Thursday, January 20, 2011

Church Dogmatics I.1 §2 - The Task of Prolegomena to Dogmatics

Confession #2
I've had to start underlining in my Barth readings...To add insult to injury, I've had to make marginal notations.

Confession 2.1
This post comes almost one week late. Verzeih mir, Karl.

Just like you will see in the forth coming post on Wright, Barth outlines his epistemological method here in section 2 (I.1 §2). Barth is quite happy in his method being one that is quite succinct. Recalling the theologians of early and medieval church: "It must be remembered that the great representatives of early and medieval dogmatics were sometimes content with the briefest reflections on the way of knowledge taken by them" (p. 25). In this section, Barth will examine and find wanting the epistemological methods of Roman Catholicism and liberal Protestantism advocating an Evangelical approach. (Note: this should not be confused with American, twenty-first century Evangelicalism.)

I once had a professor call Karl Barth a "quasi-good guy." And from the perspective of this professor, I am sure it had something to do with Barth's appeal against dogmatics to answer the questions of contemporary society (i.e. apologetically). Barth says that such notions should be disregarded for three reasons (p. 28-9). Reason one, times have not changed that significantly to to where secularism has rendered dogmatics useless. Number 2, in addressing number one, we leave dogmatics completely and enter an entirely different field. Lastly, if we achieve an apologetically safe dogmatics, faith, essentially, becomes no longer necessary (p. 30). The folly of apologetics is, then, that the church no longer takes it self seriously. "In such apologetics faith must clearly take unbelief seriously. When it cannot take itself with full seriousness. Secretly or openly, therefore, it ceases to be faith" (p. 30).

You may find yourself asking the question, "Well, Karl ol' boy, what is the church's proper apologetic?" And Karl, removing the pipe from his mouth, would answer you something like this: "Theology is genuinely and effectively apologetic and polemical to the extent that its proper work, which cannot be done except at the heart of the conflict between faith and unbelief, is recognized, empowered and blessed by God as the witness of faith" (p. 31).

Next to come: §3, Proclamation as criterion.

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