Karl Barth 2010 conference – Day 1

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The first full day of the Karl Barth conference here at Princeton has been excellent. Sunday evening we heard from Dr. Darrell Guder about the upcoming papers, and then watched a delightful interview with Karl Barth (filmed by the BBC in the early 1960’s).

Three papers were given on Monday, all with time being given to significant discussion time. Some highlights:

Eberhard Busch, “The Sending of the Whole Christian Community: The Renewal of the Christian Churches at the ‘End of the Christian Occident.”” Prof. Busch spoke of Barth’s insistence that, even in his own day, the end of the Christian Occident will not mark the end of the Church; rather, to say that the Church continues to exist is to speak in faith of Christ’s promise to be with the Church, even until the end of the age.  The Church exists, and always has, as an ex-centric (“outwardly directed”) double-movement of being “called out” into the world as servant and “called in” by the Word of God.

Busch also delineated three theses about the relationship of Christ, Church and World as arising from Barth’s ecclesiology:

  • The World without Christ is lost.
  • The World is not lost without the Church.
  • The Church is lost when the world is not its vis-a-vis (i.e., The Church is lost when it does not see itself as essentially outwardly facing and addressing the world.)

Christina Busman – “Reflections in Contextuality: Reading Barth in History to Enrich Significance of His Work for Today. Ms. Busman argued that Barth’s ecclesiology (particularly as outlined in CD IV) made significant movement toward a full-orbed theology of mission, but that he retains still some programmatic aspects of mission as added task of the Church.  She argued that Barth’s distinction between “evangelism” and “mission” (esp. as noted in CD IV.3.2, 871) was one such evidence of the “vestiges” of a programmatic view of mission in Barth’s theology. She argued that such vestiges of programmatic mission are not fatal to Barth’s theology, and are simply evidence that all theologies of the Church are (appropriately) limited by the contexts out of which they arise. This makes the necessity of global theological dialogue necessary to help us see our own contextual blind-spots.

Nate Kerr – “Der Ereignis der Sendung: The Word of God, Apocalyptic Transfiguratoiin, and the ‘Special Visiblity of the Church.” A central thesis of Dr. Kerr’s paper was that “mission makes the Church” (in so far as Jesus makes the Church). He set this thesis deliberately against the ecclesiological notion that “Eucharist makes the Church” and also distinguished his position from Stanley Hauerwas’ notion of the Church as distinct community of practices. Moreover, Kerr argued that Barth’s ecclesiology forces us to recognize that there is no ontological divide to be drawn between “Church” and “World” but that the Church’s “Special Visibility” consists in it being a picture of the world as having already been reconciled to God in Jesus Christ. In this sense, the World sees the Church not as something in and of itself distinct, but as an “Apocalyptic Transfiguration” of the Church, as a proleptic and “specially visible” manifestation of God’s reign in the present against the illusion that the world continues to live in and believe that it continues on as if it were not already reconciled to God.

Christian Andrews – Following evening prayers and the evening meal, we were treated to an after dinner talk by Christian Andrews, a Redbank pastor, who spoke about “What has Basel to Do with Red Bank?: How Barth’s Church Dogmatics Shapes One Congregation.”  Pastor Christian spoke about how Karl Barth’s theology of reconciliation has enabled he and his church to witness with boldness and confidence in the Gospel of Jesus especially to teenagers in his own city. His talk was enthusiastically received.

I’m looking forward to day 2!

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