Reading Barth Backwards: And Blogging a Few Thoughts Here

Two years ago at the AAR meeting in Atlanta, I had lunch with Donald Dayton after a presentation in the Karl Barth Society of North America section, and our group talked about differences in interpretation of Barth – particularly between Dayton and others who were in that morning’s meeting. Don wondered aloud whether some of the interpretative issues that folks raise with Barth would actually occur if people started at the end of Church Dogmatics and worked backwards, rather than starting at the beginning and working forwards.

So, I’m starting at the end and working my way through in reverse. We’ll see how far I get before I lose steam, but for now, a few thoughts.

IV/4, I: On Baptism in the Holy Spirit

“The possibility of God consists in the fact that man – eye of a needle or not – is enabled to participate not just passively but actively in God’s grace as one who may and will and can be set to work too. It is God’s power to draw and turn, so that thsi man will voluntarily and by his own decision choose that which God in His grace has already chosen for him, and in this choice he will be one who is converted to God instead of apostate from Him, one who confesses God instead of one who denies Him, a friend instead of an enemy, a man who is no longer unserviceable but servicable, a witness to God instead of one who brings shame upon Him, in short, a man who is no longer unfaithful to God but faithful to him.” (6)

With my only other reading in Barth thus far being about three quarters of Epistle to the Romans (2nd ed.), I was pleasantly surprised to see this kind of synergism throughout the section on Baptism in the Holy Spirit. For someone who’s reputed to have very much disliked Wesleyan theology, the idea that in salvation Christians are set free in order to choose to work – that they are gifted in order to accomplish a task – is quite Wesleyan.


3 thoughts on “Reading Barth Backwards: And Blogging a Few Thoughts Here

  1. Dan 24 December 2011 at 6:58 am Reply

    I wish I had started at the end. I remember you posting that idea back then. However, in my third volume (on the Doctrine of God, II.1) I am actually reading some things that I am able to comprehend. 😉

    • Dave Mowers 24 December 2011 at 7:03 am Reply

      Based on some of what you had posted from CD I, I think that IV seems like it’s easier reading. It’s a little slow going in places, but it’s really pretty readable (especially if you sort of read it aloud, or at least think of it as being something that is more heard than read).

    • Dave Mowers 24 December 2011 at 7:17 am Reply

      I also meant to say that the other singular advantage you had by starting at the beginning was that you actually started. It’s taken me a little while : )

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