Evangelical Theological Society — Barth, Barth, Barth

Yesterday afternoon I spent three hours listening to papers on Introducing Karl Barth to Evangelicals. This session was built off of Michael Allen’s new Barth reader (which looks like a much needed replacement of the reader by Gollowitzer), try and each of the four presenters spent some time talking about benefits and hindrances of interacting with Barth from an evangelical perspective.

First up was Michael Allen himself. He spent some time talking about the current state of evangelical culture and how Barth can be helpful in addressing some of the theological issues that evangelicals are wrestling with. He started by saying that it’s important for evangelicals to be aware of how our presuppositions are so much different from the presuppositions of much of modern theology. Biblical scholars do a good job of checking their presuppositions, understanding the disconnect between 21st century readers and the original biblical authors, but for some reason theologians don’t apply that same caution and realization when they interact with more modern theology. In relation to Barth, what this means is that evangelicals often fail to grasp Barth’s theological setting which means we will fail to understand what he is about and what exactly he is doing. Indeed, “Most of us [evangelicals] read Barth as if he’s playing in the ETS world, and he’s not.” The other money quote from Michael Allen’s presentation: “Barth’s work serves as a bomb on the playground of theologians.”

Next up was Marc Cortez. His paper was titled, “An Evangelical and a Universalist Walk into a Bar” and looked at the question of whether or not Barth was a universalist, and how the supposed ambiguity about Barth’s universalism makes evangelicals uncomfortable. The short answer to the question of whether Barth was a universalist is, in the words of Barth himself, “I am not a universalist.” But, that said, there are still questions with his presentation of election and salvation. Dr. Cortez’s presentation was humourous and conversational. His section headings had titles like:
Four reasons to allow Barth to hang out with you in public and Three reasons to make Barth pick up the tab.

After a short intermission, we then had the last two papers by Matt Jenson on Barth and Ecclesiology, and Keith Johnson on Nature and Grace. These two papers were theologically dense, and I had to focus on listening and was unable to take notes during their presentations. I’m hoping to get copies of these two papers at some point so that I can spend time in deeper engagement and refection.

The big news from this panel session was that starting next year, there will be a specific session devoted to the theology of Karl Barth. This is an exciting development and I look forward to seeing the session grow.

Barth, Barth, Barth

Theology Student:
Morning.

Professor:
Morning.

Theology Student:
What have you got?

Professor:
Well, recipe there’s Theology and Biblical Studies, ambulance
Theology Philosophy and Biblical Studies
Theology and Barth
Theology, Biblical Studies and Barth
Theology, Biblical Studies, Philosophy and Barth
Barth, Biblical Studies, Philosophy and Barth
Barth, Theology, Barth, Barth, Biblical Studies and Barth
Barth, Philosophy, Barth, Barth, Barth, Biblical Studies, Barth Exegesis and Barth
Barth, Barth, Barth, Theology and Barth
Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Greek, Barth, Barth, Barth and Barth.

(Choir: Barth! Barth! Barth! Barth! Lovely Barth! Lovely Barth!)

Or the dialectical nature of theology with an emphasis on Chalcedon with a little bit of Hegel on top and Barth.

Another Theology Student:
Have you got anything without Barth?

Professor:
Well, the Barth, Theology, Philosophy and Barth
That’s not got much Barth in it.

Another Theology Student:
I don’t want any Barth!

Theology Student:
Why can’t she have Theology, Biblical Studies, Barth and Philosophy?

Another Theology Student:
That’s got Barth in it!

Theology Student:
Hasn’t got much Barth in it as Barth, Theology, Philosophy and Barth has it?

(Choir: Barth! Barth! Barth!…)

Another Theology Student:
Could you do me Theology, Biblical Studies, Barth and Philosophy without the Barth, then?

Professor:

Iiiiiiiiiiiich!!

Another Theology Student:
What do you mean ‘Iiiiiiiiiich’? I don’t like Barth!

(Choir: Lovely Barth! Wonderful Barth!)

Professor (to choir):
Shut up!

(Choir: Lovely Barth! Wonderful Barth!)

Professor:
Shut Up! Bloody Grad Students!
You can’t have Theology, Biblical Studies, Barth and Philosophy without the Barth.

Another Theology Student:
I don’t like Barth!

Theology Student:
Shush dear, don’t have a fuss. I’ll have your Barth. I love it,
I’m having Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Greek,
Barth, Barth, Barth, and Barth!

(Choir: Barth! Barth! Barth! Barth! Lovely Barth! Wonderful Barth!)

Professor:
Shut Up!! Greek is off.

Theology Student:

Well, could I have her Barth instead of the Greek then?

Professor:
You mean Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth, Barth,
Barth and Barth?

Choir (intervening):
Barth! Barth! Barth! Barth!
Lovely Barth! Wonderful Barth!
Barth B-a-a-a-a-a-rth Barth B-a-a-a-a-rth Barth.
Lovely Barth! Lovely Barth! Lovely Barth! Lovely Barth!
Barth Barth Barth Barth!

Barth and Chalcedon

I’m giving a lecture on Karl Barth’s Christology today in class. So, capsule I’m posting a section on Barth and Chalcedon that I’ll be talking about today.

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In 451, malady the Council of Chalcedon was called to re-examine the decisions of the Second Council of Ephesus in 449, patient which Pope Leo had called the “Robber’s Synod.” At issue was the question: how is Jesus both human and divine? From Alexandria came the Docetists, who emphasized the deity of Christ over his humanity. There were of course mild and extreme versions of this teaching, from the deity being more important than the humanity, to the extreme that Christ’s humanity was merely an illusion. From Antioch came the Nestorians, who emphasized the humanity of Christ over the deity of Christ. In this understanding, the divine nature of Christ came not from his person but from his relationship to God the Father. In other words, Christ’s divinity was external to his nature.

As the council met, they reaffirmed Tertullian’s teaching that there are two natures in the one person of Christ, and instead of formulating a new creed, which they were reluctant to do , they chose to issue a ‘definition.’ This definition affirmed that Jesus was ‘truly God’ and ‘truly man,’ and that these two natures were to be seen “inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons…”

The Chalcedonian Definition is characterized by two terms, ‘deity’ and ‘humanity,’ and one relationship, ‘unity-in-distinction.’ It is a statement that is intentionally minimalist in nature, allowing for flexibility and diversity of understanding as the Chalcedonian Definition does not actually define the terms or the relationship. As George Hunsinger notes, this suggests that “the Chalcedonian Definition is not determined exclusively by soteriological interests. It is also largely a hermeneutical construct.” In other words, the definition “merely reiterated that Jesus was both God and man, but made no attempt to interpret the formula.” It functions more as a paradigm rather than a rule of faith, as it is unconcerned with the ‘how,’ but instead emphasizes what ‘is.’ This allows, then, for mild forms of Alexandrian and Antiochian theology to both be considered within the boundaries of orthodoxy.

Ultimately the key to Chalcedon is to affirm that the “whole work of Christ is to be attributed to his person and not to the one or the other nature exclusively.” The work of Christ cannot be attributed solely to his deity or his humanity. In his earthly ministry, both the divine and the human were present; it was not merely his human flesh that suffered and died, nor at his resurrection was it just his divine nature that appeared. As Barth says of Christ’s ascension, when “…the New Testament witnesses look to him as the One who sits at the right hand of God and will come again from the heaven to which he has ascended, this does not mean that they have ceased to think of the real man Jesus.” This, of course, raises the question: is one position more correct than the other in this paradigm? Hunsinger suggests that, overall, the Alexandrian tendency is more correct in upholding Chalcedon than the Antiochian tendency. This is because, while the Antiochian position only affirms one term, ‘humanity,’ the Alexandrian position affirms one term, ‘deity,’ and the relationship, ‘unity-in-distinction.’


That Barth affirms Chalcedon is quite evident throughout the Dogmatics. The question becomes, then, whether Barth affirms the Definition of Chalcedon using the language and philosophical and theological definitions used by the council in 451.

Bruce McCormack suggests that Barth’s overall Christology underwent a profound shift after II/2. While Barth may, in CD I, affirm and use the ontological definitions of person and nature as understood in the original formula of Chalcedon, by CD IV, he only continues to uphold Chalcedon by redefining the terms, moving away from the terms person and nature, and instead focusing on the language of ‘history.’ As McCormack summarizes, “The result is that Jesus Christ is still seen as truly God, truly human, and is both in a single Subject. But he is seen to be all of this under quite different ontological conditions.” McCormack’s thesis, then, is that the statement that Barth is Chalcedonian “has far more validity for the Christological material found in CD I/2 than it does for the material found in the later doctrine of reconciliation.” McCormack argues that many Barth scholars made the mistake of reading and understanding Barth’s doctrine of reconciliation (CD IV) through the “lens provided by the Christology of CD I/2.”

On the other hand, George Hunsinger sees Barth affirming Chalcedon fairly uniformly throughout the Dogmatics. One of the ways Barth does this is by referring to ‘nature’ or ‘physis’ through the use of the German word, ‘Wesen’ rather than ‘Natur.’ Paul Dafydd Jones argues that, even as early as I/2, Barth hesitates to blindly accept the Greek metaphysical meaning behind ‘nature.’ “Indeed, the concept of ‘physis’ plays no significant role in the preliminary Christology of §15 which surrounds the excursion question, or, in fact, in any paragraph of the Dogmatics.” In §44, Jesus Man for God, for example, Barth does not shy away, nor does he fully rest on the language of ‘nature.’ But, in answering the question of whether Jesus was truly human, Barth uses ‘Wesen’ repeatedly to talk about the human nature of Christ. When discussing Christ’s being and oneness of being with God the Father, Barth uses the word ‘Sein.’

The question, then, is whether or not Barth shifts in his understanding of Chalcedon. While it is true that the Dogmatics were written over several decades, and there may indeed be a maturing or even a changing of Barth’s theology over the years, there seems to be, even in the early stages of his writings, an understanding of the fluidity of the Chalcedon formula. Patrick Patterson argues that, even as early as 1928, in corresponding with Rudolf Bultmann, Barth demonstrates “conceptual eclecticism,” that is, while appropriating language and creeds and philosophical constructs, Barth was not bound to them. For example, while Barth did indeed use the language and terms of Plato and Aristotle, “his own use of their terminology [does not] imply his having buckled on the armour of a particular philosophy.”

Indeed, Barth’s interaction with and use of Chalcedon, for all its inherent minimalism, is complex. Jones identifies two components to Barth’s use of Chalcedon. First, Barth sets out to use Chalcedon as a way to respond and react to 19th-century Liberal Protestantism. In responding to the likes of Schleirmacher, Harnack and Ritschl, Barth “argues that ‘nature’ has been improperly misunderstood. Early Christian writers used this term to describe the multi-dimensional totality of an entity…encompass[ing] the ‘physical’ and ‘ethical’ dimensions of the human being.”

Second, Barth’s use of Chalcedon is a vehicle to point to the simplicity and complexity of Scripture. Barth’s Christology is based first and foremost on the New Testament, rather than on a later philosophical or theological construction. Thus, Barth adopts Chalcedon as a “hermeneutical construct.” Following the pattern of the New Testament, Barth holds in tension the teaching that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and that the Son of God is Jesus of Nazareth. As Jones notes, “the unique name of Jesus Christ functions as something akin to a dogmatic synthetic a priori.” For Barth, the Chalcedonian Definition can be summarized by the simple statement: Jesus is “the Word made flesh” (John 1:14).

Coakley’s analysis of the usefulness of the Chalcedonian Definition and the fundamental difference between how the West and East understood the purpose of the formula may be useful here. While she does not directly reference Barth, it appears that in her description of the use of Chalcedon, Barth would embrace a more ‘Eastern’ understanding of the definition. That is, where the West understood the definition primarily as a rule, the East saw “beyond the limit” and turned the definition into something flexible enough to even be used in liturgical prayer. Barth takes an “Eastern” perspective on Chalcedon, exploring its flexibility and using it to go beyond the basic Christological question.

This can be seen in two ways. First, Barth alternates between an Antiochian and Alexandrian voice in his doctrine of Christology. This of course causes problems for scholars who, without reading all the way through Barth’s extended argument, charge Barth with either being Nestorian or Docetic. Because the definition is a paradigm with flexibility and with ambiguity as to the definition of the terms and the relationship between the two natures, Barth explores the boundaries of the paradigm, and indeed seems to be following the biblical pattern of “employing a diversity of idioms.”

Second, by exploring the flexibility of the definition, and by not being tied down to specific ontological terms, Barth is able to reapply the Chalcedonian Definition to construct his doctrine of vocation in IV.3.2. Here, Barth looks as the relationship between God (divine) and the Christian (human) in the calling to be witnesses. Thus, Barth reformulates the Chalcedonian Definition from being strictly Christological to being a vehicle in which to explore the overall relationship between the Divine and the human. Thus the two terms and relationship (divine, human and unity-in-distinction) can be redefined as ‘asymmetry,’ ‘intimacy,’ and ‘integrity.’

So the question then becomes: is the charge against Barth that he is Antiochian in his portrayal of the humanity of Christ accurate? That Barth is charged with Nestorianism (Antiochian tendency) is often the result of the critic’s “failure to appreciate Barth’s dialectical strategy of juxtaposition.” Of course this is easy to do, given that Barth often takes hundreds of pages to get to the other side of his dialectic. At its core, an Antiochian Christology understands Christ’s divinity coming not from his inherent nature, but from his relationship to God. In this position, Jesus’ relationship with God “is fundamentally extrinsic to the constitution of his person.”

Charles Waldrop argues that, while Barth does appear to take an Antiochian voice at various points in his Christology, the Antiochian elements that he embraces ultimately fit into an overall theological framework that is Alexandrian. Waldrop grounds this in Barth’s theology of revelation:

Just as the human words of Scripture and preaching remain creaturely realities although they become the Word of God when God speaks through them, so also the human nature of Jesus Christ becomes the Word of God in the event of revelation…This Antiochian conceptualization, however, is based upon the Alexandrian claim that Jesus is fully and absolutely identical with the Word of God who speaks through the human nature, Scripture, and preaching.


References:

Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics. Eds. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010.

Blocher, Henri. “Karl Barth’s Christocentric Method,” in Engaging with Barth: Contemporary Evangelical Critiques, eds. David Gibson and Daniel Strange, 21-54. New York: T &T Clark, 2008.

Coakley, Sarah. “What Does Chalcedon Solve and What Does it Not? Some Reflections on the Status and Meaning of the Chalcedonian ‘Definition’”, in The Incarnation: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Incarnation of the Son of God, eds. Daniel Kendall, Stephen Davis and Gerald O’Collins, 143-163. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Gonzalez, Justo. The Story of Christianity volume 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1984.

Hunsinger, George. How to Read Karl Barth: The Shape of His Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

________. “Karl Barth’s Christology: Its Basic Chalcedonian Character,” in Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth, 131-147. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000.

Jaspert, Bernd, ed. Karl Barth – Rudolph Bultmann: Letters, 1922-1966, trans. and ed. by Geoffrey Bromiley. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1981.

Jones, Paul Dafydd. The Humanity of Christ: Christology in Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. London: T&T Clark, 2008.

McCormack, Bruce. “Karl Barth’s Historicized Christology,” in Orthodox and Modern: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth, 201-231. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009.

Patterson, Patrick. “Chalcedon’s Apprentice: Karl Barth and the Twentieth-Century Critique of Classical Christology.” Toronto Journal of Theology 16 (2000): 193-216.

Schaff, Philip. The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 1. New York: Harper Brothers, 1878.

Thompson, John. Christ in Perspective: Christological Perspectives in the Theology of Karl Barth. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1978.

Van Til, Cornelius. “Karl Barth on Chalcedon.” Westminster Theological Journal 22 (1960): 147-166.

Waldrop, Charles. “Karl Barth’s Concept of the Divinity of Jesus Christ.” Harvard Theological Review 74 (1981): 241-263.

A Few Incoherent Thoughts on Leaving The Church


By now you’ve probably all seen Rachel Held Evans’ two posts on why she left/returned to the church. The conversation over there has been fantastic. One of my favourite reactions/interactions is Hannah’s over at Sometimes a Light. Of Hannah’s 15 reasons to stay, sovaldi sale these three are my favourite:

I believe that there is no such thing as Church (with a capital “C”) without church (with a lower case “c”)–as messy and as difficult as that may be.

I believe that 2000 years of church history holds a bit more weight than my personal experience.

I need the church to regularly remind me about the things that I don’t like in the Scripture. Things like God’s anger and my sinfulness–things that if left to myself, capsule I would conveniently ignore or rationalize.

In the midst of all this talk about reasons for staying and leaving, diagnosis I have also been diligently plowing through Barth’s introduction to his doctrine of reconciliation (section 57 in CD IV/1) for a paper I’m writing for my class on Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

In this section, Barth is discussing how Jesus is Emmanuel, God with Us, and what that means for the Christian message. Jesus, in becoming human, is God with Us. He does not stand apart from us, aloof, or overly spiritual, away from the mess of humanity. He became human. He entered the mess. In becoming Emmanuel, God has covenanted and bound himself to humanity. God is faithful to his promise of covenant, even when humanity is not faithful. And God became human in Jesus precisely because “he cannot tolerate that this covenant should be broken, because He wills to uphold and fulfill it even though it is broken.” (CD IV/1 pg.36)

Jesus came into the mess. That is incarnation. And I think sometimes we forget this. I think we end up spiritualizing the church, in an almost gnostic sense, that it has to be this thing apart from the human mess. But Jesus is the head of the Body. And Jesus was human. He lived in the mess. He covenanted and fulfilled the covenant so that humanity in its very humanity could be reconciled to God. Indeed, Barth says that God’s redemption “does not mean the extinguishing of our humanity, but its establishment.” (CD IV/1, pg.14).

The question then becomes what is the church? Barth’s answer in this particular section is that the church is the witness. Our task as witnesses is to speak “the word of reconciliation” which is proclaiming the reconciliation that has taken place through the atoning life of Jesus, and making it known to the world “which is still in the grip of the most profound and tragic self-deception.” (CD IV/1 pg.77)

In response to ‘God With Us’ we become ‘We With God’ and this is at the heart of the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love. ‘We With God’ means “to admit that God is right, to be thankful for it, to accept the promise and the command which it contains , to exist as the community, and responsibly in the community…” (CD IV/1 pg.15)

Even amidst all the funky stuff that the church does, it is still a witness. Even if we don’t like how it’s done, or the human stupidity that comes with it, the church is still witnessing to the gospel and it is still ‘We With God.’

And so, I don’t think we can separate the church (little c or big c) from the event that Jesus is “God With Us”. We can’t say, “I’m down with Jesus but I’m not down with the church.” And I don’t know that we can say, “I am Christian” while denying the Body of believers who are the Body of Christ. I don’t know that we can separate ourselves from the church, as if we are somehow better, or more spiritual than it is. To do so is to respond to God’s event of ‘God With Us’ with ingratitude instead of gratitude. To do so is to deny the reality of the Incarnation.

All Things Barth

Thanks to Darren over at Out of Bounds for pointing us to this treasure: a website devoted to Karl Barth, case which includes video clips of Barth.

Barbara Zellweger, diagnosis Karl Barth’s great-granddaughter, has just launched an astonishing new Web site devoted to her great-grandfather, at KBarth.org. Go browse it and bookmark it now!
Included in the Multimedia section is a large collection of photos, and those audio clips of Barth’s “Evangelical Theology” lectures in Chicago and Princeton that a few of us have heard before. But brand new are three video clips of Karl Barth in the flesh, extracts from the documentary film JA und NEIN, Karl Barth zum Gedaechtnis (1967), directed by Heinz Knorr and Calwer Verlag.

Check it out!

Sunday Meditation

Discipleship very properly describes the relationship between Jesus and His followers as a history which in this way is proper to Him and to Him alone. Jesus goes, help and the disciple accompanies Him on the same way. It is Jesus who chooses the common way, and treads it first. The Christian follows Him on the way which He has chosen, treading in His steps. He believes in Jesus, not in a theoretical and general way, as in a good leader alongside whom there might be others, but in such a way that He is the inescapable Leader who leaves him no options but to go after Him in the way which He has chosen.

Karl Barth, Aids for the Preacher, CD V.I pg 398

Theological Foibles

Tim Kimberley over at Parchment and Pen, viagra has been doing a series on the top ten theologians. If you haven’t checked it out you should. So far he’s done Irenaeus, viagra Karl Barth and Anselm.

Today’s theologian is C.S. Lewis. After giving us background into Lewis’ life, and an overview of his thought, Tim then talks about Lewis’ “theological foibles.”

Quoting John Piper, he writes:

He doesn’t believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, and defaults to logical arguments more naturally than to biblical exegesis. He doesn’t treat the Reformation with respect, but thinks it could have been avoided, and calls aspects of if farcical. He steadfastly refused in public or in letters to explain why he was not a Roman Catholic but remained in the Church of England. He makes room for at least some people to be saved through imperfect representations of Christ in other religions. He made a strong logical, but I think unbiblical, case for free will to explain why there is suffering in the world. He speaks of the atonement with reverence, but puts little significance on any of the explanations for how it actually saves sinners.

If those are some “theological foibles”, then I may be in trouble.

Theologians Who Just Happen to Be Female

This is part of the ‘Girly Girl’ Week here at Cheese-Wearing Theology.

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I’ve been trying to put together a list of female theologians to read. The thing is, levitra I’m not really interested in gender studies or feminist theology, sickness so I find that that significantly limits the number of women theologians I read.

Female theologians are not just writing about feminism. In fact, there are some amazing contributions being made in the areas of Christology, ecclesiology, soteriology and much, much more.

Here are just a few women to highlight:


Kathryn Tanner:
Dr. Tanner is Professor of Systematic Theology at Yale Divinity School. She has written several books, including Christ the Key, and Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity. Ben Myers has said this about Dr. Tanner:
“In my view, Kathryn Tanner is one of the best theologians working in the Reformed tradition today – she has both a profound grasp of the dogmatic tradition and an acute sensitivity to the contemporary theological situation.” See also, Chris Tessone’s Why I Love Kathryn Tanner and Tripp Fuller’s I Heart Kathryn Tanner’s Christocentric Christology!

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Sarah Coakley:
I first came across Dr. Coakley’s writings while doing research on the Council of Chalcedon for a Barth paper. Dr. Coakley is Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge. According to her faculty page, she is working on a four volume systematic theology (Yay!). Check out her suggestions of 5 essential theology books of the last 25 years.

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Nancey Murphy:
Technically Dr. Murphy is a philosopher, but much of her work intersects with theology, and has been invaluable to my studies. Dr. Murphy is Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary. In her writings on the human soul, Dr. Murphy argues for a non-reductive physicalist position (i.e., there is no dichotomy of body and ‘soul’).

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Ellen Charry:
Dr. Charry is Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. I’ve become interested in Dr. Charry’s work on the theology of happiness. There is much overlap between Dr. Charry’s work and work that is currently being done in the field of positive psychology.

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Marva Dawn:
Dr. Dawn is a teaching fellow at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. Dr. Dawn has written on worship, pastoral theology and much more. Her book, Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God won a Christianity Today Book Award. And of course, her book Reaching out without Dumbing Down is a must-read for anyone involved in leading worship in the Church.

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A few more that I have read:

Catherine LaCugna: God for Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life.

Elizabeth Johnson: Consider Jesus: Waves of Renewal in Christology.

Amy Marga: Jesus Christ and the modern sinner: Karl Barth’s retrieval of Luther’s substantive Christology.

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So who are you reading?

The Spirit and Christ: How Close is Too Close?

Karl Barth presents a pneumatology that is Christocentric. Arguing that there is only one revelation (Jesus) and that the Spirit does not present a separate revelation, viagra Barth says that the Holy Spirit is none other than the Spirit of Jesus. “Thus the only content of the Holy Spirt is Jesus; his only work is his provisional revelation; his only effect the human knowledge which has Jesus as its object.” (CD IV/2, 654).

One of the main reasons for Barth to link the Spirit and Christ so closely together is because of the errors that he saw in 19th-Century Liberal Protestantism. Barth’s criticism was that LP forgot the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and confused the Holy Spirit with humanity’s Spirit. Barth chooses to keep the Holy Spirit grounded in the work of Christ because “where the Holy Spirit is sundered from Christ, sooner or later He is always transmuted into quite a different spirit, the spirit of the religious man, and finally the human spirit in general…” (CD I/1 248).

On the other hand, Clark Pinnock argues that when the Holy Spirit is too tightly tied to Christology, the Holy Spirit is limited to the life of the Church and possibly leads to Christomonism. It is for this reason that Pinnock chooses to not endorse the Filioque. He writes, “In my view the phrase diminishes the role of the Spirit and gives the impression that [the Spirit] has no mission of his own. It does not encourage us to contemplate the broad range of his operations in the universe.” (Flame of Love, 196).

The question then becomes, is it possible to balance the two positions? Does giving the Holy Spirit some independence apart from Christ always lead to a humanizing of the Spirit? On the other hand, does tying the Holy Spirit to Jesus really restrict the Spirit to the life of the Church?

Jurgen Moltmann argues that there is a difference between proceeding and sending. Like Pinnock, he chooses not to endorse the Filioque, and suggests instead that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, and is sent from the Son. “The Spirit proceeds from the Father, rests on the Son, and from the Son radiates into the world.” (The Source of Life, 17).

Is there a difference between proceeding and sending?

Can the Spirit work independently but always be pointing toward and back to Christ? If the Spirit is at work in all of creation, would he not be working the purposes of Christ, preparing hearts and lives to receive the King of Kings?

These are some of the questions I continue to wrestle with, after completing my class on the Theology of the Holy Spirit. Which means, the class did what it was supposed to do. It was engaging, got me thinking, and has given me a whole list of books to read in my spare(!) time.

My ‘to-read’ list is ever-growing…Too many books, too little time.