Archives For July 2014

Prayer Jul 25 Moravian

Freedom and Responsibility_BarthAs promised. So delivered.

This makes up part one of three, five point summaries. Each highlighting quotes from my recent reading of Barth’s closing chapters in Church Dogmatics I.II

A few things to note before I begin.

Firstly, I have edited this more than a few times in order to maintain the integrity of Barth’s meaning.

Secondly, I’m really only posting these as a resource for my own future reference.

However, having said that, if you, the reader, find them interesting, I’d welcome your thoughts and comments about anything that should stand out to you as relevant.

Barth’s C.D.I.II is largely a call to read the Word of God ‘as it stands’[i]. This call moves Christians beyond the inerrancy debate because the bible does not have to be one hundred precent empirically correct in order for it to be true.

1. The Bible is ‘movement fulfilled in obedience, it exists as witness to revelation’[ii]. He adds, that ‘verbal inspiration does not mean the infallibility of the Biblical Word in its linguistic, historical and theological character as a human word’.

  • It means that the fallible and faulty human word is used by God and has to be received in spite of its human fallibility[iii]…the work of God is done through this text. The miracle of God takes place in the text formed of human words[iv]
  • ‘It is a matter of the event/s of the actual presence of the Word of God…the free presence of God, defining our recollection as thankfulness and our expectation as hope[v]
  • ‘Certainly it is not our faith which makes the Bible the Word of God…although it does demand our faith, underlie our faith, and that it is the substance and life of our faith…We have to understand the inspiration of the Bible as a divine decision continually made in the life of the Church and in the life of its members[vi]

2. According to Barth

  • ‘We, (the Church) share in the movement in which scripture was born and in virtue of which even today Scripture is not mere writing but in its written character is Spirit and Life[vii]
  • We ‘live in light of the Word of God’s decision about us[viii]
  • Consequently, ‘the Church for its part must allow itself to be set in movement through Scripture.[ix]
  • We stand in Church history, therefore Church history is lived’[x]

3. Having anchored his defence, Barth embarks on an offense, directing our attention to the freedom and authority of God which gives life to the freedom and responsibility of both man and woman[xi].  For Barth

  • What is at stake, or so it seems, is God’s authority and freedom.  This leads into a discussion about the ‘infinite qualitative distinction (Kierkegaard)’ which holds that God is heaven and man on earth, that God rules and men and women must obey, that the Word of God makes a total claim upon humanity.[xii]
  • We have had to learn anew to accustom ourselves again to these simple truths, in contradiction to a theological liberalism which would have nothing to do with them…[xiii]

4.They (theological liberals) can attempt to jettison authority in a fight for freedom, but ‘neither the origin nor the essence of the Church is to be found in the blind alley where man would like to be his own lord and law.[xiv]

5. At this point Barth brings up the issue of the Church and the Freedom of the Word of God.

  • ‘The Christian is not a stone that is pushed, or a ball that is made to roll. The Christian is a person who through the Word and love of God has been made alive, the real man or the real woman, able to love God in return standing erect just because they have been humbled, humbling themselves because they have been raised up[xv]
  • Barth asserts that when we are ‘confronted by grace…. our pride annihilated and our sin covered. We are, therefore, addressed by the name we received in our baptism and not by the title which might be given to us by others as an indication of who we are as individuals (personality) [xvi]

With all due respect to lists on blogs, this is definitely not an average one. It is a culmination of important statements made by Barth in or just before 1938. Inside the details, or rather woven into them, is a firm grasp on the reality of the socio-political context of Europe and in particular the Church, as its people gazed upwards towards the darkening sky trying to find light in the vicious ideological storm, that was to rapidly move across Europe a year later.

Behind Barth’s words rests the knowledge that

‘the struggle against the authority of the Bible is really the struggle against the freedom of grace.[xvii]

Along with an awareness of the fact that:

‘Where there is no genuine authority, so there is no genuine freedom. There is only action and reaction between a despotic arrogance and an equally despotic despair.[xviii]

Source:

[i] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics 1.2: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Scripture as the Word of God Hendrickson Publishers, p.533

[ii] Ibid, p.671‘Freedom in the Church/The Freedom of the Word’

[iii] Ibid, p.533 (cont.)

[iv] Ibid, p.532 ‘Holy Scripture is also, in fact a human historical record’ (p.541); ‘God’s word comes to man and woman as a human word’ (p.699)

[v] Ibid, p.533

[vi] Ibid, pp.534-535

[vii] Ibid p.671 (cont.)

[viii] Ibid, p.704

[ix] Ibid, p.672

[x]  Ibid, p.595

[xi] This is not an ‘arbitrary freedom’, but a costly and decisive freedom ‘conferred by the Holy Spirit’ (p.667) and ‘worked out in obedience’ (p.661-662). Therefore the ‘Bible confronts us with the realisation our freedom’ (p.652)

[xii] Ibid, p.633 ‘Authority in the Church/Authority under the Word’

[xiii] Ibid, p.663 (cont.)

[xiv]  Ibid, p.668

[xv]  Ibid, p.662

[xvi] Ibid, p.704

[xvii] Ibid, p.559

[xviii]  Ibid, p.668 ‘The great defeats of the Church have been and are when it has wanted to honour its confession in theory but not in practice, when the living form becomes a mummy, and the mummy unnecessary lumber, and the gift of God is frustrated…the great danger in the inevitable conflicts against a confession of the Church is that it may be taken away from t if it yields to temptation and surrenders.’ (p.646)

 

(©RL2014)

Five links_Jpeg

Gathered here, are some of the best bits and pieces I’ve encountered online over the past few weeks. Some reflective, some serious, some just plain hilarious.

1. Everyday Heroes [Video]: Water bombing, aircraft, inferno extinguishers. Along with the song, something about this just shouts awesome.

2. Chesterton’s uniqueness appears to know no bounds.

G.K Chesterton from Alarms and discursions‘Science & Art without morality are not dangerous in the sense commonly supposed. They are not dangerous like a fire, but dangerous like a fog. A fire is dangerous in its brightness; a fog in its dullness; and thought without morals is merely dull, like a fog.

The fog seems to be creeping up the street; putting out lamp after lamp. But this cockney lamp-post… is still crowned with its flame; and when the fathers have forgotten ethics, their babies will turn and teach them’

(The Essential Chesterton Collection, 2009. Kindle Ed. 7612-7615 – This version is real cheap via Amazon at the moment)

3. There are a few versions of this old story on YouTube, this one is the most dramatic and amusing. Instead of an Irish accent  on the other end of the comms, it’d be funnier with an Aussie one. (“Just sayin’…” 🙂 )

 

4. We’ve just about finished watching through the T.V series Duck Dynasty. This meme epitomises the gutsy edge to this Cajun delight. Even though it’s structured up unto a point (what reality TV show isn’t?), that doesn’t hinder the serious message being promoted through all the bells and whistles (or in this case duck calls, camo, camaraderie and comedy).

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5. Lastly, if you have ever wondered what would have happened should the remaining members of Led Zeppelin become a “worship band”. Here Tim Hawkins pulls off a pretty close interpretation of how it might have turned out:

Images: G.K Chesterton, Alarms and Discursions 1910; Jase Robertson, (Pinterest)

ID-100221200 (1)I’ve been working on the planned posts which form a trilogy-in-sum brief on the closing part of Barth’s C.D I.II.

The problem is that finding the time to do it well has been more of a challenge than I anticipated – given that, and the serious issues in the news at the moment, I’m kind of avoiding finishing it.

So instead, today I’m posting some weekend G.K Chesterton lite.

For an academic, he appears free of the quest to be liked, shared or even celebrated.  Not being one to take himself too seriously, Chesterton is a reminder that serious reflection in life involves laughter, not just clinical-objective observation. More than this, he understood that the space and time we allow for laughter in our relationships is often way too small. Often, it is something temporary, lost to the impact of distraction; a casualty of circumstance.

He wasn’t fond of what he calls ’intellectual fog’[i]. (A term of his that I’m fond of, and one that pretty much describes the dangers of academic arrogance[ii]. This means anything that sucks the beauty and benefit out of reading, involving the form, content and unreasonable criticisms/suspicions applied to a text – e.g.: ad hominem, reductio ad absurdum et.al).

Most of us would agree on this point: that copious amounts of data (images) being fed through our technologically intertwined lives can weigh us down.

When this happens we should be careful to not let the intellectual fog ‘creep up the street; and put out lamp after lamp.’[iii]

In order to do this, when the time comes, we might aim at being more generous with our laughter. With the full understanding that just as the tears and sighs of broken hearts can move grief up through our lungs right towards the ears of God. Tears can also be the result of our hearts being reoriented towards joy.

In the light of Chesterton’s ability to see past his own ego and that of his peers and by employing such things as humour to do so, he, in my view, avoids being neatly packaged into any box of anti-intellectualism.

Perhaps when critics of Chesterton talk about him in this context, they might actually be missing the dry humour in some of Chesterton’s criticism of unnecessary over-sophistication.

For example:

‘I was sharply reminded that I had entered Babylon, and left England behind. The waiter brought me cheese, indeed, but cheese cut up into contemptibly small pieces; and it is the awful fact that, instead of Christian bread, he brought me biscuits.
Biscuits–to one who had eaten the cheese of four great countrysides! Biscuits–to one who had proved anew for himself the sanctity of the ancient wedding between cheese and bread! I addressed the waiter in warm and moving terms.
I asked him who he was that he should put asunder those whom Humanity had joined. I asked him if he did not feel, as an artist, that a solid but yielding substance like cheese went naturally with a solid, yielding substance like bread; to eat it off biscuits is like eating it off slates.
I asked him if, when he said his prayers, he was so supercilious as to pray for his daily biscuits. He gave me generally to understand that he was only obeying a custom of Modern Society. I have therefore resolved to raise my voice, not against the waiter, but against Modern Society, for this huge and unparalleled modern wrong.[iv]

This weekend why not take a deep breath, exhale gently, and with me, consider the reasons why the world needs to constantly be reminded of Barth’s admonition that:

‘Those who cannot sigh with others and laugh a little about themselves are warmongers[v]

Sources:

[i] Chesterton, G.K 1910, Alarms and Discussions: ‘Cheese’ Kindle Ed.441-448(‘Alarms and Discursions’ 1910, Kindle Ed. 441-448)
[ii] Chesterton, G. K. The Essential G. K. Chesterton Collection (400+ works) (Illustrated) (Kindle Ed. 2009 Loc. 7613-7614)
[iii] Ibid, ‘Science and art without morality are not dangerous in the sense commonly supposed. They are not dangerous like a fire, but dangerous like a fog. A fire is dangerous in its brightness; a fog in its dullness’
[iv] Chesterton, G. K. What I saw in America. Prohibition in Fact and Fancy: The Essential G. K. Chesterton Collection (400+ works) (Illustrated) (Kindle Ed. 2009. Locations 68335-68336)
[v] Barth, K. 1961 der götze wackelt (The Idol Wobbles – exact translation T.B.C)  Insights, (Selected by Ebherhard Busch, 2009) Westminster John Knox Press p.12
(h/t to Ben @ Faith & Theology, where I first read about Chesterton’s ‘Alarms and Discursions’)

Image credit: ‘Lighting Decor’, Courtesy of FeelArt

back to HomeschoolSunday involved preparing curriculum for a new Homeschool term. This was made more strenuous by a letter we received the other day. In it we were reminded about stricter guidelines now being set up for home education in our state.

For those foreign to attitudes in Australia towards homeschooling, the best way to illustrate them is by stating that they range between indifference, curiosity, confusion and sometimes hostility.

The general notion is that since the Commonwealth (Federal Government) and States provide “free” schooling, why homeschool?

It is not always the case, but hidden within this is the cultural hang-up that wrongly views “kids as burdens to be offloaded, and their successes paraded only when the result reflects “exceptional parental conduct.”

I feel sorry for the school teachers who are overloaded, overworked, underpaid and largely have their role misunderstood. Granted, the system works up to a point. However it ceases to function effectively when the State (or any private institution) begins to walk away from endorsing the fact that teachers are professional educators, not substitute parents. Nor, to use a more blunt analogy, are they glorified baby-sitters.

Parental responsibility is still the most significant part in the effective education of children. This includes making time to not only be concerned about the place of education, but participate in the method of education and contribute to the progress of their child’s education.

It is part of a more broader political party view, but some State Government representatives in Australia, see Home Schooling as primitive, biased and regressive.

For example:

”Without the watchful eye of teachers, some children could end up trapped in abusive settings or left without appropriate learning opportunities,” Greens MP, Dr John Kaye said. (source)

Although helpful to some degree, this new bureaucratic push has some unhealthy weight to it. As a result it is being felt. So for now we are back to homeschooling, but for how long, I couldn’t say.

The good side to this fresh approach by our governing agencies is that it means some empowerment for homeschoolers. For instance, a more targeted practice in the art of “review, review, review” and the opportunity to promote the benefits of homeschooling to those generally unaware of the them.

This can only translate as support. Otherwise we’d be consumed by the fact that it appears as though it’s a politely veiled, politically driven, disincentive to continue.

(Original image credit: digitalart)

Pax Jerusalem

July 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

Clouds have assembled and we are praying for some much needed rain.

Here is an antiphon (verse) expressing a perfect tone for such a winters day. It is of the 6th or 7th century[i] century and performed by Ensemble Organum, Director: Marcel Peres.

English from the Latin:

Give peace, O Lord, in our time Because there is no one else Who will fight for us If not You, our God.

(The following are from Psalm 122:6-9)

Let there be peace in your strength, and abundance in your towers

I wish you peace for the sake of my brothers and my family

I have sought good for you because of the house of the Lord God

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, just as it was in the beginning, and now and always, and forever.

Amen.’[ii]

Sources:

[i] hymnary.org
[ii]  Da pacem domine

 

Postgrad_CardThis card arrived in the mail a few days back. In part, it marks the successful completion of my degree. The card also brings to mind a number of thoughts about the journey, thoughts that have since distracted me, in a good way, from my proposed trilogy-in-sum of Barth’s CD.1.2.

It is a reminder of the many moments where I was tempted to give up. Asking myself ‘what’s the point?’ or simply finding myself being addressed by a feeling of inadequacy and inferiority. Feelings, often compounded by darker echoes from my not-so-easy upbringing.

From what I’ve learnt, the mountains before us sometimes are hard to climb. The effort, almost seems to require too much of us. Throughout my degree I witnessed this through the limitations of distance from resources, irrational bouts of mild panic, insecurity about direction, and some forms of active discouragement from some family members.

There are people who tend to revel in the negative experiences of others. Not looking for life, but to squeeze hope out of those trying their best to live it. This type of opposition is seemingly impossible to overcome, because you cannot demand people understand or support you. For it to be genuine, that kind of understanding and support can only ever be a gift.

When it is given we are required to identify this grace and respond to it. Even when we don’t know what it looks like, we a required to enquire about its authenticity.The hardest part is that it has to be received by us.

Even if we struggle to take such encouragement, empowerment or acknowledgement seriously.

Even when a “pat on the back” becomes difficult to accept because we see through the shattered lens of the past, our response must always be aligned towards the responsible conduct of inquiry and thanksgiving. For me that has come to mean being embedded in the knowledge that it is not in what others determine I am, but the who, that in Jesus Christ, God says I am.

This involves the truth about God’s grace, one that Christians must hear and then speak to the world: that God, in His coming to humanity in a ‘free decision for humanity’ (Karl Barth), we are freed and being freed ‘from that which biology/society/psychology {Darwin/Marx/Freud} has supposedly defined/determined for us’ (James Cone, God of the oppressed).

In spite of the appearance of hopelessness there is a hope that draws our attention to the renewing of minds (Romans.12:2), newness of life (Romans.6:4) and the promises of God, who keeps His word (2.Thess.3:3-5) and who in Christ, through the Holy Spirit, also revealed  Himself as a trustworthy keeper of our hearts,(read as meaning our mind, body and soul)

I have been blessed to study under enough teachers who owned their convictions, understood the oppression of inflexibility and worked with me to move beyond the destructive noise of self-defeat.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to study and for the strength to complete it.

May Christians continue to make it known that when we

know the “why” for our existence, we will be able to bear almost any “how.” [i]

[i] Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning Kindle Ed. Beacon Press. Loc. 1054-1055 (paraphrasing Frederich Nietzsche)