Church Dogmatics: Helpful Critique and Summons

ID-100158604Unfortunately, I’m not getting to the keyboard as much as I’d like to these past few weeks. On the upside I am now on the last chapter of 1.2 of Barth’s Dogmatics.

I plan to run a few posts looking back on my readings. The basic idea at the moment is to go straight for a top ten of quotes from different sections, covering three posts in total. I will also do what I can to avoid posting them in isolation, so as to maintain the integrity of the text. The hope is that a natural literary flow will speak for itself, allowing me to limit any necessary wordy-gap-fillers in order to help explain their context.

With a lot of Barth’s work, pinning down one statement to define a subject is difficult and risky to do. Quite simply, the man cannot be easily placed into a box. The closest example might be:  “I believe and therefore I speak” (pp.8,9-845) because it is a pivotal echo running along the structure of his case for Church Dogmatics.

Today’s initial closing remarks from Barth are rather telling about where he is at in this part of his Dogmatic journey. Not only this, but his words speak to the Church today, presenting a particularly sharp challenge to examine agenda, action, appearances and heart-alignment.

‘Without changing their essential nature, human arrogance and self-will can very well put on the garment of holy indolence and passivity, and the need to unmask them is just as great as when they assume the garment of a holy self-assertion and activity. Even if the Church itself tries to be only a hearing Church, an audience entertained but finally not involved, it ceases as such to be the Church’ (p.846)

Overall, Barth is discussing the scientific function of Dogmatics as a helpful critique and summons to the Church. For it to hear the Word of God afresh and therefore also to teach it in much the same way. This ‘Church attitude of dogmatics’ (pp.842-843) seeks to keep conversation, investigation and proclamation fresh and relevant, avoiding fantasy and romanticism (unhealthy nostalgia and anachronism). This doesn’t mean that we ‘jettison’ the Church forebears, rather it means to recognise that ‘we stand in Church history therefore Church history is lived.'(p.595)


Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of the Word of God, 1.2 Hendrickson Publishers
Image: “Interior Of A National Cathedral Gothic Classic Architecture” by digidreamgrafix



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