Friday 3 August 2007

The impact of a sentence

Following our discussion of the influence of essays, Aaron reflects on the influence of a sentence. He’s right, too: at times, a single sentence can have a tremendous and lasting impact.

For me, the most influential theological sentence is probably this one, by Karl Barth: “one can not speak of God simply by speaking of man in a loud voice.”


Sam Charles Norton said...

"Christianity is not a doctrine, not, I mean, a theory about what has happened and will happen to the human soul, but a description of something that actually takes place in human life." (Wittgenstein)

Anonymous said...

"How can we love what we do not know?" - Augustine

"How can we know what we do not love?" - The Cloud of Unknowing

"So long as we endeavour to speak about grace, our speech must labour under a necessary obscurity" - Karl Barth

"What is ragged should be left ragged" - Wittgenstein

Rory Shiner said...

"Having this God for its object, it can be nothing else but the most thankful and happy science." Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology

Anonymous said...

"Beyond the desert of criticism we wish to be called again." Paul Ricoeur

"Those who have truly made the words of Jesus their own will also be able to hear his silence." Ignatius of Antioch

"Ponder well the times and then turn to the One beyond time, the Timeless One." Ignatius of Antioch

"The martyr is proof that truth is possible in a world of lies." Jon Sobrino

::aaron g:: said...

So many good sentences! Here is another:

"The teacher always is the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of God" (John Dewey).

Anonymous said...

"These considerations allow us to say that the actual faith of the faithful in the Church has a normative significance for the official faith of the Church."
(Karl Rahner)

Chris TerryNelson said...

"Only those who believe obey; only those who obey believe." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship.

Fred said...

"Do not presuppose the faith But propose it" ~Balthasar to Ratzinger

Love the Wittgenstein!

Anonymous said...

"You can't save me, Dan. You're seven years too late."
~ "Jane Doe"

Granted, this sentence wasn't from any book or essay; it was spoken to me by a friend whose life was marked by some experiences too awful to be mentioned in detail here.

This sentence has always stayed with me, and has forever changed how I go about journeying alongside of those who have suffered much (i.e. it caused me to forever abandon all notions of being a "knight in shining armour" swooping in to rescue those in distress -- to be honest, I'm embarrassed that I even used to think that way).

Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

A pastor with a rich church was bragging about how much his golden cross on his steeple cost to Clarence Jordan. Jordan replied, "You were robbed; time was that Christians could get them [crosses] for free."

Bonhoeffer, "The Word of God is always spoken concretely and if the Church is unable to speak a concrete Word, then she should be silent!"

Muriel Lester, "Despite the war, we at Kingsley Hall determined that we would not declare a moratorium on the Sermon on the Mount."

Anonymous said...

Herbert McCabe, "Quite literally, God does not give a damn about your sin."

Anonymous said...

Hi Alan,

Thanks for the McCabe quote. It comes - doesn't it? - from "Forgiveness" in Faith within Reason (2007), (ed. Brian Davies) - which I almost included in Ben's essay list. The whole sermon is quite brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Ray Anderson: "Jesus was crucified on Biblical grounds"

-Shook me up and started a long line of questions.

Anonymous said...

Paul (the apostle) - "Imitate me as I imitate Christ"

This particular sentence has been on my mind for years. There are a few reasons for this. One is that Paul claimed to do such a thing in a noticeable, understandable fashion. The other is that he must actually have expected his readers to as well, which gives me hope.

derek said...

erin, what book was that anderson quote from? I would like to read it.

Unknown said...

Alan and Kim - thanks for the quote about sin! Perfect.

Here's my two:
Once we really begin to believe in the infinite tenderness of the Father, we are, as it were, obliged to descend ever more fully and joyfully into a realm in which we neither possess nor understand nor control anything. (A Carthusian)

(I think was from the Dune movie - something to this effect...) "Without change something within us sleeps and never awakens.

Anonymous said...

"We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name [Beauty] as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past - whether he admits it or not - can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love."

derek said...

"He (Calvin) apparently believes that his 'weakness' does not prevent him from 'attaining to' God's 'exalted state.'"

-Theologian Gregory Boyd, discussing Calvin's use of "accomodation" to understand scripture.

One more:

"Of theological dissatisfaction with this, volumes could be written."

-Colin Gunton, lamenting over how it takes Charles Hodge over 250 pages into his Doctrine of God in his Dogmatics to mention God Trinitarian nature.

Anonymous said...


Yes, that is where it is from. And indeed, the sermon is excellent.

Anonymous said...

God is light, and yet God is unlike any light that we know. --Irenaeus

By sacrificing an innocent animal, the sinner acknowledges before God that he is worthy of death. --Calvin, Comm. on Heb. 9:15

We are more perfectly in Christ than he is in us. --Peter Martyr Vermigli

We are not saved by the death of Christ, but by the person of Christ in his death. --T. F. Torrance

(I threw that second one in there just so things don't get too sentimental.)

::aaron g:: said...

Theodora, I loved the Rahner sentence. Where is that from?

Joel said...

"For the forgiveness of sins is the basis, the sum, the criterion, of all that may be called Christian life or faith."

--Barth, "The Faith of the Church" (my first Barth)

Or I could have picked, from the same passage: "Everything is included in the forgiveness of sins."

a. steward said...

You said one sentance!

"This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with the powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, reexamine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."

- Walt Whitman

Anonymous said...

@Derek: I cannot recall immediately. Anderson would always use it in class , and I don't know if it ever made it out of his readers. I'll scan the books for it!

Anonymous said...

George Hunsinger's Irenaeus quote reminded me of my favourite from the Bishop of Lyon (which apparently made a huge impact on the young Rowan Williams):

"The glory of God is a human being fully alive."

Anton Reiser said...

Preach the Gospel constantly, but only use words if you must.

Jonathan Marlowe said...

"The relationship between the obedience of God’s people and the triumph of God’s cause is not a relationship of cause and effect but one of cross and resurrection." - John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus

Anonymous said...

Aaron, the Rahner quote is from "What the Church Officially Teaches and What the People Actually Believe", in Theological Investigations vol.22

Just for the prose...
"They [the gospels] are also concerned with claims made (however hard it be to say precisely what they were), which men could not bear, of a crisis that left its mark on the last years of a dying Jewish theocracy, of a terrible final rejection, of a profound failure of nerve, of the end of the affair at a gallows tree, and of a sequel so strange and elusive that its telling reveals more than anything else the way in which is defies all methods of simple and direct representation."
(the sadly neglected) Donald MacKinnon

Anonymous said...

‘You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee’

St. Augustine


Troy said...

"The question is not whether God is a is whether we are." Barth

"God takes our freedom more seriously than we do." Gunton

Anonymous said...

"Preach the gospel everywhere you go for if you do not it is meaningless when you go to preach the gospel." St. Francis

That one has meant much to me as well.

Anonymous said...

"The gospel is not the gospel until it's received" John Howard Yoder frequently quoted by Stanley Hauerwas

It strikes me as profoundly true and profoundly untrue at the same time.

Jackson said...

" . . . Jesus Christ our Lord, who because of his immeasurable love became what we are in order to make us what he is." -Irenaeus, Adv. Haer.

"Dogmatics is a theological discipline. But theology is a function of the church." -Karl Barth, CD I/1

"But oh! How far I have to go to find You in whom I have already arrived." Thomas Merton, Seven Storey Mountain

Anonymous said...

For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.

St. Athanasius

Or one of the various forms of:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me (a sinner).

A Desert Father

John McBryde

Anonymous said...

Nevertheless, keeping in view the needs of the weak,
we believe that a hemina of wine a day is sufficient for each.

Chapter 40: On the Measure of Drink. The Rule of St. Benedict


John McBryde

Anonymous said...

"You would not be seeking me if you had not already found me"
Blaise Pascal

Anonymous said...

"Quia fecisti nos ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te."

~ S. Augustinus, Confessiones I.1

Joey said...

"The cross is the only power in the world which proves that suffering love can avenge and vanquish evil."
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, 161.

"Those who believe in God on the basis of their religious experience--experiences that they take to be God's love, forgiveness, claim, presence and so on--are rationally justified in so believing."
John Hick,Philosophy of Religion, 77.

::aaron g:: said...

Thank you, Theodora!

Michael Aguilera said...

Believing in Jesus, we believe in the universal reality of the faithfulness of God. Believing in Jesus, to us the righteousness and justification of God are manifested and displayed. This is the presupposition by which we can see ourselves as we are and advance to meet men as they are. In the light of this presupposition we can dare to do what otherwise we could never do - believe in ourselves and in all men.

Karl Barth (The epistle to the Romans)

DJW said...

"You would not be seeking me if you had not already found me"

I've always liked that one, although I feel it would have been more appropriate had Pascal written "You would not be seeking me if I had not already found you".

D. W. McClain said...

"God's incomprehensibility is now no longer a mere deficiency in knowledge, but the positive manner in which God determines the knowledge of faith: that is the overpowering and overwhelming inconceivability of the fact that God has love us so much that he surrendered his only Son for us, the fact that the God of plenitude has poured himself out, not only into creation, but emptied himself into the modalities of an existence determined by sin, corrupted by death and alienated from God. This is the concealment that appears in his self-revelation; this is the ingraspability of God, which becomes graspable because it is grasped." - HUVB, GL I, 461

"...often inquisitors create heretics. And not only in the sense that they imagine heretics where these do not exist, but also that inquisitors repress the heretical putrefaction so vehemently that many are driven to share in it, in their hatred for the judges. Truly, a circle conceived by the Devil. God preserve us." Brother William of Baskerville, The Name of the Rose

Anonymous said...

"Theology is human beings discovering the presence of Jesus in the gospel text, in the church and in the poor, and acting not for him but with him." - Josef Wresinski

Made sense to me!

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