Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit in Karl Barth

Note: This was lifted directly from George Hunsinger. I claim absolutely no originality.

Revelation, reconciliation, and redemption stand in a set of inseparable yet flexible relationships. Revelation without reconciliation is empty. Reconciliation without revelation is mute. Neither can one be found without the other for they are identical with Jesus Christ. The place of the Holy Spirit cuts to the heart of what happened “there and then” and what continues “here and now.”

Redemption is the future of reconciliation. Reconciliation and revelation is the ground. Redemption is the goal. While the doctrine of the Holy Spirit remains rigorously Christocentric, from the standpoint of reconciliation the Spirit served the work of Christ, from the standpoint of redemption the work of Christ served the work of the Spirit. Unfortunately, Barth’s own work on reconciliation was never completed and redemption was never begun. As such we’re left with only hints about the large-scale structural emphases of where Barth was going. (cf IV/2, 507-11)

Barth understands the Spirit as “the mediator of the covenant” and “communion of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:13). The same Holy Spirit that bonds the person to God is the bond of love within the Holy Trinity. The mediation of the Holy Spirit “moves in two directions at once: from the eternal Trinity through Jesus Christ to humankind, and from humankind through Jesus Christ to the eternal Trinity.” (179)

Trinitarian in Ground
Following Augustine the Spirit is the eternal act of love within the Trinity: “He is the common element, or, better, the fellowship, the act of communion, of the Father and the Son.” (I/1, 470). He is hypostatic in the same sense they are: “He is what is common to them, not in so far as they are the one God, but in so far as they are the Father and the Son.” (I/1, 469)

Christological in Focus
The saving significance of the Holy Spirit is that it is to impart and bear witness to Jesus Christ: “there is no special and second revelation of the Spirit alongside that of the Son. There are not, then, two Sons or Words of God. In the one revelation, however, the Son or Word represents the element of God’s appropriation to man and the Spirit the element of God’s appropriation by man.” (I/1, 474)

The Spirit mediates the Presence of a Christ: “the Holy Spirit … is no other than the presence and action of Jesus Christ Himself: His stretched out arm; He Himself in the power of His resurrection, i.e., in the power of His revelation as it begins in and with the power of His resurrection and continues its work from this point. It is by His power that He enables men to see and hear and accept and recognise Him as the Son of Man who in obedience to God went to death for the reconciliation of the world and was exalted in His humiliation as the Son of God, and in Him their own exaltation to be the children of God.” (IV/2, 322-323)

Miraculous in Operation
Against emanation
Barth rejected both divine determinism and free will and their subtler forms—firstly emanation. Emanation is the idea that God and God alone is the acting subject in acts of Christian love. The human person is simply the passive instrument from which it flows. Barth, on the other hand, points the work of the Holy Spirit as creating proper human agency and freedom “It is not the work of the Holy Spirit to take from man his own proper activity, or to make it simply a function of His own overpowering control. Where He is present, there is no servitude but freedom.” (IV/2, 785)

Against synergism
Barth also rejected a view of human freedom that cooperates with divine grace to effect salvation. There is no synthesis that coordinates God and humankind, grace and nature. There is no repairing some human capacity. There is no point of contact between where the human person and God coordinate their actions. In his famous response to Emil Brunner, he finds some natural point of contact between us to be “incompatible with the third article of the creed. The Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son and is therefore revealed and believed to be God, does not stand in need of any point of contact but that which he himself creates. Only retrospectively is it possible to reflect on the way in which he ‘makes contact’ with human beings, and in this retrospect will ever be a retrospect upon a miracle.” (No!, 121)

Human cooperation does not effect salvation
However, human freedom “cooperates” with divine grace to the effect that the Holy Spirit creates the ability to receive grace and our freedom is the consequence of salvation. “We are thus forced to say that this awakening is both wholly creaturely and wholly divine. Yet the initial shock comes from God. Thus there can be no question of co-ordination between two comparable elements, but only of the absolute primacy of the divine over the creaturely. The creaturely is made serviceable to the divine and does actually serve it. It is used by God as His organ or instrument. Its creatureliness is not impaired, but it is given by God a special function or character. Being qualified and claimed by God for co-operation, it co-operates in such a way that the whole is still an action which is specifically divine.” (IV/2, 557)

Communal in Content
Koinonia with Christ: uniting the disparate
The mutual indwelling of Christ’s human and divine nature serves as the backdrop for the uniting of Christ and the Church: “The work of the Holy Spirit, however, is to bring and to hold together that which is different” (IV/3.2, 761) and “the unity in which He is at one and the same time the heavenly Head with God and the earthly body with His community.” (IV/3.2, 760)

Participating through Christ in the koinonia of the Trinity
Communion with Christ in the Spirit involves participation in the communion of the Holy Spirit: “He takes us up into his fellowship, i.e., the fellowship which he has and is in himself.” (II/1, 275)

Koinonia with one another in Christ
As the Spirit incorporates us into Christ and thus into communion with the Triune God, we also enter into communion with one another.  The Spirit gathers the community in faith (IV/1, 643-739), builds it up in love (IV/2, 614-726), and sends it out into the world in hope (IV/3, 681-901).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Some Reflections on Karl Barth and the Virgin Birth

Below are some notes I took on Karl Barth and the Virgin Birth a couple of years back. But be forewarned:
  • they are old
  • they are unpolished
  • they are mostly preliminary thoughts
  • I may or may not still stand by what I wrote
Take that as you will.

Church Dogmatics I/2 – The Doctrine of the Word of God
Ch. 15 – The Mystery of Revelation
15.3 – The Miracle of Christmas

In this earlier treatment of the Virgin Birth, Barth looked at the Christmas miracle from the perspective of Matthew and Luke. A few observations can be made:

  • First – although the texts have a thinness, the virgin birth cannot be dismissed on exegetical grounds (174-176).
  • Second – the miracle of Christmas denotes the mystery of revelation.  God himself does this act of incarnation and provides the grounds of reconciliation (177).  Thus, an affirmation of the virgin birth is not offering a theological explanation for the incarnation but an acknowledgement of its holy mystery.
  • Third – like the empty tomb, the empty womb cannot be separated from what it signifies (178f). 
  • Fourth – it cannot be understood in terms of natural theology and unlike Brunner it should not be rejected as a poor biological attempt at explaining the incarnation (180-184). Barth:  “The Virgin birth at the opening and the empty tomb at the close of Jesus’ life bear witness that this life is a fact marked off from all the rest of human life, and marked off in the first instance, not by our own understanding or our interpretation, but by itself” (182).
I propose Barth is arguing that the Virgin birth and empty tomb are a single sign “to describe and mark out the existence of Jesus Christ, amid the many other existences in human history.”  The sign and the thing signified must be held together.[1] For Barth, the virgin birth signifies five things:

  • First, Jesus was born as no one else was (185).
  • Second, he was born as a real man (186).
  • Third, it is a judgment on the limitations of sinful humanity (187).  The virgin birth was necessary in that “human nature possesses no capacity for becoming the human nature of Jesus Christ” (188).  That is to say that the natural form of conception was not possible to produce the motherhood of Jesus Christ as an entry into this world.
  • Fourth, positively it is the start of a new beginning for human life (189f).
  • Fifth and finally, this new beginning comes not from human will but from the grace of God (190ff).[2] 
On the exclusion of the male, Barth writes:  “The sinful life of sex is excluded as the source of the human existence of Jesus Christ, not because the nature of sexual life nor because of its sinfulness, but because every natural generation is the work of willing, achieving, creative, sovereign man.  No event of natural generation will be a sign of the mystery indicated here.” (192)  Here, Barth seems to be avoiding an Augustinian view of original sin.  Jesus Christ was from a Virgin, not to avoid the contamination of sin, but because otherwise Jesus Christ’s birth would be the result to human efforts and not divine revelation.

Church Dogmatics IV/1 – The Doctrine of Reconciliation
Chapter 14 – Jesus Christ, The Lord as Servant
Paragraph 59 – The Obedience of the Son of God
59.1 – The Way of the Son into the Far Country

In a similar, albeit abridged form to what we found earlier, in IV/1 The Doctrine of Reconciliation, Barth once again picks up his defense of Jesus Christ’s virgin birth in an excursus in his chapter on the way of the son into the far country--that is Jesus Christ, being true God, humbled himself by becoming a servant.  Naturally this speaks of the incarnation in flesh of Jesus Christ and thus the Virgin Birth. Because the focus of Barth’s steady gaze is on the doctrine of reconciliation proper, periphery subjects such as the Virgin Birth only receives a scant glance.  However, Barth does in fact affirm and defend it.[3] 

First, the Creeds affirmation concerning the Virgin Birth is “a first statement about the One who was and is and will be the Son of God.  Second and closely related, “It is not a statement about how He became this…it is a description of the way in which the Son of God became man.”

This is significant, the chief concern of both the Biblical birth narratives and the Creedal statement is not of the Virgin Birth per se, but of Jesus Christ as revealed to us.  Thus, Barth’s second point is quite correct:  in the Creed the statement concerning the Virgin Birth describes the way into which God stepped into history as a man by being born of a Virgin.  It is not a description of the ontological sonship of Jesus Christ.  Closely related to this is Barth’s observation “it might have pleased God to let His Son become man in some quite other way than in the event of the miracle attested as the Virgin Birth.”

Of course this opens up questions – have we been mistaken?  As Witherington later articulated – such a birth was certainly unexpected.  If Christ could have become man by some other way, why this way.  Is the theological import the same if the Virgin Birth was in fact false?

Not necessarily.  The reason being – the further qualifying statement of “conceived by the Holy Ghost” adds further description to the mystery and miracle of the Virgin Birth.  As expressed in I/2, Barth writes the work of the Holy Spirit in the incarnation “consists of a creative act of divine omnipotence, in which the will and work of man in the form of a human father is completely excluded from the basis and beginning of the human existence of the Son of God, being replaced by a divine act which is supremely unlike any human action which might arise in that connection, and in that way characterized as an inconceivable act of grace.”  The Virgin Birth, therefore, is a testament to the free movement of God in loving grace toward the creature.  In the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the way of the Son in the Far Country, is the grounds of reconciliation.  This reconciliation cannot be understood but a gracious and free gift of the triune God and even the means of this gift, the condescension of God is grace.

Further, even the human role of this birth is a role of grace.  “It is He who gives to man in the person of Mary the capacity which man does not have of himself, which she does not have and which no man could give to her.”

Concluding the matter, Barth writes:  “This is the miracle of the Virgin Birth as it indicates the mystery of the incarnation, the first attestation of the divine Sonship of the man Jesus of Nazareth, comparable with the miracle of the empty tomb at His exodus from temporal existence.”

As I alluded to earlier, Barth is not unaware of potential challenges to such a position.  For Barth, the Virgin Birth is a noetic expression of the incarnation and not an ontological attestation.  Barth even goes as far to say “The question is pertinent whether His divine Sonship and the mystery of His incarnation are known in any real seriousness or depth when these attestations are unrecognized or overlooked or denied or explained away.”

We might also note what Barth doesn’t say:  the virgin birth was not necessary in an Augustinian sense.  That is to say, the Virgin Birth had nothing to do with Jesus Christ being contaminated with original sin.  For Barth, sin is an ontological impossibility.  Sin is foreign to the creation but a real reality nonetheless.  It is the nothingness that threatens God’s creation.  Further, the sinfulness of humanity is discovered only in Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ, vindicated by God in His resurrection, exposes the creature as “radically and totally guilty before Him both individually and corporately” (358).

Dogmatics in Outline – Chapter 14 – The Mystery and Miracle of Christmas

At this point it might be redundant, but Barth also addresses the topic in his dogmatic lectures on the Apostles Creed.  Concerning Jesus Christ’s Virgin Birth and conception by the Holy Spirit, Barth proposes:

“The truth of the conception of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit and of His birth of the Virgin Mary points to the true Incarnation of the true God achieved in His historical manifestation, and recalls the special form through which this beginning of the divine act of grace and revelation, that occurred in Jesus Christ, was distinguished from other events.”[4]

Once again there is the strong insistence that the Virgin Birth proves very little, if anything at all.  The Virgin Birth and conception by the Holy Spirit is a sign – it “points to the true Incarnation” specifically in that it places Jesus “in His historical manifestation”.

Barth cuts straight to the point.  Recognizing the controversy of such a confession, Barth asks “Must we believe this?”  Unflinchingly and joyfully, Barth answers “Yes.”[5]  But why?

For starters, it is the first in a series of pronouncements concerning the whole life of Jesus Christ.  This series of pronouncements are full of little words that are full of great meaning (e.g. “suffered”, “crucified”, etc.).  “Conceived” and “Born” are no exceptions.[6]

First, Barth that these two pronouncements assert “that God of free grace became man, real man…there is no question here of conception and birth in general, but of a quite definite conception and a quite definite birth.”  And again, for Barth this is a noetic utterance that stands alongside an ontic one.  “If in the Incarnation we have to do with the thing, here we have to do with the sign.  The two should not be confused.”[7]

Second, “conceived of the Holy Spirit” implies that the man Jesus Christ’s origin is in God alone.  His existence is founded in God.[8]  This does not mean the Holy Spirit is the Father of Jesus Christ but that “this human existence starts in the freedom of God Himself.”[9]  In fact, this has very little to do with procreation.  It is not an ancient myth.  God is the Creator, not partner to the Virgin Mary.

Third, “born of the Virgin Mary” reminds us this is a human child.  We are on earth.  Jesus is not only true God, nor an intermediate being, he is true man.[10]  In that the male being excluded pushes the male and his role and responsibility for direction the human species in retirement.[11]

In conclusion, Barth’s words here serve as a nice summary of his position:  “the true Godhead and the true humanity of Jesus Christ in their unity do not depend on the fact that Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  All that we can say is that it pleased God to let the mystery be real and become manifest in this shape and form.”[12]

This DOES NOT give us license to disregard it as a mere sign.  The miracle that is the Virgin Birth is the visible form that the mystery of the incarnation took place.  As such, we are not free to disregard it at will as an ancient myth of no practical value or relevance today.[13]

[1] Bromiley, Introduction to the Theology of Karl Barth, 26.
[2] Bromiley, 26.
[3] Barth, IV/1, 207.  All subsequent quotes are from this page.
[4] Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, 95.
[5] Barth, DO, 95.
[6] Barth, DO, 95.
[7] Barth, DO, 96.
[8] Barth, DO, 96-97.
[9] Barth, DO, 98-99.
[10] Barth, DO, 97.
[11] Barth, DO, 99.
[12] Barth, DO, 100.
[13] Barth, DO, 100.

Week Three Study Guide: Jesus Christ

Topic:  Jesus Christ:  savior, servant, son, and Lord who became human through the virgin Mary and suffered
Creed:  “…and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffere…”
Reading to Discuss:  DO (Chapters 10-15)
Main Idea:
  • Jesus Christ:  If the Trinitarian God is the object of Christian faith, Jesus is the center of that faith.
  • Savior and Servant:  The mission of Israel is revealed fully in Jesus Christ.
  • Election:  Jesus Christ as the electing God and the elected man.
  • God’s Son:  Of the Trinitarian God, Jesus Christ is God’s Son and as God’s Son serves as the Mediator between God and Humanity.
  • The incarnation:  The virgin birth points to but does not prove the Incarnation.  The incarnation is the historical and actual manifestation of God as human.  Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.
  • Suffering:  Jesus Christ’s Passion took place throughout the whole of his life.  Redemption is tied to the whole of the Incarnation.
Discussion Topics:  Do you resonate more with the earthy Jesus or the cosmic Jesus?  (John’s “Christology Above” vs. Mark’s “Christology Below”)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Week Two Study God: God, the Father Almighty

Week Two

Topic:  God in the Highest, the Father, and the Almighty
Creed:  “…in God, the Father almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth …”
Reading to Discuss:  Dogmatics in Outline (chapters 5-9)
Main Idea:
  • Faith in God:  The Christian God freely revealed to us is the sole object of our faith.
  • The Trinitarian God:  God the Father is the source and begetter of the Son and the source of the Holy Spirit.
  • God Almighty:  God is able to do what he wills, is superior to all other powers, and is not power in itself.
  • God the Creator:  God does not exist only for Himself but thus created creation of is an act of revelation bound in the triune God.
  • Heaven and Earth:  The distinction between heaven and earth for humanity—us who dwell on the boundary between heaven and earth—heaven is the creation which is inconceivable whereas the earth is the conceivable.
Discussion Topics: 
  • Are you more drawn to the intimacy or power of God?
  • Is the Christian faith a worldview?

And for the adventurous, here are some relevant sections in Church Dogmatics:
  • The Nature of the Word of God I/1 125-186
  • The Knowability of the Word of God I/1 187-247
  • God in His Revelation I/1 295-347
  • God the Father I/1 384-399
  • The Time of Revelation I/2 45-121
  • The Mystery of Revelation I/2 122-202
  • The Election of Jesus Christ II/2 94-194
  • Faith in God the Creator III/1 3-41
  • Creation and Covenant III/1 42-339
  • The Yes of God the Creator III/1 330-
  • Man as the Creature of God III/2 55-202
  • The Doctrine of Providence, Its Basis and Form III/3 3-57
  • God the Father as Lord of His Creature III/3 58-288
  • God and Nothingness III/3 289-368
  • Ethics as a Task of the Doctrine of Creation III/4 3-46

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Week One Study Guide: Introducing Karl Barth and Confessing our Faith

Topic:  Faith
Creed:  “I Believe…”
Reading to Discuss:  Dogmatics in Outline (DO):  Chapters 1-4
Main Ideas: 
  • Why Theology?  To believe and proclaim.
  • Faith as Trust:  It’s a gift from God which hears God’s grace and holds fast to God.
  • Faith as Knowledge:  Faith seeks to understand.  Knowledge of God comes through faith.
  • Faith as Confession:  The public dimension of faith.  Faith is found in and through the Church.
For Further Reflection:  How do we know God?

And for the adventurous, here are some relevant sections in Church Dogmatics:
  • The Task of Dogmatics: I/1 3-24
  • Church Proclamation as the Material of Dogmatics I/1 47-87
  • The Knowability of the Word of God I/1 187-247
  • The Word of God, Dogma and Dogmatics I/1 248-294
  • God in His Revelation I/1 295-347
  • God’s Freedom for Man I/2 1-44
  • The Mystery of Revelation I/2 122-202
  • The Freedom of Man for God I/2 203-279
  • The Word of God for the Church I/2 457-537
  • Freedom in the Church I/2 661-742
  • Dogmatics as a Function of a Hearing Church I/2 797-843
  • Dogmatics as a Function of the Teaching Church I/2 844
  • The Fulfillment of the Knowledge of God II/1 3-62
  • The Knowability of God II/1 63-178
  • The Limits of the Knowledge of God II/1 179-256
  • The Election of the Community II/2 195-305
  • The Election of the Individual II/2 306-508
  • The Sanctification of Man IV/2 499-726
  • The Vocation of Man IV/3ii 481-680

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Reading Dogmatics in Outline

University of Bonn
My first significant exposure to Karl Barth was in a theology class at Fuller Theological Seminary. As a result of his doctoral work on Barth, the professor littered his lectures with references to Barth. I liked what I heard.

One of our assignments for the class was to write a paper on one theologian’s viewpoint on any aspect of the Church. Feeling ambitious, I thought I’d take a stab at the Swiss theologian I’d been hearing so much about. I made the short walk to the library and with some assistance from the online catalogue I located his seminal Church Dogmatics. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement. There, before my eyes were 14, thick 800 pages volumes—each cased in a solid black hardbound cover with “Church Dogmatics” written in an unassuming gold typeface. I opened up the yellowing pages to discover small print with virtually no paragraph breaks and no headings anywhere to be found. I fruitlessly tried to find something to work with, but Dogmatics was an impenetrable fortress. Thoroughly beaten, I wrote a paper on Calvin instead.

In another assignment for the same class I admitted my admiration for Barth’s thinking but was too intimidated to read his books. In the margin of the paper, my professor wrote in large yellow highlighter: “Don’t Be!! Try Dogmatics in Outline”. Thankfully, I took his advice. Since then I’ve written a number of papers on Barth and read copious amounts of his work—ranging from his massive Dogmatics to his shorter occasional pieces through secondary sources offering their own interpretation of the man’s theology.

In Barth I’ve discovered an outstanding mind that loves God, serves the Church and wishes to communicate just who God has shown himself to be. Barth never fails to leave me reflective, challenged, and in a deeper place of worship.

Still, Barth is a challenge. He expects his audience to rise to his level. He writes with originality and a style that is exclusively his own. Reading Barth forces you to leave a lot behind and meet him on his terms. Consequently, reading Barth, while ultimately worthwhile, is a battle not for the faint of heart.

So with that caveat, here are some helpful hints about reading Barth and specifically Dogmatics in Outline.

  1. The Nature of Dogmatics
Dogma is an ugly word these days. It has connotations of rigid customs and unyielding doctrine. It reeks of religion divorced from revelation. It’s systems without the Spirit.

For Barth these caricatures are just that. For him dogmatics is a positive science. Its one task seems is to faithfully, accurately, and positively describe both the subject and object of its inquiry: The triune God who has revealed himself fully in the person of Jesus Christ in whom we participate and know through the Holy Spirit as testified by Holy Scripture.

In short, Dogmatics is that which seeks to say something very purposeful and meaningful about God. It’s a work in the Church and of the Church. Following Anselm’s famous medieval dictum, it is a matter of “faith seeking to understand.”

  1. It’s not an abridgment of Church Dogmatics
This is a common misunderstanding. Church Dogmatics hovers around 10,000 pages and is Barth’s major work. Dogmatics in Outline clocks in at around 150. It would be nice if it was a summary, but it’s not. This is what he had to say about Outline:

“Everything in this Outline is treated very concisely. Many important problems of dogmatics are mentioned only briefly or not at all. Therefore, reading this book cannot take the place of studying the Dogmatik. At best it can inspire and initiate that study. ‘If any one will not work, let him not eat’ (2 Thess. 3:10 rsv).”

I think Barth is underestimating the value of Outline, but is warning is well heeded.

  1. It’s a Transcript of Lectures
The pages of Outline comes from a series of lectures Barth gave in the semi-ruins of a lecture hall at the University of Bonn during the summer of 1946 in the aftermath of the devastating World War II. The lectures were given at 7 am and began by the singing of a hymn or a Psalm. Then Barth would read the relevant portion of the Apostle’s Creed and lecture upon it without notes.

Looking back, Barth felt the lectures were “a document of our time, which has once more become a time ‘between the times’—and not only in Germany.” A key phrase in Outline ran thus: “There is only one Lord, and his Lord is the Lord of the world.” More so, he would emphatically point out this Lord is Jesus Christ who is also a Jew.

Many, if not most, of the people that attended the lectures were not Christians.  For Barth it made no difference and would say “Look, the alternatives are simple: it’s either knowledge, or rank foolishness, so here I am in front of you, like a teacher in the lowest class of a Sunday School, who has something to say which a mere four year old can understand.” “The world was lost, but Christ was born. Rejoice, O Christendom.”

So if it helps, remember that these lectures were given in the shadow of a deeply divisive and bloody decade where its fallout was still being felt—all the way down to the semi-ruins of the school itself.

  1. Read Slowly and Carefully
Barth demands slow and careful reading. Reading Barth isn’t a race. Each chapter is rather self-contained. Seek to understand what you can. If you don’t grasp it all—join the club.

Thankfully, Barth begins each chapter with a summary or thesis statement for the chapter. Use this as a guide for your reading. Barth’s making a point. The chapter defends his point.

Pick up what you can. What stands out? What sounds odd? What makes sense? What doesn’t?

  1. Take notes
Closely related to a slow and careful reading is the taking of notes. Read with a notebook and pen handy. Write in the margin of the book. This is a helpful practice for coming back to it later. It might also jog your memory of that great insight you had but can’t remember now that we’re finally discussing it.

  1. Have fun
God loves a learner. Make this fun. If you’re banging your head against a wall, give it a rest. Move on to something else that’s making more sense or doing a better job of catching your fancy. Perhaps you can come back to it later. Perhaps you’ll never come back to it. Just don’t make it a chore.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dates, Times, Topics, and Location

Barth for Beginners will gather together every other Thursday at 8pm at The Copper Hog pub in Bellingham, Washington.

Primarily, we'll be discussing Karl Barth's Dogmatics in Outline. While it's not necessary, it would behoove you to purchase, borrow, and read this short, but dense, work. Don't worry if doesn't all make sense the first time through. That's what the group is for.

Due to the popularity of the group, we'll have two different groups meeting. The material will be the same for each week's gathering. If at all possible, I ask you to pick one group and try to follow that group's schedule.

Week One: Introducing Karl Barth and Confessing our Faith
Dates:  February 17th (Group 1) and February 24th (Group 2)
To Read: Theological Declaration of Barman and Dogmatics in Outline chapters 1-4

Week Two: God the Father
Dates:  March 3rd (Group 1) and March 10th (Group 2)
To Read: Dogmatics in Outline chapters 5-9

Week Three: Jesus Christ (part 1)
Dates:  March 17th (Group 1) and March 24th (Group 2)
To Read: Dogmatics in Outline chapters 10-14

Week Four: Jesus Christ (part 2)
Dates:  March 31st (Group 1) and April 7th (Group 2)
To Read: Dogmatics in Outline chapters 15-20

Week Five: Holy Spirit, the Church, and Eschatology
Dates:  April 14th (Group 1) and April 28th (Group 2)
To Read: Dogmatics in Outline chapters 21-24

Monday, January 24, 2011

Barth for Beginners the Class

Without a doubt, Karl Barth is the great theologian of the 20th century and perhaps the greatest Christian thinker since Calvin, Luther, or Aquinas.   By strolling through his little Dogmatics in Outline, we’ll get not only a brief glimpse at Barth’s own thinking but a deep look at who it is that Church confesses in her faith.  Far from being narrow and stuffy, theology is a joyous discipline that liberates us to think deeper about what it means to bear witness to Jesus Christ.  And in a grand theological we’ll gather together at a pub, drink, listen, talk, and learn.

Barth for Beginners is a 5-week discussion group as a part of First Presbyterian Church in Bellingham, Washington's Pub Theology series.

Check here for a list of dates, times, topics, and location.