quotes Charlie likes

"In the beginning, God' (Genesis 1:1).
God comes first. Before anyone else is mentioned, He is there."— The Bible

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Karl Barth the Preacher - Jesus loves me.

What are we to say about Barth the preacher? Surely, J. S. Stewart has described him well in these words of commendation: “this Colossus of a theologian is basically concerned with simple things… no one reading Barth can have any doubt… (about his) single-hearted devotion to Christ” (Prayer and Preaching, 7, from ‘Preface’ by J. S. Stewart).
The simplicity of Barth’s faith is beautifully illustrated in an incident described by J. M. Boice: “Several years before his death the Swiss theologian Karl Barth came to the United States for a series of lectures. At one of these, after a very impressive lecture, a student asked a typically American question. He said, ‘Dr. Barth, what is the greatest thought that has ever passed through your mind?’  The aging professor paused for a long time as he obviously thought about his answer. Then he said with great simplicity:‘Jesus loves me! This I know. For the Bible tells me so’ ” (Foundations of the Christian Faith, (Downers Grove/London, 1986), 331).

Commenting on Bultmann's Concept of Myth

Berkouwer's basic criticism of Bultmann's concept of myth is that it is different from the New Testament conception of myth. He insists that, in the New Testament, "myth stands over against the truth (aletheia) of the history of Jesus Christ ... the decisive die has ... been already cast in the New Testament opposition to myth" (Holy Scripture, p. 254).
He rejects an existentialist conception of truth which is dissociated from the 'once for all' character of the gospel events (Holy Scripture, p.262) and which makes the modern world-view the norm by which the nature of the gospel is determined (Holy Scripture, p. 261).
Berkouwer holds that, in the New Testament, the concept of myth is not simply a harmless feature of a primitive world-view, requiring only to be reinterpreted for modern man.
He emphasizes that myth is that which "diminishes the truth of salvation" (Holy Scripture, p. 253).
Concerned with 'how (emphasis original) the Spirit wishes to guide us to salvation and joy through the real (emphasis mine) Scripture' (Holy Scripture, p. 263), Berkouwer refuses to set the existential (i. e. involving man in the entirety of his existence) work of the Sp[irit over against the real Scripture.
Thus, he avoids creating a 'mythical' Bible which is not the real one, but a projection of the existentialist (i. e. the hermeneutical principle used by Bultmann) imagination.
In the New Testament, myth is warned against because of its destructive influence, leading men away from the truth and the God of truth.
In his understanding of truth, Berkouwer emphasizes the importance of both the historical reality of the Gospel events (Holy Scripture, p. 253) and the purpose of Scripture (Holy Scripture, p. 264).

"From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race", (Apollos / InterVarsity Press, Leicester / Downers Grove, 2003) by J. Daniel Hays

In his 'preface' to this book, the fourteenth contribution to the series, 'New Studies in Biblical Theology', the Series Editor, D A Carson, describes the series - 'In God's universe, mind and heart should not be divorced: in this series we will try not to separate what God has joined together' (9) - and commends this book - 'This book deserves the widest circulation and the most thoughtful reading, for it corrects erroneous scholarship while calling Christians to reform sinful attitudes' (10).
This is a book of the heart. The author, who served as a missionary in Ethiopia from 1982 to 1987 (11-12), writes with a passion. This is immediately evident from the first two pages of his 'Introduction' (17-18). He begins by describing 'a conversation with ... a Black professor and pastor'. The author described 'the race problem' as 'an important issue for the Church today'. His friend 'quickly corrected' him 'by stating emphattically that it is the most important issue for the Church today' (17). Citing Emerson and Smith's 2000 study, Diviided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America, he notes their statistics - 'there is a tremendous disparity betwen the way White evangelicals view the problem and the way that Black evangelicals view the problem ... two-thirds of White Christians believe that the situation for Blacks is improving, while two-thirds of Black Christians believe that the situation for Blacks is deteriorating' - , their analysis - 'Whites tend to see the race problem in individual terms (how does one person feel about another person of a different race?) ... Blacks usually see the problem as extending beyond the individual to societal structures, a much more complicated situation' - , and their proposal - 'limited success in dealing with the race problem in the Evangelical Church will occur unless Evangelicals engage with the societal structural problem as well as with the individual attitude problem'. When Hays quotes their powerfully challenging words - 'Is the situation hopeless? If white evangelicals continue to travel the same road they have travelled thus far, the future does indeed look bleak', the reader may expect that this is going to be a highly emotionally-charged book. This would be a mistaken first impression. While the author's commitment to the cause of 'racial reconciliation' (11) is abundantly clear throughout the book, this is much more than an emotional appeal.
This is a book of the mind. Its scholarly character may by highlighted by observing the length of its extensive Bibliography (pp.207-230). Even the list of 'Abbreviatons' runs to over two pages (14-16). Since this book is such heavy reading, the reader will appreciate that in each of the major chapters - five on the Old Testament (chapters 2-6) and three on the New Testament (chapters 7-9), the author provides us with a final section entitled 'Conclusions'. The final chapter presents the book's 'theological conclusions' and 'appropriate applications'. In this excellent summary, the author shows himself to be a man of courage, e.g. 'Racial intermarriage is sanctioned by Scripture ... this conclusion ... is the most difficult for some White readers to come to grips with ... it is critical that we proclaim clearly and without ambiguity that the Scriptures approve of interracial marriages between believers ... White Christians in the United States will make little progress toward racial reconciliation if they continue to deny this biblical truth' (203-204). He is able to speak with the kind of conviction because he has put the time and effort into ensuring that his argument is well grounded in a painstakingly careful study of the Word of God.
In his 'Final thoughts', the author gives, in a single sentence, a most helpful summary of this book which has plenty of information and a good deal of inspiration:  'an exegetical and an emotional appeal to the White Christians in the United States to embrace a theology and a practice of racial equality and unity that is based on Scripture' (206). The book's value will be enhanced by its three indices - 'modern authors' (231-235), 'Scripture references' (236-239) and 'ancient sources' (240). Although the author had the situation in the United States firmly in view when writing the book, we, in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world, should be most grateful for this work which is immensely impressive in both its competence and its courage.   

Karl Barth the Preacher: “Keep before your eyes our Lord Jesus Christ”

Prior to his ‘forty years as a professor’, Barth spent ‘twelve years as a preacher’ (Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (from the Foreword to the German Edition). As a theologian, he never lost sight of the importance of preaching. Although he worked for so many years in the university, he always saw his theological work as part of the church’s work: ‘I said to myself. “If I am a theologian, I must try to work out broadly what I think I  have perceived as God’s revelation. What I think I have perceived. Yet not I as an individual but I as a member of the Christian church”. This is why I call my book Church Dogmatics. “Church” here does not mean that the church is responsible for all that I say, but that I as one member of the church have reflected on what may be perceived in revelation and tried to present it to the best of my conscience and understanding’ (A Karl Barth Reader, 113, emphasis original).
Barth’s theological work was a part of the church’s work. Ultimately, however, it was a part of God’s work. At the heart of his work lay his relationship with God, a relationship which involved him in listening to God and speaking to God. Concerning the importance of listening to God, he writes: ‘The object of theological work is not some thing but some one… The task of theological work consists in listening to Him’. Stressing the importance of speaking to God in prayer, Barth insists that ‘without prayer there can be no theological work’. He stresses that this ‘rule… is valid under all circumstances pray and work!’ This does not mean that we begin with prayer and then regard prayer as incidental to the work which is done - “theological work does not merely begin with prayer and is not merely accompanied by it’. Barth stresses that ‘prayer… is work… very hard work’. He insists that the work itself is essentially a prayer: ‘every act of theological work must have the character of an offering in which everything is placed before the living God’ (Evangelical Theology: An Introduction, 163 (emphasis original), 160).
As we hear Barth speaking of the importance of prayer, we come to the very heart of the man not simply the theologian before his students, not merely the preacher before his congregation, but the man before his God, the man listening to God and speaking to God, the man who says to us, ‘Keep before your eyes our Lord Jesus Christ’ (A Karl Barth Reader, 104).