Karl Barth vs. T.F. Torrance: the Assumption of (Fallen?) Human Nature

There is a common song that is sung in modern theology, a song with two main themes: (1) that Christ assumed a fallen human nature, and (2) Karl Barth is in large part to blame (or thank) for this. This song has become something of an orthodoxy in contemporary theology and has largely gone unquestioned. Torrance picked up this theme and ran with it, citing Gregory’s famous ‘the unassumed is the unhealed’ maxim every chance he got. I want to suggest in this post, however, that Barth did not, in fact argue that Christ assumed a fallen human nature (FHN), and that this fact placed on more coherent (as well as orthodox) grounds than Torrance as far as christology goes. Continue reading

Book Review: ‘Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology: Origins and Development 1920-1953’, by Shao Kai Tseng

Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology: Origins and Development 1920-1953‘, by Shao Kai Tseng, IVP Academic, 319 pp. $31.20

One may be forgiven for a quizzical look upon reading the title of the volume under review, considering that no less a theologian than Karl Barth declared his theology to be of a supralapsarian type. Tseng is out to prove pretty much everyone, Barth included, wrong here, and his attempt is a valiant, scholarly and exceedingly well-documented one. Does he succeed? Well, to give a suitably Barthian answer: yes, and no.
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John Webster, 1955-2016

On May 25th, 2016, John Webster passed on. I never knew him personally, don’t have any anecdotes to tell, haven’t written hugely on him, haven’t read every one of his books and essays and discovered his writing somewhat late and so am probably the least qualified person to write any kind of tribute to him. However, in the short time since I discovered his work, he became someone I referenced when I needed to know the right answer about a theological question. He was a truly theological theologian, one who wrote for the whole church at a level of intellect and scholarship that was second to none. Far smarter folks have written far better tributes to him than I have here, so I’ll simply say that in his death, we have lost one of the, if not the, brightest theological light in recent times, and that I am genuinely sad for this loss. My prayers are with his family and friends.
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Monothelitism: The Very Idea

In any debate, on any topic, it’s important to understand the underlying concerns on either side. It can be easy to look at any given position and condemn it, but discerning exactly why someone would take that position takes a bit more care. This is all the more true when it comes to controversial or heated topics, and there is no more controversial and heated set of topics within Christian theology than that of heresies. There are a good deal of important heresies within the  history of Christianity, and it is as important to understand the underlying theological concerns as it is to roundly condemn them. Seldom is a heresy an explicit denial of a key tenet of the faith. Far more often is a heresy a subtle over-emphasis on one aspect of a doctrine that leads to major theological consequences later. The unrestricted and un-dialectical approach taken towards biblical doctrine is the hallmark of the early heresies. The emphasis of one biblical idea over another is all it takes. The real issue, we might say, is a kind of rationalization where a measure of paradox should be allowed. All the heresies in church history have this hallmark, not going off the rails completely but a slight emphasis where none should be had. While it is crucial to refute, rebut and rebuke heresies, there is a measure of charity with which they should be ‘read,’ as it were, because the underlying theological concerns can often serve as sharpening stones for orthodox doctrines. Continue reading

Aquinas and Russell Against Anselm

In his essay on the ontological argument in The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of ReligionGareth B. Matthews makes an interesting observation about one of Aquinas’s lesser-known objections to the argument. The objection is fleshed out by reference to Russell’s theory of definite dsecriptions, and forms a pretty solid argument against Anselm. Continue reading