Archives For January 2016

Karl Barth On Joy & Theology

Radiant Horizon

January 28, 2016 — 2 Comments

It took me five hours to create this with the mixing time adding another one. Of all the tunes I’ve made in the past six months, I’m really fond of how this one turned out. There’s a lot of prayer and pain expressed here, but there’s also a ton of joy. Joy in the fact that God keeps His promises. I created this instrumental using the POD HD400 and an Ibanez. Garage band was used for drums and keys. Mixing was done through Audacity. Image is mine.

 

Yesterday’s silent tears
Today’s haunting mists
The radiant joy of tomorrow’s horizon

 

 


(RL, 2016)

 

Hitler's Traitors: German Resistance to the Nazis, Susan OattawayThis past week I finished reading Susan Ottaway’s 2003 book, ‘Hitler’s Traitors.’

I had borrowed this with the purpose of finding and filling gaps in my own knowledge of early-mid 20th Century European history. What I found was an excellent introduction to it. It’s a text I’m now planning to use for homeschool. (Worth noting, the Nazis banned homeschooling. So there’s a small sense of irony here.)

The book’s potential lies in its content and flow. I was particularly attached to Ottaway’s blunt opinions and it’s likely that these pieces of commentary contributed to her reasons for saying, ‘this is not a scholarly work’ (xiii).

Scholarly work or not, Ottaway’s book is well researched and her criticisms are balanced. The text is indexed, bibliographed and it contains four appendages that present primary documents, including the White Rose leaflets and photos of key people.

Ottaway doesn’t sugar coat the truth.

Chronologically written, her book deals with a long list of historical figures and complex events. What unlocks this as a suitable homeschool text is its conversational style. With brevity and wit, Ottaway explains the injustices of the Treaty of Versailles and the initial well-intentioned, but ultimately ignorant approach of the Allies.

Additional themes include the politics of appeasement, the fall of the Weimar Republic, German anti-Nazi resistance, the horrific persecution of European Jews, the rise of communism and the defeat of Nazism.

The only real downside to the book is that it has no footnotes and not every reference is cited meticulously enough to allow an easy follow up reading.

Finding good resources for homeschool is hard. It’s usually because there’s a limited budget and a somewhat specific curriculum to follow. It’s not for lack of choice. American resources that are directed at homeschooling abound. While Australian material, for the most part, is not. Hence, the age old struggle to find the right resources can snare us in a web of high cost with little reward.

We have enough and we’re grateful for it. Still, ordering the wrong resources could cost us time and hit the budget hard. It means being careful in choosing supplemental material, once the must-buy material has been purchased.

This need to be fugal is a gift. It helps us to focus our aim. It encourages us to be creative and industrious. It means making an effort to find the right resource that’s right for the job.

Ottoway’s book fits this description.

It precisely carries the intensity of an era dominated by Germany. ‘Hitler’s Traitors’ teaches early-mid 20th Century European history in a way youth can hear and understand.

What Ottaway has done is create an in-depth overview of this period in modern history. It’s readable and it digs deep enough.  Ottaway successfully illustrates what life was like and what life could be like, should we fail to remember and act on what this history teaches us.


Related post: Never Again

During my undergraduate research into the wide and wondrous theological landscape of Karl Barth’s rejection of natural theology, I came across some criticisms of Barth made by Martin Luther King Jnr.

628x471_barth-and-mlkjnr 1962King made these criticisms in 1952, centring them around two main points. First, the [liberal] theologian must part with Barth in his rejection of natural theology. This is because:

‘we find God in the beauty of the world, in the unpremeditated goodness of humanity, and in the moral order of reality. Second, Barth emphasises the unknowableness of God, but if God is unknowable one wonders how Barth came to know so much of the ‘’Unknown God’’  [1].

Here King shows his lean towards the theology of ‘19th century liberal protestants, who viewed human culture as being endowed with revelatory potential’ [2].

In the end, though, King somewhat affirms Barth’s theology,

‘In spite of our severe criticisms of Barth, however, we do not in the least want to minimize the importance of his message. His cry does call attention to the desperateness of the human situation. He does insist that religion begins with God and that man cannot have faith apart from him. He does proclaim that apart from God our human efforts turn to ashes and our sunrises into darkest night. He does suggest that man is not sufficient unto himself for life, but is dependent upon the proclamation of God’s living Word, through which by means of Bible, preacher, and revealed Word, God himself comes to the consciences of men. Much of this is good, and may it not be that it will serve as a necessary corrective for a liberalism that at times becomes all to shallow?’ [3]

King’s rejection of Barth’s “no” to natural theology seems short-sighted.

For Barth,

‘Christianity is the protest against all the high places which human beings build for themselves’ (Barth C.D IV/II p.524).

When viewed through the lens of World War One and German preoccupation with Social Darwinism, World War Two and the Barmen Declaration, his rejection of natural theology is more understandable. Barth’s stance pushed against the claims of national socialist ideology by aiming at its roots [4].

What Barth rejects is natural theologies,

‘autonomous rational structure’ (Torrance), [5], and its ‘self-determining knowledge of God which is absent of Jesus the Christ. The importance of the revelation of Jesus Christ is that He teaches us that we are‘ human beings and not pets’ (Olasky) [6].

Natural theology, it could be argued, bolstered the clinical one-sidedness of Scientism; Nazi dehumanization programs, rationalised ignorance, the humanist deification of humanity (seen in the führerprinzip), the Nazi gas chambers, “re-education” camps, total war, eugenics, racism and slave labour.

Barth’s ”no” to natural theology is seen better under the light of his sociopolitical context. It’s a much larger critique than that of 19th Century theology. Barth’s words fall as a warning to those who sought to detach Christian theology from Christ. It’s a criticism of those who attempted to synchronise Christian theology with the tentative conclusions of the disciples of Frederic Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin. All of whom can be found to have had a direct and indirect influence on German thought, specifically, National Socialism.

This opposition was worked out in the Barmen declaration; authored by Barth as part of the Confessing Churches stand against National Socialism in the 1930’s.

‘We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords–areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him’ (Barth, 8.15 second thesis, Barmen Declaration 1934).

In 1962, ten years after his initial criticisms, King met Barth. Despite their differing position on natural theology they shared some visible common ground in their eventual opposition to the Vietnam War. Barth ‘called for opposition to the conflict in Vietnam, stating, “It is not enough only to say, ‘Jesus is risen,’ but then remain silent about the Vietnam War’ [7]. It’s possible to hear echoes of Barth in King’s words to Riverside Church in New York on the 4th April, 1967.

Barth & King 1962“There comes a ‘a time to break the silence’ because ‘’a time comes when silence is betrayal.”

This “point of contact” with Barthian theology is displayed in the overall content of King’s speeches. It’s one that can be measured alongside the Barmen declaration and matched with Barth’s own opposition, not only to the conflict in Vietnam, but also to Nazism.

Barth and King stand as examples. Both challenged ideologies with theology. Challenging old and new, political and cultural ideologies that had moved, or were moving from being a servant towards being a master. Each show that the world benefits when Christian theology stands and then seeks to steer humanity away from the rocky shores of its own making, such as the seductive Siren calls of Machiavellian agendas and unruly ‘isms.’

As the Lutheran, Gene Veith, wrote,

‘Nazism was a calculated crusade to deny the transcendence of God and usurp Christianity’. Theology must challenge ‘the ideas that led to Auschwitz with special scrutiny. This is especially true when those ideas, often adopted uncritically, are still in vogue today’ [8].

Today, its relevance calls Christians – theologians – regardless of skin colour or country, to stand side by side in a push back against the stream. To push back against the mudslide of agendas carried along by propaganda machines which often feed off of division, drama and a one-sided, segregated, party-line.

No where is this more evident in theology today, than in the virulent misuse of liberation theology. What arose with great promise as it looked towards reconciliation, now only appears to be a selective slingshot in the verbal arsenal of “progressive” stone-throwers. Causing a breakdown of dialogue which has all but confirmed the suspicions of their conservative brothers and sisters.

It’s here that we might find Barth and King’s voices of resistance. In this what might be heard is a collective “no”; the call for the reformation and therefore liberation of liberation theology.

King, 4th April, 1967 (transcript):


Sources:

[1] King Jnr, M.L. 1952 Karl Barth’s conception of God sourced 17th August 2012 from http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/primarydocuments/Vol2/520102BarthsConceptionOfGod.pdf (pp.105-106)

[2] McGrath, A.E. 2001 a scientific theology: nature vol1. T&T Clark Ltd. Edinburgh, Scotland (p.255)

[3]King Jnr, M.L. 1952 Karl Barth’s conception of God sourced 17th August 2012 from http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/primarydocuments/Vol2/520102BarthsConceptionOfGod.pdf (p.106)

[4] Gorringe, T.J 1999 Karl Barth: Against Hegemony Christian theology in context Oxford University Press New York (p.3)

[5] Torrance, T.F. 1994 Preaching Christ today: the Gospel and scientific thinking Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI, USA (p.70)

[6] Olasky, M 2003 Standing for Christ in a Modern Babylon Crossway Books, Good News publishers Wheaton, IL (p.80)

[7] Chung, S. W. 2006 Karl Barth and evangelical theology: Convergences and divergences Milton Keynes, Paternoster Press. UK (p.199) citing George Hunsinger 

[8] Veith Jnr, G.E. 1993 modern fascism: the threat to the Judeo-Christian worldview Kindle for P.C. Ed.

Images:

Source: stanford.edu

1. The Princeton University Chapel, Dr. King on the Chapel steps, with Karl Barth (pictured on the left), April 29, 1962.

2. A stroll on campus at Princeton University,

*”The Calling to Speak is Often a Vocation of Agony”  (King, ‘Beyond Vietnam‘)

Five Links: January Edition

January 18, 2016 — 1 Comment

Five Links Jan Edition 2

It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these lists. I don’t do enough of them. Starting here, I’m hoping to change that.

1. In what is the simplest explanation on how to pray that I’ve heard in a while, this week, Fr. Stavros Akrotirianakis wrote a piece on prayer for the Orthodox Christian Network. Entitled, ‘How Often Should I Pray? Akrotirianakis writes:

“Prayer is not about following “rules” or “heaping up phrases” (even beautiful phrases) but speaking to God from our hearts.
When someone asks me “how often do you talk to your wife?” or “how often do you talk to your son?” the answer is “as often as I can. At a minimum, I talk to them in the morning before I leave and at night when I get home. And sometimes I call them during the day, not for long periods, a quick call or a text. I make special time to spend with each of them and for us to spend as a family—this is extended time, more than the good morning or good night words. Prayer works in the same way.”

2. Christina Grau, writer and homeschool mum extraordinaire, shared some general thoughts on God, popularity and motivation. In the context of Homeschooling, parents can at times feel overlooked, overworked, under-appreciated and underpaid. It’s worse in an environment where encouragement is so distant that homeschoolers are tempted to find encouragement solely in “likes, shares and comments.”

In response to When Your Audience Doesn’t Applaud, Christina notes:

”God isn’t looking for someone who has wonderful audiences and receives thunderous applause. He’s looking for someone willing to serve, even when no one appreciates them.”
“Sometimes doing the littlest thing IS doing a big thing. Are we willing to do the ‘big’ thing, when it means we may never get noticed?’’

3.  From August, 2015. Still, a good read:

Joe Hildebrand, ‘The Rise of Mob Rule In Australia’

‘This is the new mob: One that derives its power not by its size but by the volume and frequency with which it shouts.Unlike genuine people power, this is just pain-in-the-arse power. Instead of a matter of who’s got the most numbers it’s a matter of who’s got the most time on their hands. Once, if a government policy was considered abhorrent enough, it would be met by a cohesive organised campaign, such as the shearers’ strikes that established the ALP or the Vietnam moratoriums to the anti-WorkChoices campaign.
Now the most common method of protest is ferocious spontaneous uprisings which, instead of targeting a policy, tend to target individuals.’

4. Ronald Reagan, New Years Greeting to the Soviet People, 1st Jan. 1986:

‘Our democratic system is founded on the belief in the sanctity of human life and the rights of the individual — rights such as freedom of speech, of assembly of movement, and of worship. It is a sacred truth to us that every individual is a unique creation of God, with his or her own special talents, abilities, hopes, and dreams. Respect for all people is essential to peace, and as we agreed in Geneva, progress in resolving humanitarian issues in a spirit of cooperation would go a long way to making 1986 a better year for all of us.’

5. A copy of Martin Luther King Jnr’s, typed and archived sermon, ‘Tough Mind & Tender Heart; Matthew 10:16, 30th August 1959. Stand out quote:

‘Nothing pains some people more than having to think. This prevalent tendency toward softmindedness is found in the unbelievable gullibility of men and women. Take an attitude toward advertisements. We are so easily led to purchase a product because a television or radio ad pronounces it better than any other […] One of the great needs of humanity is to be lifted above the morass of false propaganda.’

Soli Deo Gloria.


 

Karl Barth's CD II 1 2016 GVLWith the time constraints and work outside my study of theology and political philosophy, I’ve managed to complete Barth’s Church Dogmatics II:1[i]. This leaves me thinking about the remaining nine.  Will they be as great a learning experience? Will the journey ahead be as arduous and beneficial as the one before it?

The task now is II:2,  the most recommended starting point for Barth’s work in this 13 book series[ii].Beginning with IV:4 then I:1 and I:2, I’ve deliberately taken the long road to get to it.

To mark a finish line and starting point, I’m adding a few of my thoughts and notes from the remaining pages of II:1. There is a large amount of worthy mentions. However, I’m aiming for brevity. So tattered note-book in hand, here’s the most significant.

What does it mean for theology to say that God is beautiful?

Although Barth considers it dangerous for theology to speak of God’s beauty because “only God can speak of God.” Barth provides a way for theology to speak of God’s beauty without it falling into idolatry. Theology should first acknowledge that good does not come from beauty. Beauty comes from that which is good.  Our idea of beauty mustn’t derive from its secular definition (p.651, clarified further on p.656) The reason for this is that God is much more. God is free. God is love and His love is ‘majestic, holy and righteous.’ (p.651)

 ‘…if we allowed aestheticism to have and keep the last word it would inevitably be as a false and unChrisitian dynamism or vitalism or logism or intellectualism or moralism which might try to slip into the doctrine of God. For all that, it is as well to realise that aestheticism which threatens here is no worse than the other “isms” or any “ism.” They are all dangerous.’ (p.652)

What is God’s glory?

According to Barth in II:1, God’s glory is

‘His active grace, mercy, patience and love[iii] […] the revelation of Jesus Christ par excellence […] the Son is the prototype of God’s glory.’ (pp.653, 661, 667)

Glory is to be viewed in the same light as dignity. Here Barth writes,

it is a glory that awakens joy […] God’s glory radiates it […] because it is God who Himself radiates joy […] His glory is radiant, and what it radiates is joy. It attracts and therefore it conquers.’ (pp.655, 654, 661)

What of theology as a science?

Within his discussion on God’s glory and beauty, Barth stops to make a few side remarks about theology as a science. He notes,

‘…theology as a whole is the most beautiful of all the sciences. To find the sciences distasteful is the mark of a philistine. It is an extreme form of Philistinism to find, or to be able to find, theology distasteful. The theologian who has no joy in his [or her] work is not a theologian. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this science. May God deliver us from what the Catholic Church reckons to be one of the seven sins of the monk – taedium {tedious or boring}’ (p.656)

What is the human response to God to be?

Two of the pillars of Barth’s theology are prayer and gratitude. What does God require in response to grace[iv]? Prayer and radical gratitude.

Grateful obedience (p.229)
‘To believe in Jesus Christ means to be thankful. This is to be understood as radically as it must be in the context.’ (p.669)

To be in Christ, as Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthian church[v], means to be a new creation. Barth tells us that be a new creation,

‘is not merely  a change of temper or sentiment or conduct and action. It is a change of the being of man before God, brought about by the fact that God has altered His attitude toward humanity. It is the change from ingratitude to gratitude, full of hope. Gratitude is to be understood not only as a quality and an activity but as the very being and essence of this creature. It is not merely grateful. It is gratitude itself.’ (p.669)

Further along, Barth adds,

‘The Holy Spirit begets the man [or woman] in Jesus Christ whose existence is thanksgiving (p.670) […] it is only by a heart’s willingness and readiness to live unto God that God can be honoured, thanked and served.’ (p.674)

Why is eschatology important to the Church?

In a rather large side note Barth breaks to discuss his early theology and rejection of Liberal Neo-Protestantism, writing without hiding it’s political overtones,

Back then, ‘I even dared to say that: “Hope that is visible is not hope.’ Direct communication from God is not communication from God. A Christianity that is not wholly and utterly and irreducibly eschatology has absolutely nothing to do with Christ. A spirit that is not at every moment in time new life from the dead is in any case not the Holy Spirit. ‘For that which is seen is temporal’ (2 Cor.4:18) What is not hope is a log, a block, a chain, heavy and angular, like the word ‘reality.’ It imprisons rather than sets free. It is not grace, but judgement and destruction. It is fate, not divine fulfilment. It is not God, but a reflection of man unredeemed. It is this even if it is an ever so stately edifice of social progress or an ever so respectable bubble of Christian redeemedness. Redemption is that which cannot be seen, the inaccessible, the impossible, which confronts us as hope. Can we wish to be anything other and better than men [and women] of hope?” Well roared, lion! There is nothing absolutely false in these bold words. I still think I was right ten times over and against those who then passed judgement on them and resisted them.’ (pp. 634-635)

II:1 displays some of Barth’s best work. In it his theology bursts to life.  Each chapter is deep and well thought out. Barth is consistent. He’s bold and doesn’t cease to be. That he carefully speaks his mind has only strengthened my opinion of him as a theologian.Reading Church Dogmatics is a spiritual discipline. I don’t see how a careful reading of Barth should be done in any other way.

In our divided world the division between left and right once again threatens to claim or reject theology as a buttress for ideology. Once again it threatens to subdue theology into propping up, in absolute agreement, the pretensions of humanity. And, once again as his words point us towards the holiness, grace and freedom of God in Jesus Christ, Barth’s “roar” finds relevance and commands attention.

#Jesusisvictor!

Source:

[i] Barth, K. 1940 Church Dogmatics, II:1 The Doctrine of God, Hendrickson Publishers

[ii] Excluding the index

[iii] ‘God’s glory is God’s love’ (p.645)

[iv] Barth: ‘Grace/charity (caris) calls forth thanksgiving (eucaristia). But thanksgiving is itself the substance of the creature’s participation in the divine grace/charity.’ (p.670. See also p.216)

[v] 2 Cor. 5:17

Related CD II:I posts:

Barth: ‘God Does Not Will To Be Without Us’
Anger, Angst, Amps & An “Appetite” For Definition (God is not a species)
Revelation Over Religion: God’s Mind Is Not For Rent
Cor-kneel-i-us
A Dose Of Dodgem: Dads
Karl Barth: God Is The One Who Loves In Freedom
Directing Light Under The Shadow Of Real Hate
Gnade: The Importance Of Karl Barth’s Non-Separation Of God’s Holiness & Grace
Every Genuine Proclamation Of The Christian Faith Is Destructive To The Advance Of Religion
Barth’s Impossible Possibility: It’s Not That We Can Fall From Grace, It’s That Grace Can Be & Is Rejected
George Orwell & Karl Barth: On The Irruption Of a Third Reich Of Madness
May God’s Omnipotence Be With You

 

New Music: I Am They

January 11, 2016 — 1 Comment

I Am TheyPutting together a compilation of songs for a homeschool field trip is always a good reason to look for new music. This also gives me time to introduce the kids to older tunes and tune into what they’ve taken an interest in.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that music appreciation finds no small place in the heart of our home schooling. 

For example, during our morning’s devotional time I introduced them to the theatrics of AC/DC. There is no better song to illustrate the late-modernist attitude towards God, grace, His Word and human life, than “Aka Daka’s” simple mockery of that attitude in ‘Highway to Hell.’ The discernment sharpened on this anvil is priceless. (For the record, the song was not included in our road trip playlist. We did, however, make note of an advertisement about their Australian tour at the time.)

Which brings me to: ‘I Am They‘. I came across this band in October of last year. Since then, their song ‘From The Day‘ has been played repeatedly.

The album is also strong. It follows a consistent format that keeps to a particular sound. Their brilliant use of harmony stands them out from The Rend Collective and Mumford and Sons. Although they fall into that zone, within the hipster/folk rock category (if hipster-folk is even a genre?), I Am They are their own. If the band can resist solely residing in the safe harbour of the CCM industry and steer clear of being boxed into a “worship music only” label, I Am They will go far.


 

Official site: I Am They