Monday, February 8, 2010

Post #5: A Fresh New Look at Barth and Culture

         This last weeks seminar was one of the best theological discussions that I have ever had. There was much headway made in furthering the theological discussion between Barthian's and Neo-Calvinist's. After reading CD IV/3.1 and Barth's book on Mozart, my Neo-Calvinist friends were quite surprised. One of the main issues is that they haven't read much Barth and the other issues is that, if they have read him, they have been interpreting him through a Yoderian or Hauerwasian viewpoint. A couple of my friends said they were pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed reading Barth. They couldn't believe that Barth was talking about lights and truths within the realm of creation. The unfortunate thing is that a large number of people including those who haven't read Barth, Neo-Calvinist's, and even Barthian's think that Barth is anti-creation and anti-culture. This is not true. This area of Barth's theology is the most untouched portion and has yet to be fully dealt with apart from a couple of excellent books. Because of this Barth is not appreciated for his appreciation of creation and culture. I do have to admit that I get a little weary when I read his book on Mozart. Maybe Barth went a little bit too far with his praise of Mozart? I don't know if I would have given Mozart so much praise. As a musician I greatly appreciate Mozart's music, but I also understand that he was not that good of a guy. I guess what Barth is showing is that in light of our downfalls and sin, God can use an individual apart from their knowledge to shine light on the Light of Christ, bearing witness to his beautiful creation, i.e. music.
      Reading CD IV/3.1 was great. I really enjoyed Barth's Christocentrism in light of his praise of culture. The most important part of this section of the Dogmatics is Barth's emphasis on the One Word of God. The lights and words of creation are not in themselves lights and words, but are lights and words because God has miraculously made them lights and words through the work of the Holy Spirit. And these lights and words bear witness not to themselves, but to Christ. Even the created truths, which speak only truth about the cosmos, bear witness to Christ because he created them. For Barth there is no way of getting around it, Christ is the center and basis for both the secular and the sacred spheres. What I feel is Barth's greatest argument for the lights and words of creation bearing witness to the Light of life, is that grace and revelation are ontologically grounded in God's being. So, there can be no revelation and no grace apart from God himself. In light of this statement lights and words of creation have no power or truth in themsleves because they cannot be grace or revelation, they can only bear witness to their origin, which is grounded in Christ.
        I will follow up more on this soon. This week we are reading Paul Metzger's book The Word of Christ and the World of Culture: Sacred and Secular Through the Theology of Karl Barth. So far it's a great book and I will post on the book and our discussion sometime later this week.

For further resources on the subject see: chapters 1-5, 7 of Disruptive Grace by George Hunsinger; As in a Mirror: John Calvin and Karl Barth on Knowing God by Cornelis Van Der Kooi; Karl Barth's Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology by Bruce McCormack