To Understand Barth … And to Move Beyond Our Gospel Situations

To understand Barth one must learn how to think with him in his profound integration of ontological and dynamic relations, for that is to think in ways appropriate to the unique act of God’s saving revelation in Jesus Christ, which cannot be appreciated properly in static terms, or with an obsolete notion of the autonomous reason as somehow a source of knowledge. What Karl Barth has done requires of us to abandon a way of thinking from a point of absolute rest, and develop kinetic modes of thought. That is why Barth operated with a dynamic and not a static view of the inspiration of the Bible, and operated with a dynamic and not a static conception of the human reason. Many people today have had a similar difficulty in grasping the radically new and profounder way of dynamic thinking demanded by quantum theory. But whereas scientists have been adapting their 1 thinking more rigorously to the subtle behaviour of the created ‘ nature of the universe as it has come from God and as it is being steadily disclosed through their investigations, many Christian I people have been failing to adapt their thinking to the nature of the mighty living God disclosed through the incarnation within space and time of the mighty Word by which all things, visible and I invisible, are made. They appear to be still trapped within patterns of thinking that owe more to static and logico-causal forms of thought deriving from classical, mediaeval, and Enlightenment rationalism than from the Gospel of the risen Lord Jesus Christ. They do not seem to understand that faith is the mode of the reason adapted by grace to the objective self-revealing and self giving of the living God. That applies no less to “evangelical” than to “liberal” Christians, for there is a fundamental clash between the framework of thought within which they are accustomed to dwell and that which arises in a renewed and transformed understanding of God under the compelling claims of his intelligible self-revelation. [Thomas F. Torrance, Karl Barth, Biblical and Evangelical Theologian, x.]

It is this fundamental clash that is so hard to overcome. Us Evangelicals have been so conditioned to think about the Gospel in a certain way that it is almost impossible to disentangle ourselves from the matrix of our own cultural situadedness. I think, for example, The Gospel Coalition only helps to reinforce this kind of cultural situadedness … with good intentions in tact.

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