Barth on culture

"Whether as creators or as beneficiaries of culture, we all participate in it as persons responsible for it. We can exercise no abstinence towards it, even if we want to. But we should not want to do that. Each of us has his place and function in its history. Certainly we must here consider the fact that the use of the good gift of God and hence human activity with its great and small results is compromised in the extreme through man's perverted attitude toward God, toward his neighbor, and toward himself. Certainly culture testifies clearly in history and in the present to the fact that man is not good but rather a downright monster. But even if one were in this respect the most melancholy skeptic, on could not -in view of the the humanity of God which is bestowed upon the man who is not good or who is even monstrous - say that culture speaks only of the evil of man. What is culture in itself except the attempt of man to be man and thus to hold the good gift of his humanity in honor and put it to work."

-Karl Barth, The Humanity of God, (USA: John Knox Press, 1960), p.54., emphasis added
I like how Barth understands Jesus as giving dignity to humanity, to culture, without denying its atrocities. There is a funny way that the church tends to either deculturize (tm) as if all culture were bad, or lift it up to solipsistic heights beyond questioning by the Gospel. I think it reflects some tension between a kind of post-modern "all perspectives are equally valid" (- which nobody believes, btw. When was the last time you invited a Satanist or a Wiccan to share on their perspective of your theology? Or Sam Walton to teach you about materialism?), and the desire for a stable, central truth system. So often our theology is all about abstract values, not about how to treat people given the dignity Jesus has given our humanity!


Popular Posts