Nov 122009
 

Not Simpson (Though him as well), but Karl Barth. I’m even beginning to regret avoiding his theology for my four years as an undergrad (although the truth is that at New College, it’s impossible to avoid Barth if you do any systematics courses). Why do I like him? Because when he writes, you get the impression he’s still working stuff out and it’s the act of getting it on paper that helps it coalesce.

Today’s class was a starter on Barth’s ecclesiology and it focused on the creedal statement, “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church.” That was interesting enough and, in fact, inspired my likely essay for the course. But what was fascinating was a section on who was a ‘true’ Christian. There was the very thorough consideration of all the possible ‘marks’ of a true Christian and ultimately Barth’s deliberations seemed to come down to – “we don’t know”. And his advice? Get on with being a ‘true’ Christian yourself and just assume everyone else you’re concerned about is as well.

He had pretty much the same to say about church disunity. Having utterly savaged the ‘scandal’ of church division he concludes, pretty much, the same sort of thing. As a community of believers, get on with being just that and worry more about your witness to non-believers than trying to get other churches ‘back on track’.

Barth obviously used considerably more words to say that than I have, but it was his way of covering all the possible ‘get-out’ clauses and excuses. It’s fascinating to read a theologian who almost seems happy to stop at the ‘I don’t know’ place and to practically hear his thoughts as he struggles with the implications of where his ideas are going.

Sep 222009
 

I was in uni for the first of my classes today. It’s one I’m auditing and it was just the introductory class so nothing too strenuous. However, mild panic has set in already. I bumped into a fellow postgrad who mentioned that there is an initial reading to do for the Barth Church Dogmatics course which starts tomorrow. I haven’t been signed up to courses yet – a problem with changing my allocated supervisor – so I was unaware of this. I guess I should have realised and contacted the lecturer, but I didn’t. Anyway, I now have 80 pages of Barth’s Church Dogmatics to read for 11 o’clock tomorrow morning.

One moment of levity – for anyone who remembers Christian Theology 1 lectures – it took all of 15 minutes this morning before phenomenology and cherry trees were mentioned. Couldn’t help but smile.