On Being an ‘After Barth Blogger’: Sometimes It’s Better to Just Not Interact

Yes, I’ve had to deal personally with the realization that Karl Barth’s and Charlotte von Kirschbaum’s relationship was not right; adulterous even. But at the end of the day, after all is said and done, Barth set a trajectory for theological discourse that far exceeds himself. This is the way I have come to negotiate this whole situation; I live with a tension in this regard (and it upsets me that I have to live with this tension, but I will). But let’s be very clear about something: I have established myself—for good or ill— as a Barth, TF Torrance, After Barth theoblogger. Just as most Protestant Reformed are Thomists, Scotists, or on that spectrum somewhere; I as a Reformed blogger think, by and large, from the Barth trajectory (in all its various manifestations and emphases etc.). So, when you come on my blog, my Facebook, or any of my social media connection points and bad mouth Karl Barth, caricature his theology, and make wild assertions about his theology that don’t actually reflect his theology, then expect not to hang around long. In my last post someone named “Mike” engaged in the very type of behavior that I won’t stand for; I won’t attempt to be reasonable once this behavior starts; and if you persist you will be banned from my blog and all social media contacts. Here’s an example of what Mike wrote about Barth’s theology:

Perhaps this in and of itself is an argument against Barth’s unmediated “subjective actualisation” of salvation. It is simply not true that all are salvifically included, until they are salvifically included –> through the ministry of Word and Sacrament. The Church *is* a “telos” because the creation of a bride and its exaltation with her groom is the telos of Scripture and God’s purposes. Barth obscures this and relegates the Church to passive observer rather than living organ of God’s glory on earth.

And this:

But I have interacted with the quotes, by observing that Barth’s presupposition is a non-starter. Subjective actualisation of the gospel *is* necessary, and the Church is instrumental in applying this aspect of Christ’s work. There is not a single theological system in all of Christian reflection that has ever said that the subjective actualisation of the gospel is is already complete in Christ (and that it has no contingency on baptism, on the decision of faith etc.). The reason for that absence is that it’s a preposterous assertion; one that is so incredibly out of sync with Scripture as to render the subsequent argument irrelevant.

And most egregiously, this:

I understand ‘subjective actualisation’ all too well, couched within the false notion that my ‘no’ is contained in the ‘yes’ of Christ. Not only is that demonstrably unbiblical, but it allows Barth to imagine that his unrepentant adultery was enveloped by Christ’s ‘vicarious humanity’. Perhaps that’s precisely the context in which that theology arose – as a way self-justifying the unjustifiable with a pious-sounding but false Christology. No. I’d rather stick to a traditional christology and ecclesiology that doesn’t twist scripture to serve sexual sin.

These are all examples from one source, Mike, that represent the absurd. Folks like this want me to engage with them reasonably, and don’t understand why I end up getting ticked about such caricatures and outright liable in regard to Barth’s theology. Somehow I’m supposed to take any of this seriously, grant him (or anyone like him) this type of erroneous space, and then engage in winsome reasonable dialogue; not going to happen. When people automatically marginalize Barth’s theology, because they are committed say to a more “classical” approach, and then want to attempt to have a serious discussion, when many of Barth’s categories are informing my hermeneutic and potential for theological discourse, what are such people thinking?!

I am lifting this up because it is fresh, and I want to identify it as a caution for going forward. I don’t have a problem with people disagreeing with Barth’s theology, per se. But when that is used straightaway to discount his offering to the church then what’s the point of attempting to pursue any further dialogue (given who I am)? So Mike isn’t really allowed here anymore. He can read my blog, but no more commenting (it doesn’t even make sense to allow that; not for him or me or for anyone else who wants to take Mike’s approach with me).

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