Sunday, June 27, 2010


As an avid reader, I really want to get an e-reader in order to save on shelf space, etc.  I, however, as a person who will go back to school in the future and will (hopefully) do some publishing, have a big concern.  I want to be able to cite books in papers, but can't do so if I can't see the correct page number.

For example, on the Barnes and Noble site about the Nook, it has in the FAQ section the question, "Why do my NOOK page numbers not match up with the page numbers of my physical book?"  The answer is, "You may notice that sometimes when you turn pages, the page number doesn't change. Since the screen on the NOOK can contain fewer words than a physical page of a book (depending on the font size being used), sometimes it will take several screens of text to display an entire page. In these cases, the page number will not change, although you are making progress through the book."  That's not really an answer to the question.  The answer deals with why one physical page might be several e-pages, but it doesn't say if the page numbers in the NOOK match up with physical page numbers.  The Kindle site does not say anything about how the page numbers match up.

Does anyone who has an e-reader have any insight on this?  Or, does anyone know if Turabian or other citation guides have new guidelines on how to cite books from an e-reader?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology, Part 6: Theological Method

I read the fifth chapter of Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology, "Anthropology," by Henri A.G. Blocher, but to be honest, some of it was over my head and other parts of it I don't have an opinion on, so I don't feel comfortable commenting on it.  Instead, I'm going to make a few comments on the sixth chapter, "Christus Praesens: Barth's Radically Realist Christology and its Necessity for Theological Method."

First, Richardson notes that Barth breaks with propositional understandings of revelation.  You can in this critique of propositionalism see where Lindbeck gets at least part of his critique of cognitive-propositional understandings of religion.

Second, Barth is critical of natural theology.  Richardson notes, "The possibility of the knowledge of God is a naturalized, domesticated, generalized condition which Barth most emphatically rejects" (138).  In other words, Barth is critical of natural theology because when people center their theology upon "general" or "natural revelation," they tend to make God in their own image.  As I will note in a paper that I will turn into a blog series after I finish blogging through this book, Barth is a helpful figure to draw upon in critiquing American civil religion.

Third, while Barth's primary focus is not theological method, but dogmatics, his theological method still shines through.  According to Richardson, Barth's theological method stems from the understanding that when the church listens to the reading of scripture or preaching, they are listening to God speaking in the present.  (This does not mean Barth was unaware of the distance between the original audience and the contemporary church.  Barth instead understood, "The One who was for us 'then' is the One who is for us 'now'" [142].  "Barth's answer is a bridging of historical distance through the actuality of the living Jesus Christ whose resurrection, by the grace of God, provides the reality by which the theological speaks with the Church in confessing 'Jesus lives'--and continues, 'and I with him'" [144]). 

Fourth, in a point similar to the one above, Barth believed that the Spirit aids and illuminates the preacher, theologian, and church in their reading/listening to Scripture.  (As I mentioned in a previous post on this issue, Barth can thus be an extremely helpful figure for the Stone-Campbell Movement as we try and develop a theology of illumination for our context).  Richardson says that for Barth, "Thus, fellowship with the living God is a necessary condition for doing of Christian theology" (145).  Richardson also says of Barth's understanding, "The work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for the work of the theologian since by the activity of the Spirit the theologian is 'kept close to Jesus Christ in true and genuine faith,' and enlivened to speak and write as an expression of gratitude to God" (147).

While Barth's understanding is not politically correct, I find it most convincing.  While there are non-Christians who do historical studies that can help contemporary people better understand the biblical text and while there are non-Christians who can understand and write of what ancient peoples thought, Christian theology is "faith seeking understanding."  I hope in many ways that more theologians, like Hauerwas, will offer critiques of the modern university and focus Christian theology upon the context of the church.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Are You a Christian Hipster?

Richard Beck, a psychology professor at ACU who blogs at Experimental Theology, just posted a link to a quiz entitled, "Are you a Christian hipster?" (, which is a companion to an upcoming book, Hipster Christianity by Brett McCracken.  I got a 90/120, which defines me as a "hipster Christian."  The result says, "Extremely High CHQ. Congratulations! You are a grade A, Sufjan-caliber Christian hipster! You probably like Thomas Merton, hookah, and lectio divina. You're not above self-critique and meta theory, and thus should definitely read Hipster Christianity.."

I don't know quite how I feel about the result.  It appears as though the quiz is simply saying I'm a 20 something who grew up in a time where I was taught to care about the environment, distrust the Left Behind series and megachurches, and care about war/peace/justice issues, but I've never really seen myself as a hip person.  I'm curious to see what some of you would get on this quiz--especially some of you professor types who are old enough to be my parents.

I'm going to look more into this upcoming book; possibly more on the topic to follow.

Barth and Evangelical Theology: Part 5, Creation

The chapter in Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology entitled “Creation” is by Oliver Crisp, who teaches at the University of Bristol.  Crisp correctly notes that the center of Barth’s theology is Christology, and thus that Barth’s “doctrine of creation is ‘christologized’” (77).  Crisp does not attempt to exhaustively summarize Barth’s doctrine of creation, but instead to interact with “some of the more controversial issues involved in his doctrine of creation proper in, CD, III/1” (78; CD is the abbreviation of Church Dogmatics).  Crisp focuses in particular on the relationship between Barth’s doctrine of creation and “that of the classical (Western) theological tradition, particularly, the Reformed strand of that tradition” (78), in an attempt to note the similarities and differences.  (Notice any similarities between Chung and Crisp?)

Crisp notes four areas of overlap that Barth and the Reformed tradition share in their doctrines of creation:
  1. The whole of the Trinity is involved in creation.
  2. Creation is a free act of God (see the previous post on Barth’s emphasis upon God as “the one who loves in freedom”).
  3. Barth has a sort of supralapsarianism, though Crisp notes that his “is different from traditional construals in important respects” (80).  In particular, Barth “denies that the divine decrees fork at the point where God elects some human beings and reprobates the rest.  Instead, according to Barth, God elects and reprobates Christ, the Elect (and Reprobate) One, and derivatively elects al humanity ‘in’ Christ” (80–81).
  4. Barth makes a close connection between “the divine act of creation, and the covenant of grace whereby God graciously ordains to elect Christ as the one through whom human redemption is brought about” (83).

Crisp then notes four areas in which Barth differs from the Reformed tradition:
  1. Unlike the Reformed tradition, Barth is critical of natural theology.  Barth remains critical of natural theology because it often results in humans making God in their own image.  According to Barth, “We can only know what God is like where God breaks into our world in an event of revelation and makes himself known to us” (86).  Jesus Christ is the primary revelation in which God makes Godself known.
  2. Barth denies “an apologetic purpose to the doctrine of creation” (88).  Barth, correctly, argues that Genesis 1–3 should not be read as a scientific textbook or an apologetic text, but instead as a dogmatic text.  Crisp, as an evangelical, has some problems with Barth’s views on the matter, but I’m with Barth on this one.
  3. Crisp never says explicitly “third” in between what he explicitly lists as “second” and “fourth,” which is one of my biggest pet peeves when reading an essay/book.  I’ll just assume that the third difference is Barth’s hermeneutical differences with conservative evangelicals.
  4. “Unlike classical theologians, Barth does not believe creation is a timeless act of an atemporal God, whose essence remains unaffected by the utterance of the divine fiat, and bringing into being of the created order” (90).  Barth instead believes the incarnation should control what one thinks of God’s creative act.  For Barth, however, God’s time is different than human time and God is eternal (by which Barth means, “He is simultaneously before time, above time, and after time” (CD, III/1, 67).  Barth’s account of God’s relation to time makes little sense to me, but neither does the classical view, because both views place God as simultaneously past, present, and future.  I do not deny, however, that God created time.

Crisp concludes that Barth’s emphasis upon God creating through Christ is consistent with Scripture at some points, but in others “goes beyond the biblical affirmation that Christ is the agent through whom and form whom all things are created” (93).  Crisp, however, notes that other figures, such as Colin Gunton, are more supportive of Barth’s project.

Crisp is also cautious about Barth’s critique of natural theology.  I have mixed feelings on the matter.  I do think in some ways that Barth over states his case, but in other ways think his overstatement is needed.  (When I finish blogging through Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology, I was to do some work on a paper I wrote a few years ago on Barth’s critique of natural theology and turn it into a short blog series.)  Crisp offers up Nicholas Wolterstorff and Alvin Plantinga as an alternative to Barth and a way of better utilizing Calvin for a contemporary natural theology.

Crisp, while he has disagreements with Barth, helpfully notes that Barth is still a theologian worth interacting with and worth learning a from.  I greatly enjoyed reading Crisp’s chapter.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Barth and Evangelical Theology: Part 4, God and Election

After getting bogged down on my thesis, blogging about Hauerwas’ Hannah’s Child, and taking a slight break, I am finally returning to Barth and Evangelical Theology. The chapter I will comment on is called “A Bold Innovator: Barth on God and Election,” by the editor of the volume, Sung Wook Chung, a Korean theologian educated at Harvard and Oxford who teaches at Denver Seminary.

I was slightly surprised that the editor of Barth and Evangelical Theology was the figure so far in the volume with the most opposition to Barth’s theology. He says in the introduction to the chapter, “I am not in agreement with [postconservative theologians] that Barth’s theology is the hope for the future of evangelical theology. Rather, I am convinced that conservative evangelical theology should take issues with many points of Barth’s theology” (60).

While acknowledging that Barth believed in the Reformation principles of sola scriptura, sola gratia, a christocentric emphasis, and what Chung calls “theologianhood of all believers,” Chung argues that Barth was an “innovator” when it comes to the doctrine of God. First, Chung critiques Barth’s “actualism,” by which means Barth’s argument that “God is who He is in the act of His revelation” (63). Chung sites Princeton theologian George Hunsinger, who argues Barth “thinks primarily in terms of events and relationships rather than monadic or self-contained substances” (64). Chung opposes Barth’s emphasis upon God’s action rather than substance, thus arguing it is against scripture and thus anti-evangelical. Scripture however, often focuses more on how God acts to redeem Israel, in Christ, etc., and spends much less time discussing God’s substance. Chung seems unaware that Barth argued the economic Trinity (how God acts in relation to his creation in salvation history) is the immanent Trinity (the interior life of God).

Second, Chung critiques Barth’s view of God “as the one who loves in freedom” (65). Chung believes that one should begin not with “God is love” but instead with “God is spirit” or “God is good.” Because Barth places the emphasis upon God’s free love and free loving actions, Chung believes Barth argues “love is God,” which is unfounded (66). Chung argues that “one who loves in freedom can be evil,” but Barth obviously believes God is not evil and that God’s love is good and different from human love. Chung thus seems to define an evangelical view of God with a stream of Reformed thought that emphasizes God as spirit and God’s attributes of goodness, truthfulness, and holiness above love.

Third, Chung critiques what he calls Barth’s “metaphysics of relationship,” primarily because Barth “hated speculation” and “never defined God from a perspective of substantialist metaphysics.” Again, Chung seems unaware that for Barth, the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity. Chung even argues, quite inaccurately, that “Barth’s relational ontology is a quite innovative pattern of thought that has no precedent in the history of Christian theology” (70). Then he says, “Of course, we may say that the three Cappadocian Fathers were an exception” (70). So, Chung shows a dislike of social views of the Trinity, which are present within Eastern Orthodoxy and recent western theologians like Colin Gunton, Stanley Grenz, Jurgen Moltmann, etc. So once again, Chung appears to only take seriously certain forms of Reformed theology.

Fourth, Chung critiques Barth’s doctrine of election, which centers upon Christ as “the direct object of divine election” (72) and the “Subject of election” (74). Thus, “In [Jesus], all human beings are directed indirectly” (72). Barth, while opposed to holding to universalism as dogma, held to it as an “article of hope,” much like some contemporary Eastern Orthodox theologians (73). Chung is correct that few in church history discussed this view as the primary form of election, it does have support from some passages in Scripture and various figures in tradition. Chung thus correctly argues that Barth holds together both Calvinistic and Arminian tendencies.

Throughout the chapter, I found that Chung could not see outside of his lens of conservative Reformed evangelical theology in viewing Barth, who was a Reformed theologian of a different mold. One point I will seed to Chung is that Barth at times speaks of the Trinity in modalistic language, which is upsetting, but in other contexts he does not. It appears Barth, like Nicholas Lash, uses quasi-modalistic language to maintain an emphasis upon the oneness of God. As a person who is from a Arminian background and appreciates aspects of Eastern Christianity, Barth’s doctrines of God and election are less upsetting to me than to someone like Chung. I was pretty surprised that in a volume of essays that are supposed to constructively and appreciatively interact with Barth’s theology from an evangelical perspective that Chung’s essay was so critical.