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Friday, 2 February 2007

On doing Protestant theology

“The conversions to Roman Catholicism in the last year of Reinhard Hütter, Bruce Marshall and R. R. Reno – the last two of whom were trained at Yale, a centre of Barth studies in the last generation – are a symbol of the fact that it is getting harder and harder to do Protestant theology in the Protestant churches of America, and harder and harder to read Karl Barth as a Protestant theologian without meeting resistance – precisely from Protestants!”

—Bruce L. McCormack, from the new foreword to Theologische Dialektik und kritischer Realismus: Entstehung und Entwicklung von Karl Barths Theologie 1909-1936, trans. Matthias Gockel (Zurich: TVZ, 2006).


Alex said...

I don't know much about Barth but he's on my list to read. What do Protestants resist about him? I'd like to know what to be ready for when I read, since I am a Protestant. Maybe I need a Protestant's (my denomination is PCA) guide to Barth.


Fr. Ted said...

I'm looking forward to reading any answers to this one, Alex.

michael jensen said...

Well, i think the comment is more revealing about the stubborn liberalism of the mainstream denominations in the US than about Barth in particular...

kim fabricius said...

Hi Michael.

I think you're probably half-right. Remember McCormack points to Yalies, i.e. postliberals, who are jumping the Protestant ship. They obviously can't return to the "flat-tyre" theology of the liberals (Barth), but neither do they feel there is a future in conservative evangelicalism, particularly the American version. They no doubt also find the emerging church, the American brand of British post-evangelicalism, to be rather thin, and as for Radical Orthodoxy, well, perhaps in for a penny, in for a pound.

I suspect it comes down to the question of authority, which the converters feel is non-existent in liberalism, but inadequately grounded in the sola scriptura of either inerrantists or Barthians, so they opt for the magisterium of Rome. With Barth himself, I see the temptation; but also with Barth, it is a temptation I hope to resist.

michael jensen said...

Well, you have made a very good diagnosis. I was thinking about this today: it is the Wittgensteinians who have gone to Rome, on kinda Wittgensteinian grounds. I hope they find there what they are looking for... in a way, I think this is where post-liberalism has to head if it is to be consistent, and yet, I am not sure how many post-liberals they will find in Rome itself!
I think you are absolutely right about authority: it seems if there isn't a version of sola scriptura to be had at all, then...

Anonymous said...

With Barth himself, I see the temptation; but also with Barth, it is a temptation I hope to resist.....

I too hope you resist the temptation. It would be most embarrassing if you succumbed only to find that Rome chose not to receive you.
Surely to perceive the call to the true, the good and the beautiful as a temptation is not to perceive it at all?

kim fabricius said...

". . . only to find that Rome chose not to receive you."

Well, if ever there was a reason to stay well away from Rome, you, Anonymous, have just given it, as even the Lord himself would not lock the door on one who knocked.

Anonymous said...

I see. So you would have any individual choose the terms under which the door is to be opened. Lord, Lord, did you not hear us knock? And poor Mother Church, bound and unloosed, trodden under the self-serving dispositions of the intellectually tempted. I wonder if you think you need a church at all.

michael jensen said...

Man, I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition!

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