Moving and Breathing in a Blog-like World with Appeal to the Analogia Barthei

Living in a blog-like world can be dangerous, especially for those of us who keep reading and learning. When posting on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media the impression might be given that our ideas are concretized, stagnate, immutable even. This is the danger of expressing oneself via social media around theological ideas (and this is the danger, really, for anyone who publishes musicbarthor teaches in whatever venue). For some theologians the case may be that their work is relatively static, but I would venture to say that for most this is not the case. In other words, most of us are changing, moving and breathing theologically in ways that online publication might betray somewhat. Karl Barth, more than anyone attests to this reality in his own theological work; he changed, reified, constructed more than anyone if not more than anyone who has ever published Dogmatic theology like he has; and I count this to be a good thing!

In the 1930s Hugh Ross Mackintosh wrote this of Barth:

Impressive as Barth’s work has been, it is far from being beyond the reach of criticism. Some camp-followers of the movement have inclined to forget this, but the master himself leaves us in no doubt. He criticizes his own statements, often, by modifying them. “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often,” it has been said; and one fact which makes comprehension of this thought so difficult is that in detail it changes constantly. He warns us vehemently against canonizing his results up to date. He offers clear principles, definite assumptions, but never a closed system. Theology on the wing, it has been called. His thought moves; it does not crystallize. Of him as of Dostoievsky [sic] we may say that he is not interested in tepid notions; there is a dash of the spirit of Heraclitus in him, everything is heat and motion, opposition and struggle. Fitly, therefore, he exhibits a most rare and excellent combination of humility and humour. “It is a real question,” he has suggested, “whether there is as much joy in heaven as there is on earth over the growth of the Barthian school.” Far from being an oracle, he is simply a servant of the Church, with no thought of forming a party. He would perhaps not object to my saying that if I succeed in giving a clear account of his thinking, that will prove that I have been successful after all. Life is not simple, hence theology cannot be simple either; and Barth’s thought is not, in any ordinary sense of the words, easy or transparent. [1]

I thought this not only provides a good word on how to read Barth, but by analogy it also points up the fact that to a degree we all are doing this; and if we are going to be doing this in healthy ways and in the mould of Barth we will be humble enough to be self-critical to the point that we can admit that when we got it wrong in the past that we indeed, got it wrong!

If the God we serve is lively, Triune, personal, relational, dynamic, and we are created in His image in Christ, then it follows, that as we are growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, that we will constantly be moving and breathing with the Holy Spirit as He points us to the stereophonic, Jesus.

[1]Hugh Ross Mackintosh, Types Of Modern Theology: Schleiermacher To Barth (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1937), 264-65.