Notes and quotes, Part 1: Barth’s Church Dogmatics

I have begun reading a second book from Barth’s Dogmatics. Having, probably rather oddly, chosen to read the final book first I have become comfortable with the text. Although I am uncomfortable with some of the challenges that coincide with reading his theological work.

I am already floored by the encounter.IMG_20131010_234503_20131013084158133

The picture above is from a bike ride my kids and I went on over the weekend. Adding these words to the image of a tree stump is not entirely random. The tree was used to make a bridge nearby.

For a log bridge, it both appears and seems secure.  I would hazard a guess and say that without the structural integrity of the trees it would be a useless pile of environmental waste. This made me question how easily our own self-imposed limitations can enable others to cut us down.

Words have meaning and the power of those words to cut, tear or encourage rests in the integrity of the dialogue partners to create something grace-filled from their exchange. God grants us this freedom to speak freely, firstly to/for Him and secondly to/for others. One sets the standard for the other because the former empowers the latter.

Barth wrote that:

‘Prayer can be the recognition that we accomplish nothing by our intentions, even though they be intentions to pray…Prayer can be the human answer to the divine hearing already granted, the epitome of the true faith which we cannot assume of ourselves. We do not speak of true prayer if we say “must” instead of “can”…

(Karl Barth C.D. 1:1:23 ‘Dogmatics as an Act of Faith’)

…‘Faith, regeneration, conversion, existential thinking on the basis of preceding existential encounter, are no doubt indispensable prerequisites of dogmatic work, yet not to the extent that they imply an experience and attitude, a desire and activity, a knowledge and achievement of the theologian, so that his theology is a personal cry, an account of his biographical situation, but to the extent that they imply the grace of divine predestination, the free gift of the Word and Holy Spirit, the act of calling the Church, which must always come upon the theologian from the acting God in order that he may really be what he does and what his name suggests’

(Karl Barth C.D. 1:1:21 ‘Dogmatics as an Act of Faith’)

From grace we are called. From out of that call, so may we speak. (2 Tim. 1:9-10)

Why? Not because we must, but because we can and therefore shall (David McGregor, Tabor Adelaide).


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