Dogmatics in Outline


Here’s 2 confessions (which I may have made before).

First, There are many times when I post up a book which I think is worth reading … most of the time I haven’t finished reading the whole book yet. It’s more of saying this is a book I plan to read or has caught my attention. I do have at least 4 books which I have finished reading which I hope to post up in due time – perhaps during the Chinese New Year holidays (we’ll see). But I though the introduction grabbed me so much I need to let it out!

Second, I have not finished reading a book by Karl Barth before. Heard and read a lot about him but somehow 160 page book seems more managable than his 13 volume magnum opus Church Dogmatics. My motivation is simple … since he’s considered by many at least one of the most important theologians of the 20th century, I should at least read a little bit 🙂 A book review helps to wet one’s appetite.

Third, and this is not a confession. I’m teaching catechism to a new batch of adults for baptism and affirmation soon. One of the basic intros or reintroductions to the faith is using the framework of the Apostle’s Creed. I thought reading this book will enrich my own deeper education.

And now, excerpts from the foreword to the Torchbook edition which kept me awake a little longer last night:

“… Is not the term “Systematic Theology” as paradoxical as ‘wooden iron’?

… A ‘system’ is an edifice of thought, constructed on certain fundamental conceptions which are selected in accordance with a certain philosophy by a method which corresponds to these conceptions. Theology cannot be carried on in confinement or under the pressure of such a construction. The subject of theology is the history of the communion of God with man and of man with God. This history is proclaimed, in ancient times and today, in the Old and New Testaments. The message of the Christian Church has it’s origin and its contents in this history. The subject of theology is, in this sense, ‘Word of God.’ Theology is a science and a teaching which feels itself responsible to the living command of this specific subject and to nothing else in heaven or on earth, in the choice of its methods, its questions and answers, its concepts and language, its goals and limitations. Theology is a free science because it is based on and determined by kingly freedom of the word of God: for that very reason it can never be ‘Systematic Theology.’, p. 5

And the following surely redeems the words “dogma” and “dogmatik” for me 🙂 and challenges me to go deeper than superficiality. Of course, I admit I still do not see myself as a detailed researcher or strong on details. But that does not deter me from plunging deeper into a better understanding or appreciation of the subject matter at hand.

“…He who is interested in only the superficial impression given by unpleasant catchwords cannot and will not able participate in the truths (of the dogmas) or the truth (of the dogma) … He who, after learning a little about the meaning of ‘dogmatics,’ undertakes to delve more into detail, will, I promise, discover (regardless of the method he may employ) in this theological discipline and in theology in general a great amount of necessary, thrilling, and beautiful tasks which are fruitful for the Church and for he world.”, p. 6

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