I have many things floating through my mind and heart right now; particularly because of the fallout produced by me thinking outloud and online in regard to the Christiane Tietz essay on Karl Barth’s and Charlotte von Kirschbaum’s relationship. I’ve already spilled much too much cyber-ink at this point attempting to genuinely work through the dilemma it caused me; and also have responded to a detractor’s post. It has cost me much more than I would have realized to simply raise this issue, and attempt to honestly work through it next to Holy Scripture. This will continue to be an issue for me to deal with, and I’ve already noted how I will attempt to do that; but that’s not enough for my critics, to them I’m as good as a legalist/moralist for even thinking that I should attempt to read Barth’s situation against what Scripture clearly says in regard to the qualifications for being a teacher in the church that belongs to Jesus Christ.
I was going to write a post on John Webster’s discussion on the Trinity; in regard to the relationship between the economic (ad extra) and immanent (ad intra) Triune life of God. But let me just use this post instead as an index for all five of my posts, to date, having to do with the Barth concern. That way, if people want to caricature me in the future, or label me as a moralist/legalist they will have ease of access to all the relevant posts (the posts start from the earliest to the latest in descending order).
There’s every address I made on this issue. Hopefully you will appreciate the tone of every single one of my posts. None of it was ever intended to besmirch Barth or von Kirschbaum, but instead it was all a matter of me responding to some news about Barth that honestly shocked and surprised me. It went way more “viral” than I even imagined, and now there are other posts that have popped up online; some are attacking me; some are using this situation to attack Barth; and some just seem to want to get in on the action in disingenuous ways. Whatever the case may be, my intention was to stop and engage with an issue that confronted me square between the eyes. I am willing to almost bet money that I have written more about Barth’s theology, online, in a consistent manner over the last decade than almost anybody online; and I’ve done so in a favorable and positive manner (in regard to Barth’s theology itself). So when I, as a “Barth blogger” (I blog about Torrance and other things a lot too, of course), wanted to genuinely engage with Barth on his relationship with Charlotte von Kirschbaum, all of the sudden I was supposed to cease being a Barth blogger. I was to be silent, and not be a moralist (a view propagated by a very popular online theological personality); I wasn’t, as an evangelical Christian supposed to follow my conviction and go to Scripture and see what it says about the kind of relationship Barth had with Charlotte von Kirschbaum for most of his adult married life. Bobby Grow is supposed to keep his mouth shut, and his fingers immobile when it comes to this issue. That’s been the impression, and in fact the admonition I’ve received from many who think that I am a moralist in all of this; for going to Holy Scripture to see how I ought to respond to this scenario.
The only way around Scripture on this is to go around Scripture, or make Scripture something else; make it so that it doesn’t impinge on the ethics of Christianity or the church today. The only way around lots of ethical issues today is to reorient Scripture in such a way that it doesn’t speak to us about morality in any meaningful way; unless we want it to. But the bottom line in this approach is that it is contingent on the way that we want to read Scripture rather than how Scripture and its reality in Jesus Christ want to read and confront us. This approach is readily available, and there are some right now attempting to reorient Scripture in this way (and of course this has been going on for a long time); but that’s not the way I have followed, nor ever will. I am genuinely Reformed and evangelical (historically understood) when it comes to the authority of Holy Scripture (and other things too). This indeed is what caused the whole dilemma with Barth (and von Kirschbaum) for me in the first place; and now this is what is causing the rub and fallout between me and those who would rather skirt Scripture and read it in a way that is malleable to what they think ethics should look like.
Like I have already noted in my “Wrestling With An Approach To Karl Barth” post, there are still themes in Barth’s theology (particularly when it comes to election) that I don’t think I could ever really abandon. I do think Barth’s Christological concentration, as far as prolegomena goes, is the best way; and yet of course this way is not unique to Barth as TF Torrance points out in his referral to Athanasius and others in the history of the church. Like I’ve noted, going forward, my engagement with Barth will be from a different perspective, and more critical (meaning more in terms of engaging with a scholar rather than an “Uncle”) than it was before. But some of his themes have most likely made a life-long impact on me; so you’ll still be seeing that in my posts and writings going forward.
One last point: I will say something very interesting happened as a result of this. Most of the people who I have been most critical of (not personally), theologically—those who affirm some sort of Westminster styled Calvinism, or who are Thomists, etc.—have shown me the most support in this; which really surprised me. And the people who are for Barth, in the main, have shunned me; and now labeled me a moralist (not all, but many!). That says something to me; and it makes this whole thing that much more enlightening.