Well, I am finally able to get back to posting on Barth. The important things in my life (read Baby Girl, seminary and my job) had much to demand of me lately. This week’s section had me going yes, yes and yes to many things Barth had to say.
The initial portion of this week’s reading seems to interest me most and will probably be a section of Barth that I find myself quoting from in the future. Now, by that, I do not mean upon further reflection I will never have anything to add to what Barth says, just that, it appears to be a good foundation for understanding the relation of theology to ethics (that is how I best understand Barth’s use of proclamation).
After saying the previous I would like to start with a quote that I do not think I agree with:
“One cannot and should not expect to hear the content of proclamation from dogmatics. This content must be found each time in the middle space between the particular text in the context of the whole Bible and the particular situation of the changing moment. Dogmatics can only be a guide to the right mastery and the right adaptability, to the right boldness and the right caution, for the given moment when this space has to be found.” (79)
Now I am not exactly sure what he means by this quote so I will give what I think to be two options (one of which I disagree the other I don’t). 1) I think this statement could be understood to mean that theology can only understand a text in the context of the Canon. I think, I thoroughly disagree with this approach to theology. This approach, IMHO, assumes that the Canon is an authoritative context for the critical interpretation of Scripture and it makes me uneasy. Last year I read Brevard Child’s The Church’s Guide for Reading Paul which has this approach and I found that it explicitly distorts (if one is honest as Child’s is) what we believe to be the most likely meaning of the text into what the church thought it should mean. 2) He could mean (but I don’t think he does) that the “middle space” between text and “whole Bible” is the understanding not only of the text but also its historical situation. I am very okay with this as a definition of theology as it allows theology to be and explanation of the the truth no matter what the Church has historically thought.
So here I take Barth to understand theology to be something that must be done as a whole and I think that is wrong. It seems to me that the N.T. Is evidence that their is two types of instruction for Christians one set for the Gentiles and another for the Jews (especially living in the land).
Now on to what I agree with. He pauses for just a moment and gives a great summary of the differences between dogmatics and proclamation. He gives three points
1. The necessity of dogmatics is different from the necessity of proclamation.
2. Dogmatics serves proclamation.
3. The theme of dogmatics, since it is a responsible act, demands responsibility in the packaging of the proclamation, this is dogmatics.
About #1, I completely agree. God commands the announcement through faith and deed of the resurrection of Jesus. Our current times are proof of this truth. Does the resurrection nullify homosexuality, racism or abortion? It is theology’s responsibility to answer this in a way that is true to the Scriptures. The Church is made of up πνευμα-filled humans but we are still fallible. We must humbly approach this reality with a desire to be true to God’s Word.
About #2, also agree. Theology must never forget that it is the great service of the Church to proclamation. Theology must never, as it has in certain times, think more highly of itself than it ought. Proclamation is the assumption of dogmatics.
About #3, yep. I most clearly understand this to mean that our theology can never change the proclamation as ,say, Dominic Crossan does. The Scriptures and the Church understood that Jesus was raised bodily it was not a metaphor. Also, I think the discussion going on at Storied Theology is a the positive example of this statement. It is very uncomfortable in today’s time to say the proclamation does not include approval of homosexuality but if theology serves proclamation then we must stay true to it and it seems very clear that homosexuality was explicitly refuted (along, of course, with other things).