Monday, September 23, 2013

Karl Barth's Evangelical Theology

I love to stumble across good books in obscure places like yard sales, thrift stores, etc. Last January I picked up a copy of Karl Barth's Evangelical Theology at a thrift store while Cyd and I were on the church marriage retreat. I finally got around to reading it this month. Of course many consider Barth to have been the most influential theologian of the 20th century for his course correction of Liberal theology, though many conservatives and fundamentals would contend that he didn't go far enough his correctives. I have engaged some of his writing before, but it has been several years since I have read any of his works. This volume was the result of his visit to America and a series of lectures he did at the University of Chicago.

Reading Barth is challenging because his thought process is so thorough that he makes the reader rethink everything before affirming anything. Incidentally, Barth considers this to be one of the necessary components of any theologian. A man who is most remembered for his multi-volume, Church Dogmatics, in discussing the different disciplines of theological study says that systematic theology  is a contradiction in terms. "There is at any rate no justification for the construction and proclamation of a system of Christian truth developed out of some definite conceptualization of it. What should rule in the community is not a concept or a principle, but solely the Word of God attested to in the Scriptures and vivified by the Holy Spirit" (180).

What a challenge for those of us concerned with theology to make sure that our theological systems and structures are not erected as a wall to the movement of the Holy Spirit and the will of God but that they are there as supports to the ongoing work of the Word made flesh!


Last night I had the strangest dream. I don't dream often, so the fact that I remembered the dream is amazing to me. It was among the most vivid dreams I have ever had. I awoke thinking that it had really just happened. What was it? I dreamed that I was talking on the phone with my dad, just like we had done many times before. We chatted about life. About what the kids are doing, about the undefeated Mercer football team, about what was going on at church. It was as if life was the way it was 2 years ago. It was as if nothing had changed, certainly not death. It was as if we hadn't missed a beat in our relationship. I guess that is true in many ways. Do I talk to you him now? No! Do often ask myself what he would say or do about different situations? What kind of counsel he would give me about any number of things? YES!

Yet, I can't help but sense his presence in my life through the laughter and smiles of my children. Through the reminder from scripture that I will see him again as we worship around at the feet of the Lamb (Revelation 21-22). Perhaps that made the dream a good thing for me.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Family Vocation

I recently finished Your Other Vocation by Elton Trueblood. The book though dated now in some ways (it was originally published in the 1950s) has some prophetic things to same about family life. Trueblood wrote about things that the church is now wrestling with in tremendous ways. Allow me to summarize some of his thoughts. He contends that a man may change jobs, business associates, and any number of occupational components but we cannot change our children. We can always get another job. We can always make adjustments to our career. In fact the new average is that Millenials will have 2-3 careers during their lifetime. "If we lose with our children our loss is terribly and frighteningly final" (82). We don't get second chances, usually to make it happen when it comes to parenting and nurturing our children. Yet how many parents work long hours and distance themselves from their children because of their career in an effort to "provide" for their children but the completely miss the opportunity to provide what they most want...and need.

Trueblood goes on to write about how our faith must impact our family life if it is real and genuine. "What occurs at the altar is insignificant unless what occurs there is supported by what occurs in the kitchen" (82).
A challenging chapter on family, that outshines the rest of the book.


As we make our way through September 11, 2013 I am reminded of the specific context I found myself on September 11, 2001. I was a recent college graduate from Mercer University, the Harvard of the South, as one of my professors use to say. I chose two majors, both within the liberal arts school, which meant that I was largely unemployable without more schooling. After continuing to work at a bookstore I worked at as a student, I was able to get a teaching job at a small private school in the south part of Bibb county. It was a blessing. I was primarily hired to teach Government/Economics part-time, but I was given more courses to justify paying me full-time. I taught students in the 6th, 8th, 11th, and 12th grades. They were all unique with different challenges and joys. I distinctly remember receiving the news of an attack then watching with students as the second plane struck one of the towers. 

The rest of that day shifted from being about accomplishing lesson plans to counseling students about fears, hopes, dreams, and the role of faith in this event. The ones who orchestrated this tragedy were motivated by their own theology, albeit an incorrect theology in my opinion. Perhaps one of the great tragedies that ensued after 9-11 was that Christians produced a plethora of bad theology in response to the attacks. What I found myself doing was providing comfort, hope, and a truer biblical perspective of all that was unfolding in the world in relation to God's word and his work in the world. 

I have sense encountered several of those students I taught, both in person and through social media. I dare say that I would have remembered them regardless of the events of 9-11, but perhaps because of that day they are indelibly pressed into my brain and my heart. Now many of them are married with kids of their own, hopefully making a difference in the world around them.