Uncle Karl on the relationship between Pulpit Ministry and Christian Dogmatics or Systematics

Something that I struggle with, personally, is with the apparent need calvinspulpitfor depth in Christian discipleship, and how that relates to Pulpit ministry. In other words, because of the way that I am wired, the way the Lord has worked in my life, in particular, I struggle with the idea that all people, all Christians need to be being inculcated with the deeper things, the deeper realities that the history of Christian ideas and Christian Dogmatics have to offer. I want to see people push deep into being deep thinkers about our deep God; but we aren’t all the same are we? We are the ‘body of Christ’; as such we all have our roles within that body-life. And so since this is the reality I simply need to remember all of this, and ask the Lord for wisdom and sensitivity to where people are at in their own walks with Jesus Christ. I think there does need to be a challenge to the body of Christ at large to go deeper, to stretch further into the doctrinal riches God has for us in Christ; but then this also needs to be chastened by the further idea that not all have been called to spend all of their time thinking about the relationship, say, between the Divine and human natures in the singular person of Jesus Christ (this is why creeds and such are so important because they allow non-professional theologians to affirm the deep and doxological truths required by the pressures of the Christ reality, while at the same time not requiring person’s affirming such creeds to necessarily engage in all of the fine tuning and intricacies of developing theories of kenosis etc.).

Along these lines, Karl Barth has a good word on how Christian Dogmatics and Preaching should relate. Barth writes:

When I say dogmatics I naturally have in mind not only what goes on at the university and in books — though I mean that too — but also everything that individual theologians do all their lives as also official systematicians, everything that goes on always and everywhere behind the front of proclamation, everything that I called reflection in § 5. The only thing is that we must not confuse dogmatics and preaching. You should not go out and for a few years overpower your poor congregations with the contents of your notebooks, with the objective and subjective possibilities of revelation, with exercises in the ancient and modern theologies of the schools that we have to study here, with the dialectical corners into which I have to lead you here. You must draw the content of your sermons from the well which stands precisely between the Bible, your own concrete situation, and that of your hearers. Homiletics and practical theology as a whole will deal with it. In no case, however, must you draw on my own or any other dogmatics and please, not from the dogmatics that probably each of you will work out for private use. Everything in its own time and place. Dogmatics is an exercise when it is done properly, but still an exercise, a preparatory act behind the scenes. If other people are interested in it, then we must not forbid this, but as a whole I would say to you that there is hardly anything that we theologians should keep as much to ourselves as dogmatics.[1]

Thank you, Uncle Karl.

Full disclosure: What I do on this blog represents something more like my personal theological notebook, written in a way that I realize that other’s are looking in from time to time. But what I plan on doing, soon, is to start writing min-sermons and posting them here at the blog. My tentative plan is to have what I might call Homiley Mondays, and each Monday post a new sermon on a particular topic or theological exposition of Scripture. I think this will be good practice for me, and hopefully edifying for you.


[1] Karl Barth, The Göttingen Dogmatics. Instruction in the Christian Religion, Vol. One (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 276.

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2 Responses to Uncle Karl on the relationship between Pulpit Ministry and Christian Dogmatics or Systematics

  1. Very pleased to read this, Bobby, and looking forward to your preaching. I wish all the best theological bloggers observed homiletical mondays.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bobby Grow says:

    We’ll see how it goes, Bowman. I don’t really have the time to do this properly, but I will do my best with the time that I have 🙂 .


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