Karl Barth II

Part I here.

On dialectical theology. Prof. Hoffecker does a very good job of quickly reviewing the history of dialectic in Western philosophy, particularly the contrast between Hegel and Kierkegaard. Barth was a descendant of the Dane not the German. Schleiermacher and the Liberal Tradition generally followed Hegel.

Hegel’s dialectic famously starts with alienation (of Spirit/Geist) end in its re-newed reconciliation, greater than its previous non-alienated (pre-Fall) state. All of history moves in great arcs of thesis/antithesis to synthesis. Hegel saw himself as truly completing Christian revelation, an early version of truly enlightened Idealist ethos.

Kierkegaard was in this sense, the anti-Hegel.

SK emphasized concrete existences, individual lives and choices. His dialectic was that of transcendence and distance. The dialectic is always to say that what is of humans is as nothing compared to God and what is of God, humans lack. Much like St.Paul and Luther: God’s weaknesss=God’s power.

Barth takes this insight of SK’s and runs with it. (Through about 30 volumes or so). Human wisdom (philosophy) is nothing against revelation (Hegel upside down). Moreover there is no way to create, for Barth, a natural theology.

There is no point in trying to use the facts of science to prove God–[Barth would have derided Intelligent Design folks]. There is no way, a la liberal Protestant theology, to argue for a “salvation history” that aligns with secular world history. The Roman Catholic pre-Vatican II theology of Neo-Thomism was another such failure for Barth.

Because, for Barth, any of these theories are already whole and complete and rational unto themselves, so why would someone be convinced of God’s existence/love as added unto any of this–as Paul said “knowledge puffs up.”

Barth further criticized an evangelical theology that tries to objectively prove the revelation of God in the Bible (“propositional theory of revelation”) also start off facing the wrong direction.

Barth sat in the line of Calvin’s Reformed Theology. Calvin (as opposed to Luther) had a strong theology of the Spirit. The Spirit must illuminate the individual reader of Scripture–the spirit in us is touched by The Holy Spirit who becomes the reader of the text The Spirit wrote.

So by Barth’s dialectical genius, the words of the Scripture are not themselves the Word of God (i.e. Christ) but the Word of God is not be found elsewhere than the words on the page of the Bible. But that discovery is only found in existential encounter. In study of the Scripture, prayer, and preaching.

This is a highly exalted view of Scripture that Barth maintained (why he is called Neo-Orthodox, orthodox plus existentialist).

This idea that Revelation is only discovered in subjective, existential encounter through the Biblical text is the source of Barth’s so-called Christocentricism. Everything falls upon The Word of God (who is Christ as 2nd Person of the Triune God).

But his Christocentricism is really a Christomonism. When Barth, like SK his great teacher, talks about everything centered on Christ existentially, he is left with no argument as to why Christ, why the Christian tradition, why the Bible as opposed to say The Qu’ran and Hadith? Or the Gitas? Or the Sutras?

It is in other words, fideism. It is beautiful but it is totally unclear why that beautiful choice as opposed to any other (or any choice period). It tends to privatize faith and make faith an excessively individualist enterprise–a product of European culture not the Biblical tradition.

Published in: on January 2, 2008 at 11:59 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] by cjsmith under Christianity, Religion | Tags: Reformed Theology |   I mentioned in the last post on Barth some different traditional “natural” theologies, one of which included a view of […]

  2. Readers of this article interested in religion, dialectic, and history, may wish to check out God, History, & Dialectic by Dr. Joseph P. Farrell. http://www.filioque.com

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