Thursday, 8 December 2005

Church Dogmatics: some personal choices

Most important volume: II/2—I think this volume on the doctrine of election is the most important part of the whole Church Dogmatics, and I predict that in the future Barth’s doctrine of election will be acknowledged as his single greatest achievement.

My favourite volume: IV/1—I’ll have to choose this one, but it’s a very close contest between IV/1, IV/2 and IV/3. I think the whole of volume IV (Barth’s doctrine of reconciliation) is clearly the best part of the Church Dogmatics. Even if Barth had written nothing except volume IV, he would still be one of the greatest theological thinkers of all time.

Volume I have read the most times: I/1—for some reason I have read this one three times (I know, I really ought to get out more).

My favourite section: It’s almost impossible to decide; but I’ll probably have to choose §50 in III/3—Barth’s remarkable doctrine of evil as “the Nothingness.” (One scholar has said: “When I first read [this section on Nothingness], I felt perhaps for the first time in my life that God truly loved me.”)

My least favourite section: §51 in III/3—Barth’s doctrine of angels. Admittedly Barth’s angelology is both theologically and exegetically the best ever attempted (and it’s the only significant angelology since that of Thomas Aquinas). And admittedly, in spite of all Barth’s polemic against Bultmann, the angels in the Church Dogmatics are still relatively non-mythological beings. Nevertheless, I can’t help feeling uneasy about this or any angelology; and I can’t help wondering whether Bultmann’s hermeneutic might in fact offer a better guide to interpreting the biblical angels.

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