Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics
Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics. Edited by G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance. Four volumes, in twelve parts (one in two halves), plus index. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1936–1977. Cited by volume, part, and page. Study Edition, in thirty-one paperback fascicles. London and New York: T. & T. Clark, 2009. The chapter divisions of the original do not appear in the contentsor text of the study edition. Their names, however, do appear on the back of each fascicle as a part of the synopsis comparing the first edition and the study edition, where they identify the latter’s groupings of numbered “paragraphs” (§) into fascicles. Page numbers from the first edition are given in the margins of the study edition, and a note in I.1 encourages continuing to use them forreferences to this work.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE WORD OF GOD
INTRODUCTION § 1. THE TASK OF DOGMATICS
Volume I I, Part 1 I.1, 3
As a theological discipline dogmatics is the scientific self-examination of the Christian Church with respect to the content of its distinctive talk about God. Ah! The language of the church needs to be examined, and it is the task of theology so to examine it! Thelanguage of the church is sometimes better, sometimes worse. What the church says about God and his Christ is sometimes more faithful, sometimes less faithful. All sermons, all creeds, all pronouncements needed to be criticized, and it is the duty of theology so to do. And there are standards by which such examination is to be conducted. We are not free in the church to say anything just because we likeit. We are not free to preach in any old way we want. We are not free to fashion God and his Christ in our own image. We are not free to invent the gospel. Instead, we are bound to the Word of God. It is our duty to frame our proclamation in conformity with it. Think what non-sense and worse in the church could be avoided by paying attention to this one sentence summary! 1. The Church, Theology,Science 2. Dogmatics as an Enquiry 3. Dogmatics as an Act of Faith I.1, 3 I.1, 11 I.1, 17
KARL BARTH , CHURCH DOGMATICS § 2. THE TASK OF PROLEGOMENA TO DOGMATICS
2 I.1, 25
Prolegomena to dogmatics is our name for the introductory part of dogmatics in which our concern is to understand its particular way to knowledge. Ah! Echoes of John Calvin already. You will remember that Calvindefined faith as knowledge: “Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” (Institutes, 3.2.7, emphasis added) The Christian faith is not simply a matter of feeling or personal opinion.It is a matter of knowledge! And therefore theology, as a study of that faith, has to do with knowledge. 1. The Necessity of Dogmatic Prolegomena I.1, 25
We believe in the forgiveness of sin! By the freely given promise in Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, we believe in the forgiveness of sin. Therefore we cannot possibly take sin as seriously as we do forgiveness. We cannot take unbeliefas seriously as we do faith. It occurs to me that this dismissal of planned apologetics might be part of the reason that some Christians who understand themselves as Evangelicals reject Barth. There are non-denominational seminaries in this country where courses are taught in apologetics and, perhaps, where there are departments of apologetics. Books are being written of apologetics, trying toargue to the world how good, useful, and true the Christian faith is. But do not such efforts continue, as Barth pointed out, to take unbelief more seriously than it deserves? Toleration, the great high virtue of the day in which we live, is not an expression or outgrowth of Christian faith but an abandonment of faith, an abandonment of love, and therefore an act of unbelief! Toleration is not an...
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