The 2015 Karl Barth Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary was a one of a kind experience for me. I got to immerse myself in theological lectures and conversations with people who know a lot more about theology than me. I made new friends and got to meet in real life several people who I had previously only connected with online. And I had an unexpected opportunity to talk one on one with Jürgen Moltmann when I came downstairs for a cup of coffee that Sunday morning (the day of his lecture). I reminded him about my letter to him last year concerning universalism and thanked him for his reply. He said that his lecture that night would be on the same sections of Church Dogmatics that he had told me to read. “Karl Barth didn’t know whether he was a universalist or not,” Moltmann said.
And universalism was certainly in the foreground of the lecture that night, even if Moltmann’s position on the topic was only made explicit during the Q&A. He began by exploring the problems created by the traditional Calvinist doctrine of election (Introduction), followed by how Barth’s christocentric reformulation of election overcomes the damaging dualism of Double Predestination (points one and two). But his most profound contribution was his “added chapter” to Barth’s doctrine of election, bringing it into conversation with liberation and political theologies (point three).
Updated post-conference (6/24) to include links to individual videos instead of the live stream.
Jürgen Moltmann delivered the opening lecture at the 2015 Karl Barth Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary. Other speakers included Bruce McCormack, Daniel Migliore, and Richard Bauckham. I was there, and it was an incredible event! Video was live streamed via the PTS Ustream channel, and (for the most part) can now be replayed. I have embedded Moltmann’s lecture below, and have included links to the others I could identify. Unfortunately as of now I am unable to find the video of Migliore’s lecture, but I will update this post with better links when it is made available. (I am told that the videos will be cleaned up and reposted by PTS at a later date). Enjoy!
Jürgen Moltmann on “Predestination: Karl Barth’s Doctrine of the Election of Grace”
Since being directed by Princeton Theological Seminary on how to freely access the Moltmann Warfield Lectures from 1979, I did some poking around in their media archive (once you figure out how to find your way around, it’s a goldmine!), and found that Karl Barth’s 1962 Warfield Lectures are also easily and freely available for download. I shared this previously with the Karl Barth Discussion Group (which you should totally join if you haven’t already!) and with my friend Wyatt (the “PostBarthian”), who has already posted the lectures to his blog… We seem to be mirroring each other this week! 🙂
Karl Barth Meets the Students of Princeton Seminary (MP3 Mirror: Part 1, Part 2)
“There are few Christian theologians who refer faith so strictly to God’s revealing work in Christ, who so earnestly try to connect it with Christ alone, as this heretic did.” – Karl Barth on Marcion (Church Dogmatics III/1, 337)
Heretics are usually remembered most for what they got wrong, not what they got right. Their stories are told as cautionary tales of dangerous doctrinal errors. This is certainly the case with Marcion, the early Christian heretic famous for rejecting the God of the Old Testament as evil, and instead embracing only the God of the New Testament (the Father of Jesus Christ) as good (that’s right: two Gods). His error, as Karl Barth reminds us, was basically taking an important insight (the finality of the revelation of God in Christ) to a dangerous extreme, which resulted in a distorted picture of Christ: “He purifies the New Testament so drastically that he cannot appreciate its true Christ, and His existence even in Israel, and the connection of the whole of the New Testament with the whole of the Old. He apprehends the witness of Paul the Jew only in a violently distorted form.” (Barth, CD III/1, 338) Continue reading Defending Marcion: Moltmann on “the New”
Mark your calendars, Moltmanniacs! Jürgen Moltmann is scheduled to speak at the Karl Barth Conference, June 21-24 2015, over at Princeton Theological Seminary. Registration is now open at an Early Bird Rate of $170 (through March 1).
I would love to hear from you if you are a fellow Moltmanniac and plan to come to this event! Drop me a comment below, or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. I hope to be there for this and would love to connect.
Eberhard Jüngel is another one of those theologians whose works have long been on my “to read” list, but I haven’t gotten around to just yet (that list does not seem to be getting any smaller, because I keep adding new names to it!). I was pleased to be introduced to him via his contribution to How I Have Changed (edited by Jürgen Moltmann). Below are a couple paragraphs where Jüngel reflects on the teachers who shaped him, including Bultmann, Heidegger, and Barth. Heiddeger once told Jüngel that God is much worth thinking about but that language fails us. In contrast, Barth’s Church Dogmatics (CD) manages to use human language to talk about God for some 8000+ pages, about which Jüngel is elsewhere famously quoted as saying “the truth can’t be as long as that”. Here Jüngel speaks with deep appreciation of what he learned from CD when he returned to it years after his early encounters with Barth. By engaging with CD, “one could learn that a concentration on the truth attested in the Bible is the best presupposition for giving the present world its spiritual and worldly due and keeping faith with the earth for the sake of heaven.”
Now a few remarks on the teachers who shaped me. There was a philosopher who instructed me in logis and logistics, Gerhard Stammler. There was my New Testament teacher and doctoral supervisor, Ernst Fuchs, who brought me and Rudolf Bultmann together and stimulated me to study Heidegger. In a semester spend ‘illegally’ outside East Germany, commuting between Zurich, Basel and Freiburg, I then heard Heidegger himself lecturing in Freiburg. At that time he was ‘on the way to language’. Towards the end of his life I visited him once again and at the end of a long conversation asked him quite openly whether the condition of thought was not that of being ‘on the way to God’. Heidegger replied, ‘God – that is what is most worth thinking about. But here language fails….’ Now I certainly didn’t have this impression myself. At that time Gerhard Ebeling had introduced me to the thought of Luther, while at Basel Karl Barth made me familiar with his own thought. And Luther’s concern for a new mode of theological language, and also Barth’s theology, which flowed broadly from there and suffered more from an excess of argumentation, did not exactly give the impression of a language which was failing. At first Barth regarded me as a kind of spy from the Bultmann school and for weeks viewed me with undisguised scepticism. But when in an unforgettable session of his small seminar I not only dared passionately to refute his criticism of Bultmann with the audacity of youth but at the same time interpreted a section from Barth’s anthroplogy to his satisfaction, I was invited to another dispute in the late evening over a bottle of wine. And a few days later the whole of the Church Dogmatics appeared on the doorstep of my student lodging – with the dedication ‘For Eberhard Jüngel on the way in God’s beloved East Zone’.
There, in the German Democratic Republic, some years later, when I now had to give lectures on dogmatics myself and was looking round for helpful stimulation, I once again steeped myself in this magum opus of my great teacher. And lo and behold, here within a theological discussion which was becoming increasingly short of breath, I discovered the long breath of a thought which expected something. Barth’s theology was autochthonous. From it one could learn that a concentration on the truth attested in the Bible is the best presupposition for giving the present world its spiritual and worldly due and keeping faith with the earth for the sake of heaven. A new involvement in the tradition opened up for me, which was one neither of disrespectful criticism nor of uncritical respect. And as a result of this I also developed an ecumenical breadth without which I cannot imagine any future theology. Above all, however, I was stimulated to think of God in terms of the event of his revelation, i.e. the event of his coming into the world, and thus of a God who leads us ever more deeply into the world – a God to whom nothing human is alien and who has come closer to humankind in the person of Jesus than humankind can get to itself. How I Have Changed, p. 9-10
I’ve been working bit-by-bit on putting together a fairly extensive Jürgen Moltmann resources section to this website (books, audio/video, articles, etc)…. more or less to help myself keep track of what’s out there, but it’s possible that some of you might find it useful also. I’m aware of a couple similar pages that already exist, but I generally find that they are a bit outdated and have bad links. Also when it comes to online media (articles, lectures, etc) I’m pretty much only interested in the material that is out there for free that I can share with my friends, so I’m not including material that only exists on the other side of a pay wall. From time to time (like in a post like this) I’ll share about a specific Moltmann book our lecture, but any primary sources I reference can also be easily accessed from these pages:
Of these, I wanted to highlight a great lecture by Moltmann that focuses in on a question I’ve heard him put forth a number of times, based on the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8: “Do you understand what you are reading?”
This is how Karl Barth describes the shift towards Biblicism that took place in much of Protestantism after the Reformation:
The Bible was now grounded upon itself apart from the mystery of Christ and the holy Ghost. It became a “paper Pope,” and unlike the living Pope in Rome it was wholly given up into the hands of its interpreters. It was no longer a free and spiritual force, but an instrument of human power. (CD I.2, p 525)
Here is where Barth finds the great sin of Biblicism. Rather than submitting to the Word made flesh revealed in the Bible (i.e. Jesus), we have all-to-often submitted simply to the book, to the Bible. Which ultimately takes the authority away from Christ and places it into the hands of the interpreter of Scripture.
I hope to blog more about Barth and Biblicism in the near future (as Barth will actually be addressing the subject more directly in chapter 20, which I am about to start). Christian Smith’s eye-opening book, The Bible Made Impossible(which I read in December), is a devastating critique of Biblicism… and actually offers Barth’s Christocentric hermeneutic as as a way forward.
Sort of. Not exactly. Or so I take it from Karl Barth.
This is an issue that tends to be taken for granted in most American Evangelical churches…. where a typical doctrinal statement says something about how the “Sixty-six books of the Bible are the inspired and infallible Word of God.” But Barth maintains that throughout church history it has been an open question worth repeated conversation and confirmation.
“In the past there has already been more than one proposal to narrow or broaden the human perception of what ought to count as canonical Scripture, and if the proposals never came to anything they were at least seriously considered. The insight that the concrete form of the Canon is not closed absolutely, but only very relatively, cannot be denied even with a view to the future.” (CD I.2, p 476)
In fact, Luther’s criterion for testing Scripture was whether it “sets forth Christ or not.” And other Reformers (like Calvin and Zwingli) are among those Barth cites as openly engaging the question of the canon (and had reservations about particular books of the Bible). They engaged in a question that many churches today would consider out-of-bounds.
Barth still says that the canon is driven by consensus in the church… and that until consensus changes, “we have steadfastly to accept the force and validity of decisions already taken both in respect of the faith and also of the Canon.” (p. 479) After all, the canon of Scripture wasn’t chosen by the church… it forced itself on the church by it’s own inspiration. But that doesn’t mean that the conversation is to be considered closed.
What say you? What is the canon? Is it to be considered closed? Why? Why not?