UPDATED 1/7: MY THOUGHTS ON §1.1
Throughout §1.1 Barth is bent on locating the task of dogmatics. In particular, he wants to locate it within the speech of the church and allow that space where the Christian faith is a given be the context within which dogmatics are spoken and assessed.
One point at which I think this introduction opens discussion is the extent to which Barth is truly doing the “descriptive” task he claims rather than a constructive and creative theological project. I think there’s more of the latter in CD than Barth would lead us to believe here at the beginning. Not that he’s being dishonest about his goals, actions, or intentions, but that the work of a gifted theologian will inevitably push the confession of the church into new arenas given its new place and time.
And here, Barth’s famous claim comes to the fore: our task is not to say what the apostles say, but to say what we must say on the basis of what the apostles said.
I resonate strongly with Barth’s presuppositional approach to dogmatics. As something that takes place in the church, not only is the Christian faith assumed for dogmatics, but the more basic question of whether God can be known by people and communicate to us. Where we might get stuck forever if we begin with philosophy or in an attempt to conduct our theologizing in the terms acceptable to the other disciplines, we simply confess as Christians and get about our task based on what we believe to be true given the coming of Christ.
And this last piece draws me back, once again, to the issue I raised earlier this week. Barth’s declaration of theology as a self-contained discipline highlights the modern-day tensions felt at the Society of Biblical Literature, as some of the non-confessional scholars are getting nervous about the proliferation of faith-driven biblical studies, theological interpretation, and the like. Can there be a shared, assumed arena of conversation for those who study the Bible (et al) as historians or theoraticians or religion on the one hand and those who study while assuming the faith of the church on the other?
While I think the answer is yes, Barth problematizes such a position, in part by asking the would-be biblical theologian if agreeing to the terms of such a parlay isn’t somehow selling the farm.
So, all you co-readers: Are you left with any lingering or pressing questions after the intro? Or just feeling eased into things?//
You can peruse the list of synchroblogs over on the Barth homepage, but I’d also love for folks to post their links here so that people can easily find their way from blog to blog.
Please link to your post in the comments below so that folks can see what you have to say about this week’s reading.
If you Tweet: the Twitter hashtag for this adventure is #barthtogether.
If you’re still reading, here is something to think about: do you agree with Barth’s central claim that dogmatics is always, in a sense, an act of faith?
That claim is one that I resonate with.
But this week someone on Facebook, who also comments here regularly, chided me for not weighing people’s commitments to scripture as authoritative in my assessment of their biblical scholarship. In other words, I think that unbelievers are regularly as good and sometimes better readers of the Bible than Christians, especially in scholarly endeavors.
Is this a true hypocrisy, or is the differentiation that Barth makes between biblical theology (which can be a descriptive enterprise) and dogmatic theology enough to cover me?
You don’t have to answer that question, but it’s something to ponder as you read, if you are so inclined!
Back with more Barth thoughts tomorrow or Friday.