a christmas surprise

Over Christmas, I read Barth's essay "Evangelical Theology in the 19th Century" for the first time, included in the collection The Humanity of God. Coming, as I have, from a largely secular background and captivated by Derrida, Lacan and their like, Barth has been a revelation these past few years. To my happy surprise, I stumbled upon the following passage:

"This general assumption of openness to the world led necessarily to the specific assumption that theology could defend its own cause only within the framework of a total view of man, the universe, and God which could command universal recognition"

I understand Barth to be making what in retrospect is an essentially postmodern point: when theology engages the world purely on secular grounds, it is forced to play solely by secular "rules". But how can a secular, materialist world apprehend a supernatural God who disrupts things? What tools could you use to measure divinity? If you use only the tools of natural science; sociology, history, archeology, you will only ever see a God who looks like a human construct because that is the only God the tools are capable of revealing.

This is important, I think for a number of reasons, not least of which is that the protestant church in the US still operates largely under 19th century thinking. We still operate as if "Evidence That Demands a Verdict" really is proof of Jesus in an ultimate material sense, and so we are very concerned with proving that the earth and it's inhabitants were indeed geologically constructed in 7 days. We seem to recreate the same discussions of the 19th century in our daily church life. It also is great fun for me to see that Barth beat Lyotard's seminal essay by about 20 years :smirk:


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