Dogmatics as Inquiry

Barth, in this section, takes on the task of explaining what, exactly, Dogmatics is. One of the ways that dogmatics is to be understood is as an inquiry. He has two main things to say about this:

  1. Dogmatics as an inquiry presupposes that the true content of Christian talk about God can be known by man.
  2. Dogmatics as an inquiry presupposes that the true content of Christian talk about God must be known by men.

I think he has a simple point here; the basis of systematics is that God can be known (only when God reveals himself though) and thus the reason dogmatics exists is the world needs this knowledge packaged in a way that is relevant to its current experience. I have a deep connection with this thought. As a pastor I often explained “ethics” as the Church fulfilling her commission to make the character of God known in a world that does not know what he is really like. God is so often missed by his people in Scripture because they are not attempting to focus on his current revelation but instead turn the record of his previous revelation into something that is foreign to him.

As much as I liked his two fundamental statements I like another statement even more. He goes on to say that Dogmatics should not think its job is to simply restate what has already been said (Melanchton is forwarded as a prime example of this, is this fair?). But, instead,

The task of dogmatics, therefore, is not simply to combine, repeat and transcribe a number of truths of revelation which are already to hand, which have been expressed once and for all, and the wording and meaning of which are authentically defined.

Dogmatics is dynamic and not static there are great things to be said about God the great movements (like the Puritans) haven’t said yet. I wonder if this is why the conservative school that I attend tries to embrace Barth because of his stand against Liberalism but yet is reticent in using his material? His emphasis on revelation seems to transcend even the Bible.

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