Saturday, October 21, 2006

Will I ever stop reading?

On Monday, I (and Adam as well) have a proposal for a paper that I will write due to my instructor. He hasn't provided many ideas so I decided to explore the Christology of a theologian and who better to explore than Karl Barth (in the immasculating context of 10-15 pages)? Thus, I have decided to take on one of the most interesting and complex Christologies that I could possibly conceive. I went to the library at school and began to investigate my options for sources. That, friends, is where you come in. If you have any ideas of sources that I could use for a brief overview of Barth's Christology, please let me know and I will be the better for it. Here is what I have so far:

Church Dogmatics: A Selection (which contains 40-50 page section on Jesus Christ) edited by Helmut Gollwitzer
The Making of Modern German Christology by Alister McGrath
Karl Barth's Final Testimonies edited by Eberhard Busch
Christ in Perspective: Christological Perspectives in the Theology of Karl Barth by John Thompson
The Word of Christ and the World of Culture: Sacred and Secular through the Theology of Karl Barth by Paul Louis Metzger
The Great Passion: An Introduction to Karl Barth's Theology by Eberhard Busch

Thank you, folks. I hope your weekend is more relaxing than mine, because if it is less relaxing... boy howdy.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

One of the Coolest Book Buys Yet

As some of you all know, I work for Windows Booksellers, a used theological bookselling company with a couple of stores. I recently got back from the east coast where we were buying used books from a number of retired professors from Harvard and Yale (George Lindbeck and Krister Stendahl, to name a couple).

While those experiences were notable, the highlight of the trip was buying a couple dozen books from an old, unknown former Old Testament professor at Yale. In the books we bought from him was a copy of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics, Vol, 1.1 in the old translation by G.T. Thompson (whcih I don't recommend) . What was unique was that this prof had spent a year studing at Basel and has sat under Barth. And yes, there is was, Barth's autograph right there. Signed in April, 1944. I stared at the book for a good 5 minutes just basking in the greatness.

I thought that definately deserved to be shared.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Is this discipleship?

This image illustrates a view of discipleship that I am completely opposed to:

Old Karl Barth

Jesus sits comfortable, isolated, waiting. Welcoming, for sure, but all initiative and responsibility are cast on the human, who is left alone to struggle, alone to face demons. This is not the Christ of Holy Saturday, who has embraced us in the depths of our apathy.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Jesus, Nouwen, and Whitman on Ministry and Theology

How does God love us? Does he love in pursuit or in reception? We might want to say that God's love is a synthesis, that he loves us with a "receptive pursuit." But I think we need to maintain the force of the dialectic, or else the particularity of his pursuit and his reception is lost, and his love ends up being neither. We must maintain the force of the dialectic here. Quotes from Henri Nouwen and Walt Whitman (that great defender of orthodoxy) will be helpful to get us thinking about this.

Nouwen defines hospitality, a hallmark of his thought, thus: " Hospitality is the ability to pay attention to the guest.... Paradoxically, by withdrawing into ourselves, not our of self-pity but out of humility, we create space for another to be himself and to come to us on his own terms.... When we have found the anchor places for our lives in our own center, we can be free to let others enter into the space created for them and allow speak their own language without fear. Then our presence is no longer threatening and demanding but inviting and liberating" (The Wounded Healer, 92-93).

And Whitman, for whom love is aggressive and inquisitive, describes what he sees as our responsibility to actualize genuine humanity in others: "Undrape! you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded, / I see through the broadcloth and gingham whether or no, / And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be shaken away" (Song of Myself, §7).
And again, "Through me many long dumb voices, / Voices of the interminable generations of prisoners and slaves, / Voices of the diseas'd and despairing and of thieves and dwarfs, / Voices of cycles of preparation and accretion, / ...And of the rights of them the others are down upon / Of the deform'd, trivial, flat, foolish, despised" ("Song of Myself" §24).

Thinking of two beautiful parables that Jesus tells us about how our father demonstrates his love towards us, I feel that it is necessary to embrace both of the preceding perspectives on ministry. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, we are told of a child who strays from his home, squandering the blessing he had received. What is the father's response? It is not pursuit, but patience, waiting at home. Of course he rushes out to meet his son half way, but this is not the point. The initiative is on the son, whose decision to return is met with a kind of hospitality that he could not have asked for.

The parable in Whitman's vein is that of the Lost Sheep. This one sees lostness not so much in terms of volitional rebellion, but of stupidity. The initiative here is on the part of the shepherd, who is "around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless, and cannot be shaken away."

And so we are confronted with a love that is at once an invitation to discover redemption by turning, and a love that pursues us without concern for our witless rebellion. God's love both compels and invites our conversion.

In Paul's words, "Now that we have come to know God, or rather, to be known by him," what do we do with this example of His love that the Father has shown us in Christ? Barth, I think, is dealing with the implications of this for the theological endeavor as he writes in the introduction concerning the simultaneous need for the theologian's character to be marked both by rationality and faith. Here, we understand our duty as reciprocal to that of God's action. Must we passively receive a Word that overtakes us, or is it up to us to inquire and discover what God has revealed? If the preceding parables have any bearing on the nature of revelation, then we can only respond as Barth finally does, praying, "Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief!"

Monday, September 18, 2006

T&T Clark and the Will to Power.

Verily, verily I say to you, I found Volume One Part One of Church Dogmatics for 25 dollars on If you are considering obtaining a copy for personal purposes or the purposes of our wonderful group (which I will actually attend on Wednesday) I recommend checking out the Fetch Books link below. Since T&T are a cause for celebration as well as the bane of my existence due to their astronomical prices, it is important to never buy new books from them. Maybe they will learn their lesson. I'm quite obviously not serious, but my point stands.

-Ryan Smith (resident no-talent theological hack)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Eschatology as a “means of” rather than an “end to” God’s action in history.

I just cracked this book open the other day and am already struck by Moltmann’s ability to gently usher the reader along the fence between esotericism and exotericism. I find that as I am in the process of consuming this illustrious work I become a Theologian among theologians, yet when I set it down I must strain myself even to begin recalling the central thread of his thesis. This is why 2nd 3rd and 4th readings are in most cases necessary.

“For the Christian life lives from the raising of the crucified Christ, and strains after the promises of the universal future of Christ. Eschatology is the passionate suffering and passionate longing kindled by the Messiah. Hence eschatology cannot only be a part of Christian doctrine, Rather the eschatological outlook is characteristic of all Christian proclamation, of every Christian existence and of the whole Church.”

-Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 16

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An Apology For the Kierkegaard Link

I am somewhat obsessed (I have heard others describe it as a "theologian crush" - I'm not willing to go that far) with the person and thought of Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Although in justification for bringing him up at any juncture I cannot acknowledge the need for a warrant aside from that of his sheer genius, I will mention that Barth recognizes him as a strong influence on his work, and so a page on him in the links section seems useful. D. Anthony Storm's page offers incisive commentary on all of S.K.'s works, and most notably full-text html pages of about 15 of his major works, including Fear and Trembling, The Sickness Unto Death, and Philosophical Fragments. Ctrl-f searching!

Tonight Mike, Chris and myself chatted about the preface, wherein Barth briefly outlines the need to diagnose the real needs of the world, which cannot be understood apart from the lens of the church. What I tried to say in response to this was muddled. S.K. does it better:

"...No man by himself and of himself can explain what sin is, precisely because he is in sin. All his talk about sin is at bottom palliation for sin, an excuse, a sinful mitigation. Hence Christianity begins also in another way, by declaring that there must be a revelation from God in order to instruct man as to what sin is, that sin does not consist in the fact that man has not understood what is right, but in the fact that he will not understand it, and in the fact that he will not do it" (The Sickness Unto Death).