The church as it moves into the modern culture

Dogmatics in Outline - Karl Barth


Well, first I should suggest that if you don't want to read me rambling on about nothing then you should skip this first paragraph, but then I am probably going to talk more about Barth and theological writing than this book because I read this book quite some time ago and not much of its content ended up sinking into my long term memory (or at least what I can withdrawal). However, it is ANZAC day today so I have the day off work (yay), and as well as writing a rather steamy chapter of my post-modern piece of rubbish, I thought I would also write a few more commentaries on Goodreads (if only to try a boost the number of reviews I have written since I am currently number 4 in Australia, and have dropped down somewhat from number 2).

Karl Barth was a Swiss theologian, a contemporary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which meant that he was around during World War II when the German Church faced pressure from the Nazi Regime to conform to their doctrine. This lead to a break within the church and the creation of the Confessing Church which stood against the regime and its atrocities. Remember that many of the hierarchs of the regime were not Christian and were more interested in bringing back ancient German paganism.

Barth's major work is a 13 volume book called Church Dogmatics (which I am unlikely to read) however this work is more of a cut down version that uses the Apostles Creed as a springboard for his discussions. When I did read this book I found that Barth was a very inspiring writer and explore numerous areas of Christianity quite deeply, which is not surprising since he lived during one of the most violent periods of the 20th Century, having seen two world wars and two economic crises. What this period symbolised was a breakdown in the modernist and enlightened ideas of the 18th and 19th century which saw the idea that humanity no longer needed God and that they could create paradise on Earth develop.

This changed with World War I, and I still hold the position that World War I should not be viewed outside of World War II or the events that occurred inbetween, namely because, as I have once again suggested, we see the breakdown of humanistic philosophy. What we see with theologians like Barth, and later with philosophers like Lewis, is Christianity being brought into the modern world. Some suggest that Francis Schaffer is returning to the fundamentalist roots that we see struggling with our own post-modern world, but having read a number of his works, I see that he is also attempting to reconcile Christianity with modernism. Unfortunately, humanity tends to always move faster than Christianity which, while not being a backward looking religion, tends to be less progressive.

These days, within the churches that I attend (and I must admit that they also tend to move slowly, but this is not necessarily a bad thing because what slow movement means is that the congregation considers how they should progress, and simply rushing too fast into the progressive movement can undermine the authenticity of the church) are desires to try to meet the post-modern society where they are at, however they have still not understood the relative nature of post-modernism, in that they are still caught up in objective doctrine, and fail to see the nature of subjectivity and opinion. However, consider this, music in the church is still mostly pop-rock, and while the music may be moving into the style of the 90s, the electronica of the new century is still a long way off.

As for me, in some ways I have probably moved forward a little more than the others, but have no desire to drag or push them up to where I am because as I have suggested before blind progress can be quite destructive. For instance the issue of sex before marriage is something, that if not handled correctly, can be very destructive within the congregation, and as is clear within the Bible, the people are God are not meant to be descending into orgies or prostituting themselves to the world. To me, one should be able to move beyond this obsession that society has with pleasure to a more disciplined and enlightened understanding of the human-God relationship.