Friday 3 February 2017

Karl Barth postgraduate seminar

I promised you an update on what we'll be reading for my Barth seminar this semester. Thanks for all the great suggestions, both here and on Facebook. After much reflection and dialectical hesitation and whatnot, I decided to head off in a slightly different direction, and that is to make Barth's concept of religion a focal point for the seminar. I think this helps to cover a lot of bases. It allows us to read both the Romans commentary and an important section of Church Dogmatics, while keeping strong thematic links across the semester. And it opens up some of the most important areas of Barth's thought (e.g. revelation, election, grace, the task of theology, the critique of protestant liberalism on the one side and Roman Catholicism on the other, etc). In a perfect world we would also have time to read Barth's "doctrine of the lights" from later in the Church Dogmatics. But, ladies and gentlemen, last time I looked out the window it was not a perfect world.

Anyway these are the texts that we'll be reading:
  • "The New World in the Bible" and "The Word of God as the Task of Theology", from The Word of God and Theology, translated by Amy Marga
  • Barth, Epistle to the Romans, translated by E. C. Hoskyns
  • Barth, On Religion: The Revelation of God as the Sublimation of Religion, translated by Garrett Green (this is a section of Church Dogmatics that was newly translated and published separately as a funky little paperback)
And here are the twelve weekly readings that we'll be discussing:

1 Revelation: "The New World in the Bible"

2 Dialectical theology: "The Word of God as the Task of Theology"

3 A new approach to scripture: Epistle to the Romans, prefaces (all of them!)

4 The night of sin: Epistle to the Romans, chapter 1

5 God's faithfulness: Epistle to the Romans, chapter 3

6 The new human being: Epistle to the Romans, chapter 5

7 Judgment on religion: Epistle to the Romans, chapter 7

8 Judgment on the church: Epistle to the Romans, chapter 10

9 Revelation and religion: On Religion, chapter 1

10 The sin of religion: On Religion, chapter 2

11 The justification of religion: On Religion, chapter 3a (pp. 111-44)

12 Christ and the Christian religion: On Religion, chapter 3b (pp. 144-66)

Students will be required to write a first paper exploring one particular chapter from the Romans commentary, and a second paper that explores one of the larger themes in these texts.

If anybody from the Sydney area would like to come along and join us, the seminar will be on Tuesday afternoons, commencing early March. Non-fee-paying audit participants are always welcome!


Jason Goroncy said...

Looks great, Ben. Hope it goes well.

Fat said...

Ben - wishing we still were in Sydney, this looks so good. Is there a distance ed possibility?
Kerrie and Don

Anonymous said...

+1 for the distance-ed possibility! This looks amazing.
Mike (NZ)

Richard Beck said...

People might not want to take the time to educate me in a comment thread, but what is Barth's "doctrine of the lights"? I'd never heard of it, and a Google search (Barth "doctrine of the lights") pulled up only four (!) hits, one of which is this post. So color me intrigued.

Ben Myers said...

Richard, if you google "Lichterlehre" you'll get a lot more results. It's a much-discussed section in CD IV/3 where he argues that Jesus is the light of revelation and that there are other "little lights" and "secular parables". Some readers see this as an important shift in Barth's thinking about world religions. I'm not so sure about that - but I'm hoping to read this section myself at the end of the semester, just to see how it looks against the backdrop of these earlier texts.

Rasmus said...

I think it is very important to understand that Barth does not think primarily of other religions in his CD I/1 §17 on religion. At that time the term was coined by a certain 19th century understanding of religion as a fundamental concept for Christian theology, esp. its subjective dimension.
Barth thinks first and foremost about Christianity in his critique of religion: He is not interested in doing a "theology of religions" and to explore the relationship and dialogue of concrete and historical religions. Instead his treatment of religion is part of his prolegomena where he tries to establish the concept of "revelation" (the priority of the otherness and alterity ("objectivity") of God) as methodologically foundational for his theology - against "religion", which was until then the favorite of liberal theology for that function and tried to start theology with general phenomena of experience of transcendence.
Thus, one cannot directly compare the "Lichterlehre" and §17 because of the different theological context.

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