Tag Archives: Barth

Summer reading and such

I didn’t plan to give up blogging for Lent. It just sort of turned out that way. Aaaaaand my readership continues to slip away…

I handed in my last paper of the semester yesterday. Now I start thinking about the reading I need to do for the two classes I’m taking in May.

Tonight is the seminary grad banquet. Neither of us is graduating, but we’re going to the banquet. I am winning some kind of award (it’s an honour just to be nominated!). Tomorrow morning we leave for a 6-day stint at Elkhorn Lodge or some-such, a resort north of Neepewa and on the edge of Riding Mountain National Park. It’ll be the Vandersluys’s plus another friend, then a few days later that friend and his wife, and then a few days later another couple friend. It should be good times. I hope. Let’s be honest: the kids a kind of the wildcard here. But there’s a pool and possible horseback riding and hikes.

But after that, after the getaway and the classes in may, I will read what I want to read.

What I think I can reasonably finish in the summer:

Theology:

  • N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God
  • Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship
  • Thomas Halik, Patience with God: The Story of Zacchaeus Continuing in Us
  • H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture
  • C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
  • Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places

Biography:

  • Eric Mataxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Fiction:

  • Gavin’s sermon from a couple of weeks ago inspired me to pick up Three by Flannery O’Connor again and read at least The Violent Bear it Away
  • I’d like to have a second go at Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude.
  • Something else by Graham Greene.

Maybe this list isn’t reasonable for me to finish. All of these books will be beneficial reads, but I think now of the books I would benefit from practically by reading them this summer, such a s William Willimon’s Pastoral Theology (a text for a Winter 2012 course) and something on spiritual direction. Plus I need to re-learn Greek over the summer in preparation for the school year.

Let’s be honest: this reading list looks almost nothing like I will actually read this summer.

Community theology blog

Last year, Hendrikson Publishers bought the rights to the old printing of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics and Christianbook.com has made the 14-volume work available for $99 (US). A number of seminary student pounced on the opportunity and purchased the set, which has now shipped!

Several of us were talking the other day about having a Barth bl0g to reflect on our reading of Church Dogmatics. And so I went and set up a group blog: I Heart Barth.

The blog won’t be just about Barth, though. It will be a blog of theological reflections based on a range of theologians.  There are four “authors” at this point, all of them Providence Seminary students, with more authors possibly to be added as time goes by.

I just created this blog last night and have written the only post there at this point. It kind of gives the story of the blog and its intent.  But keep checking back for updates. [UPDATE: Joel has now posted as well.]

Read it, subscribe to it, comment.  It should be fun!

(PS. I haven’t been updating much here lately, especially and unexpectedly not in terms of theology. Hopefully this other group blog will inspire me to write more.  I’ll likely cross-post between the two blogs, or link to new posts there.  But read that blog anyway, because there are other writers there.)

The Hour of Decision

It’s decision time again, or nearing it. One of the pleasures of school life is selecting next year’s classes and perusing their syllabi. It’s also a pain trying to make the classes I want to take work with the classes I need to take as part of the program.

Decision A — Last fall I had decided to take the month-long intensive Greek course in May. Getting this introductory class out of the way will open up my choices for next year.  However, I had been warned by several people that when you take a month-long intensive language course you give up your life. I was dubious. They are morning classes. Surely I would be able to study in the afternoon and spend the evening at home with my family. And then last Friday a professor actually confirmed what had been told to me by students: with the intensive courses, you sell your soul to the language for that month.  I’m not sure I want to do that.

An additional quandary is that in May there will also be a couple of interesting modules taught by scholars from outside the school. Most notably, perhaps, is Tremper Longman III’s class on Proverbs, but there’s also Grant R. Osborne’s class on Hebrews.  Both Proverbs and Hebrews tend to be regarded as somewhat mysterious books which people are unsure of how to use. There is also a third, core course available at the end of May.

So many angles to consider: the subject matter; program requirements; unusual professors (e.g. scholars from the outside); which faculty members will be teaching the languages (they alternate from year to year); which courses will fit within the parameters of my program; which courses should be taken before which; which courses will require fewer other courses in the same semester; etc.

One of the frustrations is being “forced” by my program into not taking classes that I would like to.  Of course, I can take any course I want to, but at some point they will fall outside of my program requirements (credit and/or subject-wise). $1,000 a pop for courses which will not apply towards my degree is a bit steep. And auditing isn’t always a realistic choice. This semester, for instance, I had hoped to take 3 classes from a professor who will be leaving at the end of the semester, but because of scheduling conflicts and program requirements, I could only take one.

I want to make this decision soon, but unfortunately next year’s class schedule will not be available until mid-April. And next year’s class schedule will have a bearing on my choices for May’s classes.

Decision B — A fellow student alerted me to this once-in-a-lifetime deal on Karl Barth’s 14-volume Church Dogmaticsa savings of 90%–or NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS! ($100 for a $1,000 set)–on a foundational work of theology. My first impulse was to jump on the bandwagon and purchase the volumes (this is a pre-release special).  But then I realized from a short-term monetary perspective I could not justify the purchase. Plus there is the monument to impulse buys which is much of our property, including a number of our books. Plus there is the fact that I’m not likely to read them all.  So I had put that thought off for a while.

I mentioned it to my theology professor today–admittedly a Barthian–and he said that this was a price I’d never get again and that it is a reference work, essentially a set of commentaries which would be extremely useful to me (he also noted that he–a Barthian–had only read about 60% of it). He said that he wasn’t just suggesting that I buy it–he implored me to get these books. And when you consider the long-term monetary perspective, it does make some sense.

Bonhoeffer. Bart. (von) Balthasar. (B)universalism.

I read this in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Ethics the other day:

There is no part of the world, no matter how lost, no matter how godless, that has not been accepted by God in Jesus Christ and reconciled to God. (67)

Hints of universalism, perhaps?  No.  Bonhoeffer makes a clear statement about the need for salvation and his active participation in the plot to kill Hitler is not a natural outcome, I don’t think, of a universalist theology (or is it?).  But interesting nonetheless.

This was discussed in class.  What Bonhoeffer is getting at is that Christ is already in the world.  To borrow directly from my professor, the church’s mission isn’t to bring the Light to the world, as it if somehow possessed the Light; the Light is already in the world, and the church responds to it worship (and thereby also points to it).

Bonhoeffer goes on:

…in the body of Christ all humanity is accepted, included, and borne, and…the church-community of believers is to make this known to the world by word and life.  This means not being separated from the world, but calling the world into the community…of the body of Christ to which the world in truth already belongs. (67)

That still has the ring of universalism about it.  Or at least near-universalism.  So close, in fact, you wonder why it isn’t.

But I digress.

I read tonight in William C. Placher’s Narratives of a Vulnerable God the following in a discussion about interfaith dialogue, pluralism and expressing disagreement with other faiths:

Two of the theologians in our century most unbending about the errors of other faiths, Karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar, also entertained at least a strong hope for universal salvation.  Barth believed that we could at least hope that all could be saved, since we cannot imagine that anyone could hold out against the reality of what one already is in Christ.  What crucially distinguishes Christians is that we already know the good news. (123)

That will, naturally, sound terribly arrogant to some, but it makes sense in the context of what Placher is saying (I may post about that later).  But do you see the similarities between Barth’s (paraphrased) words and the words of Bonhoeffer?   All this was mostly to say that there is a surprising amount of overlap and interrelation and (unwitting) dialogue (not about universalism, though) between the various things I’ve been reading so far this semester.  Bonhoeffer. Placher. Yoder. Fascinating.

Also, though, universalism (or at least the hope for it) isn’t the Brad-Pitt-in-12-Monkeys of theology.  Or maybe it is.

Back to reading.