Barth Rant

A post in a Facebook group:

‘Barth was a prisoner of his early limited 20th century modern Western thinking…at worst, he had a somewhat unorthodox view of the gospel as a result of of philosophical European upbringing.’

This irritates me greatly. There is a vast difference between being a prisoner of X, and thinking that X is a legitimate thing with which and against which one can work. Barth did the latter – he was a modern, who realized that the church couldn’t simply go back to before the modern era had begun, and couldn’t continue to say the same things in the same way as it always had.

This, to me, is a huge problem. The idea that orthodox theology is purely about retrieval, purely about going back to the past. I find it quite ludicrous, honestly. I just got back from a run so maybe it’s the adrenaline, but this is just ridiculous to suppose that anything new or modern, or anyone who takes something new and modern seriously, is a prisoner of modernity.

God always has something new to teach us – and just as often as not, this involves not a retrieval but a move forward, often into the unknown. To suppose that the faith once and for all delivered means that there is never anything new to learn or never a new way of saying an old truth or (God forbid) a whole new truth to learn seems to me to be a bad case of head-in-sand syndrome.

This does not mean that the church sacrifices old truth for the sake of relevance – but the church must be prepared to receive new things from God, and to not freeze what God has given into all that God will ever give.

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3 thoughts on “Barth Rant

  1. Kevin Davis February 2, 2014 / 1:13 am

    I have encountered these conversations more times than I can recount. Ludicrous indeed. The best antidote that I can offer is the study of church history, by historical theologians who actually know their stuff. Invariably, whenever I encounter these dismissals of Barth, they are from guys who have an enormously shallow view of doctrinal history.

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    • whitefrozen February 2, 2014 / 8:40 am

      Or just reference the CD, note the roughly one billion references and expositions of patristic, medieval, reformation and reformed scholastic theologians – someone who is a prisoner of ‘modern western thought’ probably wouldn’t take the time for all that.

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