Monday, August 17, 2009

The 3rd Annual Karl Barth Blog Conference

I'm not sure what all I'll be posting on my blog in the next hectic few weeks, but I am sure I'll be following the Barth Blog Conference over at Der Evangelische Theologe. The link will be in my blogroll if you care to follow along. The topic this year is right up my alley: "Karl Barth, Romans 1, and the Possibility of Natural Knowledge of God."

This has always been an intriguing topic for me, especially in light of Romans 1. I could go either way on this one, as clearly evidenced for me when I read Barth's debate on natural theology with Emil Brunner. I read Brunner's portion and literally thought to myself: "Yeah. I don't see how this can be refuted." Naive reading perhaps. I don't often buy stuff hook line and sinker like that. But I was sold. Then I rifled the pages of Barth's rebuttal and could no longer hold my original position. I was torn between whether I'd completely changed sides or was now simply utterly confused. It was one of the most remarkable reading experiences of my life.

This is a really important issue to me. Though I'm about to do a dissertation on Karl Barth I'm not sure I'm totally with him on this or not. Can we know God without his self-revelation? No. I think not. Seems absurd to say so unless we humans are somehow divine, which is almost the same as saying there is by definition no God (as we mean by that word). Can we know God without his self-revelation in Jesus Christ? Again, I think not, but here it may depend on what you mean by the word "know" and how much you mean to know Him.

The issue kind of unravels from there, and as we reflect on it from Scripture we find it exacerbated by such texts as Romans 1:20, which says that "since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -- his eternal power and divine nature -- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse."

I want to hold BOTH the insistent Barthian logic of special divine self-revelation in Christ and the Catholic expectation that this will be in continuity with a general divine self-revelation in creation. I want to say that we confront and apprehend God in nature but that we do not satisfactorily, completely or rightly know this God apart from His self-revelation in Jesus Christ.

But just because I want to doesn't mean I can. Hence my eagerness to listen in on (and perhaps participate) in this blog conference and have my thoughts on the matter honed and more informed.


Stewart said...

Sounds like the "we choose", "God chose" discussion/debate/ controversy thing. All have the ability to acknowledge God but can they choose Him without some "help"? Let us know if you figure it out. Stu.

jon said...

THe question would go so far as to ask whether all even have the ability. I'm not sure. I don't particularly like what became of hard-line Calvinism, but I don't particularly like what has become of hard-line Arminianism in the evangelical West either...

Can probably assure you I won't figure it out, but maybe I'd like to come to terms with it a bit more.