Tuesday, May 11, 2010

You Know Who We Are

[I was encouraged by this today]

Lord, our God, you know who we are: People with good and bad consciences; satisfied and dissatisfied, sure and unsure people; Christians out of conviction and Christians out of habit; believers, half-believers, and unbelievers.

You know where we come from: from our circle of relatives, friends, and acquaintances, or from great loneliness; from lives of quiet leisure, or from all manner of embarrassment and distress; from ordered, tense, or destroyed family relationships; from the inner circle, or from the fringes of the Christian community.

But now we all stand before you: in all our inequality equal in this, that we are all in the wrong before you and among each other; that we all must die someday; that we all would be lost without your grace; but also that your grace is promised to and turned toward all of us through your beloved Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

We are here together in order to praise you by allowing you to speak to us. We ask that this might happen in this house in the name of your Son, our Lord. Amen.

- Karl Barth

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Final Research Paper.

I am on page 13 or 14 of my Barth research paper that is due on Thursday. I have never been this ahead of schedule in my entire life. I have a detailed outline for the next 5 pages, but need to do some more work on the last part of my paper and a small portion in the beginning. I think with every research paper, in the back of your mind, you are panicking. The same questions roll through your mind over and over again - "Does this make even remote sense?", "Is this complete nonsense, even for my own comprehension?", "Do I really believe this?", "Am I interpreting this correctly?", "Am I even making an argument?", "Do I remember my thesis statement ... wait, did I abandon it at page 7?" Thankfully, I should have ample time to edit this paper with precision.

This experience has really taught me a great deal about research and writing. I never thought I'd say this, but I feel most comfortable when I'm exegeting Barth's work instead of secondary sources. The moments that fear and insecurity hit are usually when I am caught up in secondary sources. There are many differing opinions among scholars, especially when it comes to Barth. But at this point, I just want to understand him more deeply. I can't, at the end of the day, stand in the shadow of another scholar. If I get Barth wrong, it must be because I interpreted and understood him incorrectly. This isn't to say that I am not incredibly and humbly indebted to many scholars for my understanding of Barth. But mostly, my understanding for this paper, especially in terms of the section on election comes from my own time alone with KB himself.

Well, thanks for reading. It was helpful to express all of that. Back to work!

Saturday, May 1, 2010


If there is one thing I've learned about Barth it is this: Read the excursuses in the Church Dogmatics. There are so many treasures to be found in that fine print. Sometimes he makes a passive aggressive comment against another theologian, sometimes he makes a statement that is hysterical, and other times he makes historical observations that are priceless.

Today is no exception . . .

Regarding the Reformed "pedagogic usefulness" of their formulation of the doctrine of election:

"Very different judgments can be passed on the value and usefulness of the doctrine, as history has in fact demonstrated. Where Calvin and his followers saw nothing but suavissimum fructum (sweetest fruit), the Lutherans of the 16th and 17th centuries, and many others too, saw only an endangering of assurance of salvation, the sense of responsibility, etc., or even an open relapse into Stoicism, Manicheism, Quietism, and Libertinism. Boettner appears to rejoice at the supposed kinship between the doctrine of predestination, as understood Calvinistically, and the teaching of Islam. But this supposed kinship was the very reason why the older Lutherans sought to discredit the Calvinists by describing them as secret adherents of the Eastern Antichrist." (II.2, p. 37)