Barth, Historical-Critical Methodology, and Figural Readings of Scripture

Because Barth was writing for the church, rather than for the academy, his use of historical-critical methodology “could never be an end in itself.” As Craig Carter notes:

“For Barth, the [biblical] text conveys not only the historical effects of God’s actions, but witnesses to God himself because God’s being is in His act. The text itself is Barth’s focus, as opposed to a reconstruction of what supposedly happened behind the text, to which the text allegedly refers, or to the experience of the biblical author…Barth viewed the modern historical critics as being too hasty with Scripture, too ready to impose modern assumptions on the text and not humble enough to sit quietly before the text until it disclosed its own concerns. He tried not to impose a system upon Scripture and then seek proof texts for what is known in advance to be the case. Instead, he sought to develop a theology that organically arises out of the witness of the Bible and that reflects the shape, limits, and preoccupations of the biblical witness, rather than the demands of logic or the prejudice of culture.” the literal sense cannot be reduced simply to the historical sense for Barth is convinced that [the] OT speaks literally about Jesus Christ.” (122-126).

“The difference between pre-modern interpreters and Enlightenment interpreters is that most moderns hold that the literal is nothing more than the historical. This crucial assumption was not held by pre-modern interpreters…In modernity, any attempts to do figurative or spiritual exegesis are left to the department of homiletics and biblical scholars piously avert their eyes at such ‘homiletical embellishments.’ Thus, the theological interpretation of Scripture is disconnected from historical exegesis and a wedge is driven between the scholarly study of the Bible and the ecclesial proclamation of Scripture” (126).

Carter, Craig. “Karl Barth on the Imago Dei: Typology and the Sensus Literalis of Holy Scripture.” In Go Figure!: Figuration in Biblical Interpretation, edited by Stanley D. Walters, 121–36. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2008.

One Week Until Princeton

 

My carved out space in the basement of our tiny house and yes, I'm using totes as walls.
My carved out space in the basement of our tiny house.

This is me, for the next week, as I get ready for Graduate Student Colloquium at the Center for Barth Studies at Princeton Seminary.

And people think summer is all about vacation and loafing off? Not for those of us in a PhD program, that’s for sure! It has definitely been a busy #PhDSummer, and #PhDYrTwo is only one month away. Where did this year go?

Yearning and Christian Hope

 

Empty TombBarth talking about the early Church, the apostles and the witnesses to the Resurrection:

What they  saw and heard and felt was certainly the word of proclamation, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper the fellowship and gifts of the Spirit between brothers and sisters, but also the great “not yet,” the almost overwhelming difficulties and tasks arising from their witness to Jesus in the world, the convulsions of the Roman Empire moving to its climax and fall, the frailty of Christian flesh requiring constant exhortation and comfort and warning and punishment, much weakness and tribulation in which even the voice of the Spirit could only be a sigh and a stammering, a cry of yearning.

Yearning for what? This is where Christian hope comes in: not as a Deus ex machina or a piece of wishful thinking; but as a grasping of the promise which was the basis of the community and which stood firm in the face of all human weakness and tribulation. For the revelation of Easter was the origin of the community and therefore the beginning, actualised already and therefore past, of the full, conclusive, general revelation of the man Jesus, and therefore of His direct and comprehensive visibility for and to all those for whom as the Son of God He became man, the beginning of the visibility of their participation in His glory…

The Christian community has necessarily to be a gathering in this hope. The Christian has necessarily, then, to be the man who seizes this hope and lives in it. There is no other possibility either for the community or for the individual. The origin of both in the resurrection of Jesus makes it necessary that there should be not only faith in Him who was, and love for Him who is, but also hope in Him who comes.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III/2, 488-489.

10 Reasons Christians Shouldn’t Read The Patristic Fathers #TBT

10. They’re boring. They don’t talk about anything interesting. Ever. And they are polite and never ever disagree with each other.

9. People were baptized naked. Yup. Naked. Oh my victorian/evangelical sensibilities!

8. What do you mean there were women in leadership in the early church?! Church Mothers? Desert Mothers? Everyone knows that the only biblical model for women is one where the woman is at home in high heels and has supper in the oven.

7. We may have our view of communion challenged. What do you mean they celebrated communion weekly? Everybody knows you should only celebrate it monthly otherwise it becomes stale and rote.

6. The Reformers read the Church Fathers and look at how badly that turned out for Christianity.

5. They wrote in Greek (which is too hard to learn) and Latin (which is a dead language).

4. If we read the Patristics we may come to find that the heroes weren’t always noble and honourable and the villains (heretics) weren’t always the bad guys.

3. Everyone knows that “communion of saints” only refers to this current generation.

2. Their issues are in no way our issues today. All of our issues theological and ecclesiological are brand new and have never been experienced by any other generation of Christians.

1. Karl Barth was heavily influenced by the Church Fathers and everyone knows that if Barth liked it it must be wrong!

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This post was originally published 5/11/12 and is re-posted as part of #TBT (Throwback Thursday).

Karl Barth and Good Friday

 

 

Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvador Dali

 

“Man is faithless, but God is faithful. The death of Jesus Christ is not just God’s accusation against man, not just His condemnation of man. It is also — in fact it is first and foremost — the victory and establishment of the complete dominion of His grace.  God is righteous; He is not mocked. What man sows he must also reap. But God has taken it upon Himself to reap this fatal harvest. In man’s own place and on man’s behalf, God has sown new seed. God has placed Himself under the accusation and condemnation which stand over godless Adam and the fratricidal Cain. And God Himself, in their place and ours, became for us the true man from whose way we have strayed. God has thereby spoken. His word of forgiveness, His word of the new commandment, of the resurrection of the flesh and an eternal life. Here is the place where it becomes unmistakable that God’s grace is pure, free, unmerited grace. Yet even more important, here is the foundation and revelation of the fact that God’s grace endures, triumphs, rules, and is effective.” ~ Karl Barth, “The Christian Proclamation Here and Now” in God Here and Now, 9-10.

Announcement

I received word that I got into my top two choices for PhD programs. After much prayer and discussion I have accepted the offer of admission to the conjoint PhD program in Theological Studies at Wycliffe College and the University of Toronto. In my admissions research proposal, I expressed my desire to continue my research on Karl Barth, specifically looking at his lectures on the Gospel of John (In my MA thesis I looked at Barth’s exegesis of John 1:14 and compared his original exegesis in these early lectures to three places in the Church Dogmatics where he once again exegetes this foundational verse that gives shape to his entire Christological method). As a result of that proposal, my PhD supervisor will be Dr. Joseph Mangina. I am excited and thankful for this opportunity. It’s going to be an interesting season of life as I embark on this new adventure.

Prayers would be appreciated as plans and preparations begin. As well, pray that I may get adequate funding. I received a scholarship that will cover my tuition but I still need to fund my living expenses (dorm, meal plan, flights back to Saskatchewan, etc.)

Wycliffe College Here I come!

 

The Word Became Flesh

incarnation

“To understand the miraculous act of this becoming, we must reach back to what we have acknowledged [earlier], that it is to be understood as an act of the Word who is the Lord. As from its own side the humanity has no capacity, power or worthiness by which it appears suited to become the humanity of the Word, there is likewise no becoming which as such can be the becoming of the Word. His becoming is not an event which in any sense befalls Him, in which in any sense He is determined from without by something else. If it includes in itself His suffering, His veiling and humiliation unto death — and it does include this in itself — even so, as suffering it is His will and work. It is not composed of action and reaction. It is action even in the suffering of reaction, the act of majesty even as veiling. He did not become humbled, but He humbled himself.”  ~Karl Barth, “The Mystery of Revelation” CD 1.2, 160.

Upcoming Barth Project

Jessica DeCou is working on a book on Karl Barth’s trip to the United States in 1962. She has launched a Kickstarter project to help fund her travel expenses to several library archives.

“A Fantastic Affair”: Karl Barth in America, look 1962 (a.k.a. “KBUSA” – under advance contract with Fortress Press, ISBN: 978-1-4514-6553-2) provides the first detailed chronicle of Barth’s sole visit to the U.S. in 1962. Barth arrived at a tumultuous moment in American history and found himself embroiled in some of the nation’s fiercest conflicts: touring prisons and inner city neighborhoods and meeting with communist groups, State and Defense Department staff, civil rights activists, business leaders, and White House officials – just to name a few. The book, therefore, will not only shed light on Barth’s later life and work, but also provide a snapshot of American culture in the early ‘60s – from the highest levels of government to the tourist cultures built along with and alongside the developing Interstate Highway System; from Seminary campuses to high security prisons; from Napa Valley to East Harlem.

Of course, completing this project requires extensive travel to various institutions around the country where relevant archives are housed. Research funding in the humanities can be difficult to come by these days, but I will not let that stop me!!  I’m turning to Kickstarter in the hope that, with your help, my research can continue unabated in order to meet my publication deadline (Summer 2014).

There are gifts for those who contribute to the project (yay for gifts!). You can pledge your support for this project here.

 

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Karl Barth’s Lectures and Seminars 1921-1930

Lectures:

WS 1921/22 Der Heidelberger Katechismus – Heidelberg Catechism
Erklärung des Epheserbriefes – Ephesians

SS 1922 Die Theologie Calvins – Theology of Calvin

WS 1922/23 Die Theologie Zwinglis – Theology of Zwingli
Erklärung des Jakobusbriefes – James

SS 1923 Die Theologie der reformierten Bekenntnisschriften – Theology of Reformed Confessions
Erklärung von 1.Korinther 15 – 1 Corinthians 15 (The Resurrection of the Dead)

WS 1923/24 Die Theologie Schleiermachers – Theology of Schleiermacher
Erklärung des 1. Johannesbriefes – 1 John

SS 1924 Unterricht in der christlichen Religion. Prolegomena – Teaching on the Christian Religion:
Prolegomena
Erklärung des Philipperbriefes – Philippians

WS 1924/25 Unterricht in der christlichen Religion I – Teaching on the Christian Religion I
Erklärung des Kolosserbriefes – Colossians

SS 1925 Unterricht in der christlichen Religion II – Teaching on the Christian Religion II
Erklärung der Bergpredigt – Sermon on the Mount

WS 1925/26 Eschatologie – Eschatology
Erklärung des Johannes-Evangeliums – Gospel of John

SS 1926 Geschichte der protestantischen Theologie seit Schleiermacher – History of Protestant Theology
since Schleiermacher

WS 1926/27 Prolegomena zur Dogmatik – Introduction to Dogmatics
Erklärung des Philipperbriefes – Philippians

SS 1927 Dogmatik I – Dogmatics I
Erklärung des Kolosserbriefes – Colossians

WS 1927/28 Dogmatik II – Dogmatics II

SS 1928 Ethik I – Ethics I

WS 1928/29 Ethik II – Ethics II
Erklärung des Jakobusbriefes – James

SS 1929 Freismester – Sabbatical

WS 1929/30
Geschichte der protestantischen Theologie seit Schleiermacher – History of Protestant Theology
since Schleiermacher

Seminars:

WS 1925/26 über Calvin – Calvin

SS 1926 Anselm von Canterbury: Cur Deus homo? – Anselm of Canterbury: Why God became Man?

WS 1926/27 Schleiermachers Glaubenslehre – Schleiermacher’s Doctrine of Faith

SS 1927 Lektüre des Galaterbriefes an Hand der Kommentare Luthers und Calvins – Lectures on Galatians
based on the Commentaries of Luther and Calvin

SS 1928 Albrecht Ritschl – Albrecht Ritschl

WS 1928/29 Thomas von Aquino, and Summa theologica I – Aquinas, treat Summa Theologica

WS 1929/30 Die reformatorische Rechtfertigungslehre – Reformed Doctrine of Justification

Taken from: Karl Barth, Karl Barth – Eduard Thurneysen Briefwechsel, vol. Band 1921–1930 (Zurich: Theologischer Verlag Zurich, 1974), 741–743.

What if Barth’s Commentary on Romans had Been Published in the Age of Twitter?

(This post is inspired by Richard Burnett’s discussion of the release and response to Barth’s commentary on Romans. See,Burnett, Richard. Karl Barth’s Theological Exegesis: The Hermeneutical Principles of the Romerbrief Period. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001. p. 14-23)