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Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

Previously, I’ve discussed sleep and music as “natural sacraments”. In thinking about other areas of life that meet this criteria, it occurred to me that the Christian life as a whole is one. Obviously the life of faith should transform the individual, but here I am thinking more about the impact of Christian living on society as a whole. We are faith and food for a dying culture.

The Christian Life as a Gift

The Christian life by definition is one of sacrifice. Jesus gave himself for humanity and then calls each of us to take up our own cross. This does not mean that our sacrifice has any power for salvation on its own, but our sacrifice does share in the power of Christ and his resurrection. When we are willing to lay down our lives, our gift is matched and even multiplied for a greater return in the Kingdom of God.

The Christian Life as Knowledge

Inherent to belief in God is a connection with all knowledge. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life. When we live with integrity, our connection to Him empowers our connection with all other aspects of Creation. This does not mean we have a special “science”, but that knowledge is better set into context to be understood as part of the whole body of knowledge. (more…)

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Have you ever thought about what surprises God? Perhaps we take it for granted that God’s omniscience undercuts any possibility of catching God off guard. Still the Bible describes two instances where Jesus (fully God and fully man) is “surprised” or “amazed”. In Mark 6:5-7, it says:

[Jesus] was not able to perform any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. He was greatly surprised, because the people did not have faith. (Good News version)

Then in both Matthew 8:9-11 and Luke 7:8-10, a Roman centurion tells Jesus not to come to his house to heal his servant, but appeals to Jesus’ authority and only “say the word”:

When Jesus heard this, he was surprised and said to the people following him, “I tell you, I have never found anyone in Israel with faith like this.” (Good News version)

The obvious thing to note is that both instances are in regards to faith–either the great lack of it or the great exercise of it. Jesus seems to expect that he can heal at least some people wherever he goes, but that some active show of power is needed to help people along. (more…)

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Discussions about faith often remind me of a piece by Barth early in his Dogmatics in Outline. Dogmatics in Outline is a small baby paperback in comparison to the voluminous Church Dogmatics. Here Barth follows the structure of the Apostle’s Creed where he begins by identifying three determinations of faith: trust, knowledge and confession. These are not “facets” mind you, but faith fully revealed and integrated in a perichoretic manner.

Whenever I teach about faith, I use Mary as a concrete example as reflected in Luke 1:26-56. Mary, quite literally, embodies faith through the Holy Spirit’s conception, the angel’s message, and her own song in response to her pregnancy.

As is typical of Barth in the Church Dogmatics, he begins each chapter with a short summary of what he is about to explain. I will start with each of those summaries here as I describe the three determinations of faith. Note that Barth appeals to freedom as a fundamental characteristic each time in a way that ties it all together. (He has often been called the “Theologian of Freedom”.) (more…)

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In Section 25 of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, we looked at the fulfillment of the knowledge of God. In Section 26, Barth delved into what it means for God to be knowable. Now in Section 27, Barth discusses the limits of that knowledge–namely where it begins and ends. He seemingly starts by reiterating where we left off in the previous sections:

“God is known only by God. We do not know Him, then, in virtue of the views and concepts with which in faith we attempt to respond to His revelation. But we also do not know Him without making use of His permission and obeying His command to undertake this attempt. The success of this undertaking, and therefore the veracity of our human knowledge of God, consists in the fact that our viewing and conceiving is adopted and determined to participation in the truth of God by God Himself in grace.” –Karl Barth (CD II.1, p.179)

While this opening remark is well rooted in the discussions of God’s revelation being a gift of His grace, Barth’s develops each word as part of an even more well defined picture. Barth confirms that the starting and ending points must be contained within God, but he also intends to show how it is that we can know anything about God on this basis. (more…)

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In Section 25 of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, we looked at the fulfillment of the knowledge of God. Here in Section 26, Barth delves into what it means for God to be knowable.

“The possibility of the knowledge of God springs from God, in that He is Himself the truth and He gives Himself to man in His Word by the Holy Spirit to be known as the truth. It springs from man, in that, in the Son of God by the Holy Spirit, he becomes an object of the divine good-pleasure and therefore participates in the truth of God.” –Karl Barth (CD II.1, p.63)

In large part, his target is to discredit natural theology as a means to knowing God from every direction he can imagine. Barth will settle for nothing outside God’s own gracious self-revelation as the only means to knowing God. Later, we will see why he is so insistent on this stance, but for now we will review his argument at face value.

Without God, there is no revelation. It is an act of grace or good will toward humanity that he reveals Himself at all. There is no necessity that He do so, but He chooses to do so. (more…)

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Reading has long been important to me especially when it comes to theology. We need to see other views across various times and viewpoints to more fully appreciate the majesty of God. Unfortunately, time and motivation have come harder for me since my transition from InterVarsity which encouraged reading as part of the job. Even the ability to finish a thin book has been elusive.

So, of course, I jumped right in this Christmas by asking for an infamously voluminous set of theological tomes known as the Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth. The main content is in the first 13 volumes containing over 6 million words. There is also a 14th volume for a Scripture index to connect every reference to specific verses in the set. It’s often noted that he died while writing the last fragment of a volume. So, it was, indeed, intended to be even longer!

I have long appreciated the work of Barth, especially after reading Dogmatics in Outline which follows the structure of The Apostles’ Creed. He is also know for writing the Barmen Declaration which was written in opposition to liberal theologians who pledged support to Adolph Hitler. My more recent inspiration came from reading the blog “Storied Theology” by Daniel Kirk which reviews readings of the Church Dogmatics according to a schedule.

Last year, Kirk read through the first two volumes on “The Word of God”. I am jumping in on year two with volume II.1 about “The Doctrine of God”. The entire set is further structured into almost 75 sections. As you can see, I’m starting with Section 25 and will look to give a few highlights each time I finish one. Fortunately, you can start just about anywhere in Church Dogmatics as every part references the others in some way.

One of the great things about Barth’s writing generally is that he starts each section with a concentrated statement summarizing everything he is about to say. Section 25 begins as follow:

“The knowledge of God occurs in the fulfilment of the revelation of His Word by the Holy Spirit, and therefore in the reality and with the necessity of faith and its obedience. Its content is the existence of Him whom we must fear above all things because we may love Him above all things; who remains a mystery to us because He Himself has made Himself so clear and certain to us.” –Karl Barth (CD II.1, p.3)

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