Two Down, or…

Karl Barth, The Man-Crush Resumes.

Dogmatics, Two Down

In the final section of Doctrine of the Word of God, Barth touches on two dynamics of his work that make my heart sing, and clarifies one of the recurring challenges I’ve had (including from part one of this section).

First, Barth here talks about the dogmatic method as deriving from the word of God. In other words, there can be no systematization based on a prior idea of what is most basic or foundational. No “law of God,” no theory of the atonement, no primacy of creation.

Yes, law, atonement, and creation are all important! But they are important as pokes radiating out from the center which is the Word of God itself: Christ the word, witnessed to in scripture.

This means that the “analytic” approach to theology that had its heyday in the 18th century and following, needs to take a back seat to a reconceptualization in which various elements sit alongside one another, informing one another, correcting one another, and all mutually subject to Christ the Word.

Second, and relatedly, I think Barth said in a more respectful and sophisticated way what I was striving to say in my somewhat iconoclastic rant about the Trinity a week or two ago. Yes, he has a Trinitarian statement about God, and even about the various doctrines he will cover. However, this Trinitarian statement is not the source of that structure but coordinately derived from the word of God.

The Trinity is crucial, but it does not displace the word of God as the structuring element in Dogmatics; it does not displace the foundational place of the Word of God. Or, “No foundation can be laid other than the one which has already been laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Finally, in Barth’s very brief outline of what is to come, he leaves me anticipating that ethics will suffuse his understanding of that the church is supposed to teach.

I have been wary thus far that Barth puts too much on the teaching office itself. I see the entire Evangelical project in danger of becoming the teaching church that never faithfully embodies its calling to be the doing church. I have good hopes that Barth will offer something better. We will have to see how that develops over the remaining 6ish years of our time in the Dogmatics.

This brings Year 1 of the Barth Together reading group to a close! Yay!

If you didn’t keep up this year, you won’t feel any more disoriented than the rest of us should you choose to jump in with volume 2 in January. I hope many of you will pick up again and keep reading in 2012. Stay tuned for a reading schedule to go up in the next couple weeks.

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