Perhaps intimidated by the imposing Church Dogmatics and unsure where to start, many would like to be more familiar with Karl Barth’s theology. My dear friend Stanley Hauerwas and I have have decided to do a series together on Barth’s Dogmatics in Outline to introduce folks to Barth’s thought in an accessible form and forum. Despite Dogmatics in Outline only being 153 pages (less than 2% the length of CD!), Stanley described it as the most influential theological book of the twentieth century. Here are some discussion questions to consider as you read.
Note: The webinar license has now been upgraded to allow 1000 participants.
I’ve heard from a number of people who were unable to access the first webinar. If we fill up the 1000 person webinar license, be assured that the sessions are being recorded and posted on the blog. Here’s the first session:
The sessions will be hosted each Tuesday in May from 10-11am EST as a Zoom Webinar. No pre-registration is needed; all we ask is that you include your name and email address when you join. The Zoom information is at the bottom of the post.
Stanley and I will talk about what Barth is doing in the chapters and what those chapters have to do with our theology today before taking whatever questions participants might have. All are welcome regardless of whether they’ve been reading Barth for years or this is their first exposure to his thought.
For the first session, we’ll be considering Barth’s accounts of The Task and Faith (Ch. 1-4). For the second, God and Creation (Ch. 5-9). For the third, Jesus Christ (Ch. 10-19). For the fourth, the rest of the book (Ch. 20-24). While it’s available quite affordably on Amazon, you may be able to access it here or here as well.
We’ve also decided to broaden the panel for a fifth session the first Tuesday in June (6/2) on Dogmatics in Outline and the Local Church at the same address and same time. Stanley and I will be joined by pastors who have used the book for Confirmation classes and other applications.
Also, our former student Andy Rowell has offered to host a discussion group on Zoom after each session. We’ll be posting that link during the webinar.
“It’s day __? of the pandemic, and the future is still very uncertain, giving many of us a great deal of anxiety. So we felt like everyone could use a bit of a break on this episode by listening to an interview we did with UMC Bishop, theologian, and pastor Rev. William H. Willimon at the end of 2019 (we planned to release normally until COVID-19). In it, Trevor discusses with Willimon about arguably his most well-known book (along with his colleague Stanley Hauerwas), “Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony” and how it can be relevant to the current social and political climate Christians in America find themselves in today.”
You can listen below, on their site, or wherever you get your podcasts.
We had our third webinar this morning, covering Barth’s discussion of the second article of the Apostles Creed—”I believe in Jesus Christ…”—in chapters 10-20 of Dogmatics in Outline. If you were not able to attend the live stream, you can now watch it on my YouTube channel:
And here is an updated document with the questions asked during the first three sessions:
Lord of Time,
We feel we live in an uncertain time,
But then we are no longer sure we know
What a certain time may be.
That your Son ended up on a cross
Should have made us think twice
About our assumption
We know where we are in time.
In the meantime,
We ask for your guidance
That we may know how to go on
When we're not sure where we are.
We give thanks for your giving us
Karl Barth whose witness stuns us,
Making possible a recognition that we are
Creature that need one another.
Draw us close to You,
As we are distant from one another:
So drawn, let the world see
That we are not abandoned.
We’ll be starting our third session of Reading Barth Together shortly (5/19 @10 AM EST); you can log on here, but we’ll be posting it on my YouTube Channel as quickly as we can. And this is the newsletter I sent out this week:
(If you would like to receive these, check out the Contactpage.)
Thankfully, we didn’t encounter the same difficulties with folks not being able to get into the webinar and everybody who wanted to join was able to join! I’ve enjoyed seeing such a large response from folks: who knew so many people cared about Karl Barth? If you’d like to watch the first or second session, they’re both up on my YouTube channel. The last three sessions will also be posted there.
The Zoom link for this week (5/19) is the same as last week. You can also find it on the Reading Barth Together post on my blog where I’ll continue to post related resources and updates.
Andy Rowell reports that the discussion group is going well. This is the link for that group. If you find that you’d like to talk about Barth, COVID, and God after the webinar, that meeting may be the perfect chance for you to do so.
The third webinar is this Tuesday (5/19@10AM EST) with a focus on Barth’s doctrine of Christ (Ch.10-17 in Dogmatics in Outline). Hope you can join us then.
Mentioned Last Week
Above Karl Barth’s desk hung a representation of Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece. You can get my perspective on what the masterwork means for Barthian preachers in my Conversations with Barth on Preaching (see the Introduction, specifically the “Two Portraits of a Preacher” section), and you might pursue Andrée Hayum’s The Isenheim Altarpiecefor the best treatment of the altarpiece by an art historian.
Barth’s Christology in Church Dogmatics IV.1 §59ff “The Way of the Son of God into the Far Country” for which the Leitsatz reads:”That Jesus Christ is very God is shown in His way into the far country in which He the Lord became a servant. For in the majesty of the true God it happened that the eternal Son of the eternal Father became obedient by offering and humbling Himself to be the brother of man, to take His place with the transgressor, to judge him by judging Himself and dying in his place. But God the Father raised Him from the dead, and in so doing recognised and gave effect to His death and passion as a satisfaction made for us, as our conversion to God, and therefore as our redemption from death to life.”
Stanley closed with this prayer which I share with you now:
God of Time,
Lord of Creation,
We feel lost in the cosmos,
We are not sure what is happening to us,
We are not sure how to respond.
Help us receive you as
The Lord of all that is,
Making it possible for us
To rejoice in your befriending us
So that we might befriend one another
In times of loneliness and isolation.
Make us love one another
And even ourselves,
So that we might see
In a world that seems lost
That we are in contact
With one another
Being made in your image.
Thank you for this time together:
May it feel as though we are
Enjoying one another in You.
In the name of your son Jesus Christ, Amen.
The second Reading Barth Together webinar on Dogmatics in Outline with me and Stanley is Tuesday morning (5/12@10 AM EST). We’ve been able to increase the capacity to 1000 participants, so I hope that there will be enough room for everyone. We’ll be covering Barth’s Doctrine of God which is in Chapters 5-9. You can find more information about the Barth webinars here.
For all you Barth hogs, you might be interested in this piece on the implications that of Barth’s doctrine of election that I did a few years ago as a series of lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary (which you can watch by clicking through to the videos here). The lectures were derived from my book, How Odd of God: Chosen for the Curious Vocation of Preaching (Westminster John Knox Press).
Homiletical Implications of Barth’s Doctrine of Election
Preaching’s great challenge came into focus for me during a rereading of Barth’s doctrine of election. Barth’s fourth volume (II/2) has been called by his student, Eberhard Busch, “the highlight of the Church Dogmatics.”[i] Writing during 1940–1941, the apex of Hitler’s power, when the sky turned dark, “Barth believed that all our comfort and all our defiance depends on our understanding anew that . . . God bound himself to [humanity], and specifically to sinful [humanity]. . . . God determines himself free for fellowship with this [humanity] and thereby determines [humanity] to be in fellowship with him and with all whom [God] loves.”[ii] Barth could have spoken judgment and condemnation of Hitler; he chose instead not to mention Hitler and to speak with unreserved affirmation of the gracious divine determination radiantly revealed in Christ.
God’s election of grace is “the sum of Gospel. . . . [It is] the whole of the Gospel, the Gospel in nuce . . . the very essence of all good news.”[iii] All we preachers know for sure about God is that in Jesus Christ God is the one who has eternally determined to be for us and has elected us to be for God…
Election is at the heart of Barth’s “revolution” as Bruce McCormack (our best interpreter of Barth on election) puts it. Bruce McCormack, “Grace and Being: The Role of God’s Gracious Election in Karl Barth’s Theological Ontology,” in John Webster, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 93–97. “I am confident that the greatest contribution of Karl Barth to the development of Church doctrine will be located in his doctrine of election.” Through his surprising reworking of election, Barth brought about “a revolution in the doctrine of God.” (Ibid., 223).
I sent this out today to participants in the webinar but am also posting here in case anyone was not able to access the webinar enough to submit an email address. If you would like to receive these, check out the Contactpage.
Stanley and I were delighted that so many of you chose to join us for our first session last week. If you’d like to revisit it or weren’t able to join the first time, you can watch it on my YouTube channel here.
I’ve worked with Duke Divinity School to get a larger capacity webinar license for this week (5/12@10AM EST) and the three subsequent sessions (1000 participants), so I hope that all who wish to log on will be able to join. However, if we fill up again, rest assured that we’ll be recording all of them and uploading the videos as quickly as we can. The Zoom link for this week is the same as last week. You can also find it on the Reading Barth Together post on my blog where I’ll continue to post related resources and updates. Check tomorrow for an essay on the implications of Barth’s doctrine of election on the homiletical enterprise!
Additionally, like last week, my former student Andy Rowell has offered once again to host a discussion group immediately following the webinar for those interested in further conversation. This is the link for that group.
Stanley and I look forward to y’all joining us again on Tuesday (5/12@10AM EST) for Barth’s doctrine of God (Ch. 5-9 in Dogmatics in Outline).
Barth’s Christology in Church Dogmatics IV.1 §59ff “The Way of the Son of God into the. Far Country”
for which the Leitsatz reads: “That Jesus Christ is very God is shown in His way into the far country in which He the Lord became a servant. For in the majesty of the true God it happened that the eternal Son of the eternal Father became obedient by offering and humbling Himself to be the brother of man, to take His place with the transgressor, to judge him by judging Himself and dying in his place. But God the Father raised Him from the dead, and in so doing recognised and gave effect to His death and passion as a satisfaction made for us, as our conversion to God, and therefore as our redemption from death to life.”
My friend Daniel Childs who pastors Kindred Church in Chapel Hill invited me to share a catechetical sermon about who Jesus is through Kindred’s podcast feed with his congregation this morning, so I thought I’d share it with y’all too. You can listen to it on Podbean, Apple, or Spotify. It’s also embedded below.
Pastor Daniel shares some exciting news about Kindred Church and a quick update about a slightly new direction for this podcast.Worship with Kindred on Sundays at 9am at http://www.kindrednc.online.church beginning on June 7th.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of my colleagues at Duke Divinity School, I’m happy to announce that all future sessions of Reading Barth Together will have room for 1000 participants to join instead of the 500 we had last week, leaving a number of folks unhappy at being unable to join. I hope that this will allow everyone who wants to participate in real time on the webinar to do so next Tuesday at 10AM EST and each of the following three weeks. If we run out of space again this week or any of the others, let me reassure you that we’re definitely recording the sessions and will be posting them on YouTube as quickly as we can.
As you read Ch. 5-9 (Barth’s discussion of God) for Tuesday, Ralph Wood’s discussion questions may help you make sense of what Barth’s up to in Dogmatics in Outline.
Also, Andy Rowell has offered to host a Zoom discussion group after the next session and the following ones, since the webinar permit doesn’t permit much interactions between participants. We’ll post that link during the session and here on the blog that day.
I spoke with Todd Wiebe of the Rector’s Cupboard podcast, telling stories and talking about Accidental Preacher, “the surprising character of God, the concept of vocation and the hopeful reminder that Christian faith is about the future.”