Karl Barth

11 04 2012

Among the greatest of all theologians, the name of Karl Barth is big in the theology department!  One only has to read a small part of the work of Karl Barth to realise that he is a man with something great to say about creation, reconciliation, God the Father, Jesus Christ the Eternal Son, The Holy Spirit, the resurrection, the crucifixion, human hope, the future, the joy of life in the present, suffering, thinking, the Bible, demonic power, the Word of God, experience, theology, Christo-centricity, sin, salvation, law, living life, and being human. 

Here is a new link to some of his work:

http://kbarth.org/

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Enjoy. And wrestle! Cheers.





Faith and Theology

22 05 2009

Faith and Theology.

Ah to be a cashed-up scholar! What a privilege. Even so, ‘mustn’t grumble’. ‘Thou shalt not covet.’ 

Ha. How much was that digital collection again?





Six World Views

13 01 2009

David A. Noebel has written a very comprehensive book entitled: ‘Understanding the Times’ (Summit Press).

In this book he lists, the six major world views as follows:

(1) Christianity

(2) Islam

(3) Secular Humanism

(4) Marxism-Leninism

(5) Cosmic Humanism (Hinduism, New Age)

(6) Post Modernism

 

He then gives a detailed, succinct analysis of the following areas, in each World View:

1. Theology

2. Philosophy

3. Ethics

4. Biology

5. Psychology

6. Sociology

7. Law

8. Politics

9. Economics 

10. History.

  * He concedes you could add Art, Music and Literature.

However, he claims that in these 60 ideas (6 World Views x 10 Disciplines), one has the Key to Understanding the Times in  which we are living.

This is a book well worth reading, pondering, and reflecting upon. Having seen this outline, or overview, one then needs, of course, the wisdom given by God, to chart a truthful course through life, amidst all this. Whether at school, in the workforce, in the church, or just as a thoughtful member of the community, this book can help a person to set their thinking in a clearer light.





Pateriology: Study 3

1 11 2008

Pateriology: The Person and Work of the Father 

Introduction

A favourite story told by Jesus is found in Luke 15:

  11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

  14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’

  20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

  25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

  29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

  31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

The story is hauntingly familiar. It resonates. This is the story humanity is made of, the world over – with mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, husbands, wives, grandparents and in-laws and cousins. It is brilliantly told by the master storyteller himself; it gets into our hearts, and minds. We think of dear ones, estranged or reconciled. It connects with prayers issuing from the depths of our hearts. Tears and sorrow are near to the surface, or anger and disappointment is concealed deeply below. Why so poignant, so stirring, so disturbing?

Kenneth Bailey says:

‘… the prodigal …planning to work as a servant …intends to save himself, [but]…on his return …is shattered by the offer of grace… the older son launches into a bitter tirade against the father. The parable closes with a final appeal for reconciliation. Both sons are seen as rebels needing a visible demonstration of love to win them from servanthood to sonship.’

We should note of this story:

1.     It echoes the human predicament – rebellion, loneliness, and folly.

2.     It echoes the gospel appeal from the Father through His son to the world: For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life (Romans 5:10). And, ‘…we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin…we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain (2Corinthians 5:20–­­­­6:1).

3.     It echoes lavish grace, new possibilities, and stubborn wills.

This story is there in all of humanity. And it is there in humanity, primarily because it is there between Our Father in heaven and his children in rebellion. As someone said ‘we are rebels with weapons in our hands’.

What is it that wins rebels, like these 2, ‘from servanthood to sonship’?

Seemingly absent from the story, is the action of atonement that takes people, sin, guilt scheming and rebellion seriously; that takes the Father and the Son of God, and the eternal family seriously. However, the storyteller himself, Jesus, is all too well aware, amidst all the failure of the human race, of what it will take to effect true forgiveness and reconciliation, namely, a cross. Nothing less.

When the State becomes your father…

1.     I once spoke with a worker, who described some failures in the Youth detention centre system, saying, ‘Young Aboriginal men come to the centre, until they are 18 yrs old. Most continue their ways and proceed to State Prison. Sadly, we are not allowed into their home lives to work on helping whole families. “When the State becomes Your Father, your Home becomes the Prison”.

2.     I am a friend of a man who has been out to prove himself, all his life. He never met his father. He knew he was adopted, and was grateful for that… but does he have a deep longing in this…

O Lord, all my longing is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you (Psalm 38:9)

3.     I know a man who grew up in orphanages. He never knew his parents. He believes Jesus promise below, and is very moved by Christian messages of the Father. How beautiful is Jesus promise:

 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you… On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you….those who love me will be loved by my Father…we will come to them and make our home with them’ (John 14:18-23 selected verses)

4.     My Dream: I shared that God is Father, with a tough bikie. I said he had an inbuilt resistance to this, but that if he really heard me, he would know this to be true.  I thought he would bash me… but he heard me, and believed me, and his anger was gone! He softened.

The Male-Female Duality

The Christian revelation is that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The substitution of Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer as such, is not the Christian revelation. (Indeed, all work together in these 3 works)

‘Man’ (male-female) is made in the image and likeness of God. The word ‘Man’ is chosen here in preference to the word ‘Humanity’, because it is a single syllable and as such, conveys the sense of a single ‘block’ of human people. (God is One). The word – humanity – with the “–ity” ending, suggests a multiplicity (2 or more groups, not 1). It conveys the one-ness in creation prior to the entry of sin. It does not here, suggest ‘maleness’, but rather one-ness.

Given that Man (male-female) is the image of God then it follows, surely, that the male-female duality exists within God. There is certainly motherhood in God; this needs clarifying. Geoff Bingham says:

The male-female of God is called ‘Father’, given that God is often likened to a mother but is never as such called mother. Yet the word Father embraces both.

The Father is Love – Love is Flowing

Students of the Bible are often surprised to learn that nowhere in Scripture does it teach that ‘Jesus is Love’. Neither does Scripture speak of love as being the glue that holds the Trinity together. This would suggest a fourth action (or hypostasis), within the Triune God.

When John teaches that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8, 16), he means ‘the Father is love’; in and from this love creation and redemption flow!

Paul supports this conclusion, when he speaks of Jesus, as being ‘the beloved Son’ (Colossians 1:13), or the alternatively phrase is ‘The Son of his Love’. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father, and Spirit of the Son (Rom. 8:11; Matthew 10:20; 2Cor. 3:17; 1Peter 1:11).

Love flows from the fountainhead of love: the Fons Divinitatis.

(Psalm 36); this steadfast love flows out to the world to deal with sin, cleanse and reconcile, that the Father’s true family be formed.The Son is sent (incarnated), and the Spirit is spirated (breathed).  And we are incorporated into that flow of love (John 17:20-25).


Kenneth E. Bailey Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes (Eerdmans, 1976), p. 206

Geoffrey C. Bingham, I love the Father, (NCPI 1990), p. 20; See references Isaiah 66:13; Psalm 131:2; cf. Psalm 27:10

Geoffrey C. Bingham, Ah, Strong, Strong Love! (NCPI ,1993), p. 66





The Coming Event in History

14 10 2008

THE COMING EVENT IN HISTORY

 

Study 7

 

Trevor Faggotter

 

ONE FAR-OFF DIVINE EVENT

 

Jesus said: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware; keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 

(Mark 13:31-32).

 

The poet Lord Alfred Tennyson, concluded his poem, In Memoriam with these words:

 

That God, which ever lives and loves,

One God, one law, one element,

And one far-off divine event,

To which the whole creation moves.

 

Just as there was a day when the Messiah, and Saviour of the world, Jesus, was born into this world in a town called Bethlehem, so too there will be a day when Christ’s coming-appearing will be an actual event in our very real, daily human history. Tennyson described that occasion as “one far-off divine event, to which the whole creation moves”.  The seeming delay in Jesus Christ’s coming-appearing – coupled with this expectation but non-arrival in every age since that of the early Christians – has driven some people to mistrust all such prophecy, and to doubt or deny the Christian story, and gospel. 

 

This coming anew of the ascended, reigning Christ into human history, to put things right, and close off this age with finality, is an essential part of a biblical theodicy. It is one component, which is always lacking in a philosophical theodicy, where an understanding of the world is sought apart from the action of God in Christ. The difficult, or seemingly unanswerable questions of theodicy have often produced great doubt, and a kind of faithlessness in many people. 

 

Only this week I noticed that a well-known University Professor in New Testament studies, by the name of Bart Ehrman has concluded that the questions of theodicy, and the unsatisfactory answers he has found, have forced him to take up the stance of an agnostic, rather than hold to his former Christian faith. He has now authored a book telling why. One of the reasons given is his unbelief in much of the Christian creed – such as the resurrected, ascended, currently reigning Christ, an his coming appearing. 

 

We should note that P.T. Forsyth draws our attention to the importance of faith, which looks forward to a teleology – God’s planned goal –arriving in history.

The faith of a teleology in history protects us from the vagrancy of soul, which dogs the notion that things are but staggering on, or flitting upon chance winds over a trackless waste. It saves us from the timidity, which so easily besets us before the incalculable.

 

Praying and not losing heart are important qualities for a human being to have, and to wrestle to maintain, and sustain.  Jesus asked a good question about this persistent, enduring approach, especially when living amidst human injustice and suffering: ‘When the Son of Man comes will he find faith on earth?’ (Luke 18:8).

 

LIVING IN THE MYSTERY

 

Jesus said… ‘To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables’. (Mark 4:11).

 

He went on to say: ‘Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away (Luke 8:18).

 

Geoffrey Bingham has helped us to see that a mystery is not a problem to be solved, but a revealed reality in which one lives:

 

The Scriptures do not seem to us to be mysterious, since we can read and noetically understand every idea put forward, but in what we think we understand, there is, nevertheless, mystery. Christ said that in certain cases it has to be given to understand certain mysteries. That is, such mysteries cannot be understood by intellectual endeavour. Somewhere—and somehow—the heart and the will are involved in true comprehension. This is a baffling thought; namely, that such mysteries are not puzzles to be solved. God is Himself the great mystery, and He retains the right to open up Himself and all concomitant mysteries, or to close them off. This is a fearful thought—that mysteries may be shut off from us, and we from them! 

 

Humility is especially necessary in the matter of theodicy, and in understanding the nature and origins and activity of evil. In our previous study we commenced by including these two passages from Scripture, concerning the matter of evil:

 

For the mystery of lawlessness (or mystery of iniquity) is already at work (2Thessalonians 2:7).

 

And he (Jesus) said, ‘It is what comes out of a person that defiles. For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly (Mark 7:22).

 

Paul’s phrase in 2Thessalonians 2:7 teaches and cautions us that sin, lawlessness or iniquity is a mystery. Aware of this one can consider carefully such questions as:

 

  1. The origin, cause or reason for evil, as well as, perhaps, a prior question about its essence or nature. What is evil? St. Augustine (354-430) denounced as absurd all efforts to reflect upon the origin of evil as long as one does not know what it is.

 

  1. How long O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? (Habakkuk 1:2)

 

  1. What is Victory? And, when does it arrive, this Victory over evil? For a humanity that is overwhelmed by suffering (evil endured) and guilt (evil committed), that is the question that matters.

 

Whilst we are reading and listening to Forsyth seeking understanding – especially of his exposition of the significance of the cross of Christ – we need to bear in mind that we are not merely searching for intellectual insights, but rather, gospel insight – which comes by hearing with faith as Christ speaks!

 

EVIL TOUCHING OUR NERVE

 

Forsyth recognizes that there is a greater problem than merely staggering on to nowhere:

 

But our worst trouble is not due to a mere tracklessness in the course of history.  That is too negative to try us keenly. We are exposed to positive assault. The iron enters our soul. The worst question rises, and the chief protest, when the disorder in the world touches our nerve in the shape of positive pain, evil, or guilt; when our personal life is deranged by that alien invasion, or is crushed, instead of stayed, by our connection with the course of things; when conscience rises in protest at the fate of the good, or the falsity of ourselves.  Questions then come home about the connection of evil and suffering, sin and sorrow, grief and goodness. Then it is that the desire for a teleology deepens into a passion for a theodicy. Has the teleology a moral end?

 

Other writers reflecting upon the more horrendous crimes of World War 2, seem to keep looking at the issue of guilt, and the need for it to be attributed, acknowledged and dealt with. But how is guilt to be dealt with, if you have done such things? Is there any hope for a person who has committed gross evil? What about our own less than righteous lives?  It is valuable, even if very painful to recount what has happened and keeps happening in human history.  In searching for a theology for Auschwitz, Simon writes:

 

We are dealing with the deaths of millions, mostly non-combatant Jews, who had been rounded up and sent to various concentration-camps designed entirely for their extermination.  Auschwitz was the largest but by no means the only place of infamy. At Treblinka, Maideneck, Ravensbruck, Dachau, Buchenwald, Belsen, Chelmo, Sohibor, Mauthausen and many lesser known places the same dimensions of sin and suffering prevailed.  Auschwitz stands here for the whole guilt which has stained the earth, not only in Europe but also in Asia. 

     This guilt must in the first place be ascribed to Hitler, the German Chancellor from 1933 until his death by suicide, probably on April 30th, 1945, in Berlin.  He appointed the men who carried out the task of extermination with ruthless efficiency.

 

Our problem is evil as it affects our own lives, so terribly. Over Nyholm produced a film documentary entitled ‘The Anatomy of Evil’, in which he interviewed mostly the perpetrators of mass murder in World War 2 and the Balkans War.  In setting out on his task, he said. “I have decided to confront heartlessness, heartlessness itself, face to face.” The interviewer’s final conclusion is honest, as he asks about what he might have done in the same circumstances:  “I cannot answer if I would do it; if I say I know myself it is not correct; I can’t predict if I can handle it; I no longer have certainty…from certainty to maybe – that is a profound loss. That is my condition!”

 

WHEN GOD TRUSTED MAN WITH FREEDOM

 

When a film documentary maker, cautiously, fearfully, and sadly concludes that virtually all human beings are capable of terrible evil, and many have exercised it in such an atrocious manner, then it seems clear enough that we have been given such freedom as to include even a terrifying capacity for genocide.  What then are we to say of our Creator?

 

There was never such a fatal experiment as when God trusted man with freedom.  But our Christian faith is that He knew well what He was about.  He did not do that as a mere adventure, not without knowing that he had the power to remedy any abuse of it that might occur, and to do this by a new creation more mighty, marvellous, and mysterious than the first. He had means to emancipate even freedom, to convert moral freedom, even in its ruin, into spiritual. If the first creation drew on His might, the second taxed His all-might. It revealed His power as moral majesty, as holy omnipotence, most chiefly shown in the mercy that redeems and reconciles.

 

In the light of the Cross’s power, Forsyth goes on the revel in God’s grand plan:

 

To redeem creation is a more creative act than it was to create it. …The supreme power in the world is not simply the power of God but of a holy God, upon whose rule all things wait, and may wait long. It is no slack knot that the Saviour has to undo. All the energy of a perverse world in its created freedom pulled on the tangle to tighten it. And its undoing has give the supreme form to all God’s dealing with the world. But at the same time the snarl is not beyond being untied. Man is born to be redeemed. The final key to the first creation is the second; and the first was done with the second in view… The first creation was the prophecy of the second; the second was the first tragically ‘arrived’. There was moral resource in the Creator equal to anything that might happen to the creature or by him

 

The Cross is at once creation’s fatal jar and final recovery. And there is no theodicy for the world except for a theology of the Cross … No reason of man can justify God in a world like this. He must justify Himself, and He did so in the Cross of His Son.

 

As Forsyth reflects upon the 1914-1917 (1918) war to end all wars, he urges us to see the greatness of the gospel of redemption, and the role the church has to know her Lord, and proclaim his Act of Redemption, accomplished, (and recounted), in the power of the weakness of the cross:

 

We are now in a crisis that no individual can measure, nor his piety deal with and it is beyond any philosophy or idealism of a time.  In needs that faith of an agelong holy Church to grasp it. Would that the Church’s faith could always handle it in the true power of that crisis greater still which made the Church – in the power of the Church’s Cross and Gospel. An awful crisis of wickedness like war can only be met on the Church’s height and range of faith; and it forces us up to levels and aspects of our belief which our common hours or moral slackness too easily feel extreme.  Nothing but the great theologies of redemption are adequate to the great tragedies of the world. …Christ finished the world-work given Him to do. He brought the world home.

 

Isaiah once said of the suffering servant to come – Jesus – that ‘He shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied’. (Isaiah 53:11 RSV). Forsyth takes up the same words and applies them to the whole creation, and its travail:

 

In Him the whole creation sees the travail of its soul and is satisfied. He who can take away the sin of the world has in His reversion the reason, completion, peace, joy, and glory of all things.  The Destroyer of guilt pacifies all grief, the Reconciler of our enmity ends all question. To see the devastator a truly penitent thief would compensate any Christian victim. The Justifier of men is the one and only theodicy of God.

 

 

Further reflection upon the sadness and horror of the war, brings Forsyth to describe the situation as elements of hell breaking through into the daily life of humanity, as judgment on the world, but also upon the Church’s failure to serve the world well:

 

After all, the present cataclysm is an acute condensation of what has been going on in nature, human and other, for millenniums. If faith could survive that, need it succumb to this? If the existence of hell is compatible with faith in God, and is even of His ordinance, must we lose faith when it comes through the earth’s crust in a volcano?

 

The dirty chimney needed to be fired.

The present situation is a monument to the failure of the Church!

 

We are driven to a very personal involvement in the cross, where we can not consider it from afar, nor just talk about it – rather, by the Spirit, we are taken into its action, in the embrace of our Saviour, as he bears our sin, we say – I have been crucified with Christ:

 

The Cross is not a theological theme, not a forensic device, but the crisis of the moral universe on a scale far greater than earthly war. It is the theodicy of the whole God dealing with the whole soul of the whole world in holy love, righteous judgment, and redeeming grace.

 

HOW WEIGHTY IS THE GLORY THAT IS TO COME?

 

Concerning the coming glory, Alister McGrath chimes in with a helpful word:

 

Some say that nothing could ever be adequate recompense for suffering in this world. But how do they know?  Have they spoken to anyone who has suffered and subsequently been raised to glory?  Have they been through this experience themselves?  One of the greatest tragedies of much writing about human suffering this century has been its crude use of rhetoric. ‘Nothing can ever compensate for suffering!’ rolls off the tongue with the greatest of ease.  It has a certain oratorical force. It discourages argument.  It suggests that what has been said represents the distillation of human wisdom in the subject, and is so evidently correct that it does not require justification. It implies that anyone who disagrees is a fool. But how do they know nothing can compensate for suffering? Paul believed passionately that the sufferings of the present life would be outweighed by the glory that is to come (Romans 8:18). How do they know that he is wrong, and that they are right?  Have they tasted the glory of the life to come, so that they can make the comparison? Have they talked to others who have been through the bitter experience of suffering and death, and have been caught up in the risen and glorious life of Christ, and asked them how they now feel about their past suffering? No. Of course they haven’t.  The simple truth is that this confident assertion of the critics of Christianity is just so much whistling in the wind. Their comments are made from our side of the veil which separates history from eternity.


Bart D. Ehrman, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer our Most Important Question – Why we Suffer’, HarperOne, 2008. He says he has never had discussions with other lecturers about personal belief.

Theology apart from doxology, outside the Christian community, can become merely academic.

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, NCPI, 1988, p. 120

Geoffrey C. Bingham, The Glory of the Mystery and the Mystery of the Glory, NCPI, Blackwood, 1998, p. xii

Henri Blocher, Evil and the Cross, Apollos, IVP, England, 1994, p. 12-13

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, NCPI, 1988, p. 120

Ulrich Simon, A Theology of Auschwitz, SPCK, London, 1967, p. 11

The following are comments made by men who once killed their civilian victims, so mercilessly:

Ø   Many people will ask, is there no light in this murderous dark? The light in the darkness is the shame.

Ø       Generally speaking I am not a good man at all. I am not a good Christian. I succumbed to instincts to do evil to others.

Ø       I envy people who have normal lives BBQ and go to the beach. I envy tramps. I am no longer like them. Now I don’t belong anywhere, any particular place. I belong here (prison). I’ve lost what is most important – morality.

P. T. Forsyth, The Justification of God, NCPI, 1988, p. 123-124

Forsyth, p. 123-124

Forsyth, p. 122

Forsyth p. 126

Forsyth p. 127

Forsyth p. 129

Forsyth p. 133

Alister McGrath, Suffering, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1992, p. 96-97








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