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Reading More Barth Together

Having closed out the Reading Barth Together series with Stanley on Karl Barth’s Dogmatics in Outline, all five sessions are posted on my YouTube channel for your viewing pleasure. Since those went so well, Stanley and I have decided that we’ll be Reading More Barth Together, starting July 14th.

In 1960, the American church got its first look at three of Karl Barth’s extraordinary essays in The Humanity of God.  The essays challenged many theologians’ prejudices about Barth’s thought and raised questions for Christian theology with which we wrestle today. We’ll do three conversations about Karl Barth and what his theology means for the church today based on The Humanity of God. Stanley and I will talk about the day’s essay for the first 40-50 minutes and then field questions for the remainder of the time.

Join us live 10-11am EST on the last three Tuesdays in July.

The webinars will be free and first-come, first-served for the first 500 participants. Participants will be able to submit questions throughout, and Stanley and I will respond to y’all’s favorites. Each session will be recorded and posted afterwards on my YouTube channel.

Our schedule will be:

July 14: Evangelical Theology in the 19th Century
July 21: The Humanity of God
July 28: The Gift of Freedom

Hope you can join us. The book is currently on sale from WJK and also available from Amazon.

This is the Zoom link:

https://duke.zoom.us/j/97672236970

Webinar ID: 976 7223 6970

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Reading More Barth Together: Session III

In our third session of the Reading More Barth Together webinars, we looked at “The Gift of Freedom,” in which Barth sketches the understanding of freedom he thinks necessary for evangelical ethics, and Stanley and I answered some of your questions. You can watch it here on my YouTube channel.

Reading More Barth Together: Session II

In our second session of the Reading More Barth Together webinars this week. We looked at “The Humanity of God,” the titular essay and answered some of your questions. You can watch it here on my YouTube channel.

We’ll be back for the last episode in this series on July 28 at 10AM EST on Zoom to consider Barth’s ethics in nuce in the last essay of the book, “The Gift of Freedom.”

A Unique Time of God

While I was itching for things to do during Coronatide, I wrote this essay for Plough, thinking about what Karl Barth might have to say these days. It begins:

Serving my first parish in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (where Vanna White was in my church youth group, but that’s another story), I read Barbara W. Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (Random House, 1978). It only took four decades before that book became relevant for my ministry. Tuchman follows a medieval family through an age when the European world fell apart. One chapter says it all: “‘This Is the End of the World’: The Black Death.” Plague changed the course of history, leading medieval Europe to widespread, agonizing self-examination, dramatic penitence, and some major mistakes. Entire cities wiped off the map, a generation lost, economies destroyed, bloody Crusades. What have we done to make God curse us? The world as we know it is ending.

As we shut our doors and isolated, praying that Covid-19, angel of death, would pass over, I thought of A Distant Mirror. I heard lots of blaming, denying, and a modicum of recognition that deep American inequalities have been exposed, all made easier to swallow by saccharine, syrupy sentimentality: “We are all in this together,” and “Our social isolation is a time to reflect, and to focus upon the love of our families.”

Contemplative isolation is easier if you can afford it. Only twenty percent of African Americans have jobs that enable work from home. The person who gazes at me from behind the glass at the supermarket would give anything not to be forced to be serving me. Though I’m asymptomatic, I could still be her executioner. Not much togetherness in that.

Unlike the fourteenth century, I’m hearing little self-examination, and no penitence. The president is not the only one who refuses to apologize. We’re not medieval, after all. Victims, not perpetrators. The evening news is a litany of death and disappointment, political clowns in high places, bureaucratic screw-ups, all set right with a concluding sappy sermonette about a little girl who gave a thank-you note to the nice lady who delivers Grubhub. Put a teddy bear in the window. Show that you love me by keeping your distance. Text somebody who’s trapped in a nursing home; you’ll feel better for it.

That’s the best that the evening news has to offer. Can the church say better?


You can read the rest of it here at their website.

-Will

Hoping for Resurrection

I’ll be preaching in the National Cathedral service on Sunday, July 12 at 11:15am EST which will be streamed on their YouTube Channel and posted here afterwards. This will be my fourth sermon from the Cathedral pulpit. I follow my former student William Barber who preached there four Sundays ago. You’ll hear me begin my sermon, “Greetings from Goodson Chapel of Duke Divinity School,” as that very familiar pulpit was where I recorded.

Preaching the assigned epistle Romans 8:1-11, I relate the double pandemic of COVID-`19 and white racial violence that we are currently living in to the Christian hope of resurrection.

I’ve included below my prior sermons at the Cathedral. For other videos of my prior preaching, check out the Preaching tab on the site.

-Will

Transcript for December 9, 2007 Sermon

Transcript for Christ the King, November 23, 2003 Sermon

Evangelical Reckoning?

No one expected Jerry Falwell, Jr., or Franklin Graham to do anything other than support Trump; it’s fully in line with their right-wing politics.  More discouraging and greatly damaging is that evangelicals like Eric Metaxas, Ralph Reed, Albert Mohler, and Robert Jeffress stepped so eagerly in line behind a man who, before he realized that he could manipulate evangelicals to his advantage, had no interest in the Christian faith.  Mohler, Metaxas, and Reed have mounted some creative (but unbiblical) justifications for Trump’s serial adultery, lying, malfeasance, racism, and fear-mongering.  Trump can commit no sin for which his evangelical supporters cannot find some sympathy and justification.  Too few evangelical leaders have had the courage of Russell Moore, Michael Gerson and Max Lucado to speak up and speak out.

Fortunately, there are some evangelical leaders who are so courageous, and so biblically well-formed, that they are attempting to correct the damage done by less-faithful evangelicals.  Public Intellectuals and the Common Good: Christian Thinking for Human Flourishing will appear this fall from IVP Academic.  Edited by Christian scholars Todd C. Ream, Jerry A. Pattengale, and Christopher J. Devers, with a foreword by George M. Marsden, the book (as I read it) is a call for Christian intellectuals to speak up and speak out for the common good (rather than merely follow the dictates of the Republican Party).  Now, more than ever, Christians ought to show the world that we have a witness that has nothing to do with the incompetence and multiple deceits of Donald Trump.  

In a more pointed way, Ron Sider has worked with some of this nation’s most thoughtful and faithful evangelical pastors to produce a fast-paced, tell-it-like-it-is book that exposes the apostasy of Trumpism among, of all people, Evangelical Christians: The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump: 30 Evangelical Christians on Justice and Truth and Moral Integrity.  (For a 50% discount, use the coupon DANGER50.)  Sider writes, “Both by his words and his policies, Donald Trump contradicts and violates many of the biblical principles and concrete applications” of evangelicalism.  “In spite of that, 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump and the vast majority still support him. And with a few notable exceptions, the white evangelical leaders of the evangelical center still remain largely silent.”

I’m sure that Trumpism will bring well-deserved damage to the Republican Party.  More importantly, the pastors and theologians of The Spiritual Danger of Donald Trump are concerned that Trump and his Christian allies could be the end of the road for American evangelicalism as a movement.  Now that members of Trump’s own party are falling away from him, for the sake of the future of Evangelicalism, and perhaps even the Christian witness in America, shouldn’t evangelicals prayerfully consider how their uncritical, unbiblical support for this man should come to an end?

After Trump and his sycophants are gone, the American church will be pondering how those who bore the name “evangelical” succumbed to the demagogic, racist rhetoric of the most pagan president in modern history.  Fortunately, the honest, courageous reflection has begun and, by the grace of God, the spiritual damage of Trumpism shall be healed.

-Will