is really interested here in making sure that preaching is existentially significant.”

“This contradiction ultimately...means that there's a lack of self-knowledge.... People do not know themselves.”

“It's not about getting into the pulpit and playing conceptual games in front of your congregation. It's about speaking directly to the real dialectic of their life at that existential level where they live.”

“Not even Jesus, considered in terms of Jesus's humanity, can get you out of this contradiction.”

“Jesus Christ cannot become a magical formula whether in spirituality, whether conceptually in theology, or what have you.”

“Barth wants to be up front with the idea that he's begging the question of God.”

“You ask these particular questions, and you answer them in these particular ways, because you have been addressed by God.”

"Theology shouldn't be Christian elevator music. And if it is, you're doing it wrong.


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