Monday, July 25, 2011

Cat moving preparation

I and the four (yep, count 'em, four) cats are at the Vet today, trying to determine what is the best option for moving the four yep, count 'em, four) cats.

They don't like the cat carriers at all, but they have quieted down now that we are at the Vet's office.

The howled in the car for the whole 10 minute drive. Ajax was, of course the loudest.

-Here's to a good cat tranquilizer!

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Test post

This is a test post using blogpress app for my iPhone.

This is the house I will be moving into in less than two weeks. Yahoo!

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Location:Cobbs Dr,Waco,United States

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Barth I.2 §15.3

The Miracle of Christmas.

This entire section deals with the issue of the virgin birth of Christ.  Barth, opposing his most frequent opponents, liberal theologians, decisively affirms the dogma of the virgin birth of Christ.  Many liberal theologians in the early 20th century had come to deny the historicity, or the reality, of the virgin birth.  They denied this miracle, as they denied all other miracles, on the basis of its physical impossibility in light of modern physics and biology.  Barth, on the other hand radically defends the dogma of the virgin Birth.

For Barth, the virgin birth is a sign.  That is, it signifies something greater, points beyond itself to some other reality.  This "something greater" is the incomprehensible mystery of the incarnation, the Word assuming human nature.  For this sign to truly signify the deep inconceivable mystery that is the incarnation, the sign must be equally mysterious and inconceivable: hence, the birth of Christ from a virgin. 

Barth begins by saying that this dogma is attested in scripture, and he is of course correct.  Both Matthew and Luke speak of Jesus' birth from Mary, a virgin.  The question, which Barth answers in the affirmative, is: is the virgin birth part of the "core testimony" of the gospels?

For Barth, the virgin birth is important for several reasons:
1) it states that Jesus had a human mother, making Jesus a human "like us."
2) it eliminates the possibility of docetism on the one hand (that Jesus was a mere divine phantom) and Ebionitism/adoptionism on the other hand (that Jesus was a mere human, born of a mother and father, and later adopted as the Son of God).
3) perhaps most importantly, for Barth's own situation, the affirmation of the virgin birth protects against going down the road of liberal theology.

Barth's entire system seems to be fighting liberalism at every front.  He so despised liberal theology, that he wanted to head them off at every turn.  I think also, at times, liberal theology blinded Barth in his own internal logic, and I think that the virgin birth is one of those places.

For example, Barth has a fairly lengthy discussion on sex in this section which I have had a hard time deciphering. 

For example, Barth writes the following:
"Here we cannot consider the quite un-biblical view that sexual life as such is to be regarded as an evil to be removed, to that the active sign is to be sought in the fact that this removal is here presumed to have taken place." (CD I.2 §15.3 p. 190). 
By this I take Barth to mean that the virgin birth is not affirmed to appease any puritanical notion that sex is evil and dirty and for Christ to have been born through a sexual union would thus be unworthy of the Son of God.

But, not a page later, Barth writes the following:
"By this action [virgin birth] of God sin is excluded and nullified.  And to this particular action of God the natus ex virgine points.  It is the sign that the sinful life of sex is excluded as the origin of the human existence of Jesus Christ." (CD I.2 §15.3 p. 191).
Now, perhaps I am missing something here, but it seems as if Barth has turned 180 degrees.  Here he seems to be saying that the virgin birth is the sign because it excludes the sinful sexual life of humans.

What Barth appears to be saying is the the sinful sexual life of humans is not capable of receiving the human origin of Jesus.  Yet, he goes on to say, that even Mary, in her innocence and virginity, was in no way capable of receiving the Son of God.  She had no innate capacity, no "point of contact" with the divine, making her worthy to receive the Son of God.  For Barth, the very action of God in the virgin birth creates this capacity in Mary to receive.  But logically, if God had to create such a capacity in Mary, why could he not have also created this capacity through a sexual union between Mary and Joseph?  Barth does not answer this question. 

The best answer Barth gives is to say that the sign must adequately point to the mystery of the incarnation and that only birth from a virgin, in its impossibility and inconceivability, truly points to the mystery of the incarnation.

Barth touches briefly on other stories of miraculous births in antiquity, including numerous other stories of births without sexual union.  I must say that here Barth's argument was very weak.  He admits to other stories in antiquity that speak of "assertions from the realm of heathen mythology which sound very similar." (CD I.2 §15.3 p. 197).  And Barth's response: Well, they sound similar, but they are not miracles, because they did not come about from the true God.  That is no different from the argument that says, "well, my religion is true and yours is false." Or "I believe in the true God and you serve a false God."  It is circular reasoning: My God is true, and so his miracles are real, your god is false, and therefore your miracles are not miracles at all.  I think that Barth failed to put the virgin birth in its context in its literary milieu and to evaluate these stories on such grounds.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The We Heart Waco Farewell Tour

Well, I am down to 16 days left in Waco, TX before I load all that we own into a rental truck and head off for a three day road trip to North Carolina. 

In our last 2 weeks+, Brooke and I are conducting what we are calling our "We heart Waco farewell tour."  We have made a list of some of our favorite places to go in Waco and we are determined to visit them all.  I might blog about some of these, but I think Brooke will get them all.  So, go visit her blog, to read about our first few accomplishments.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Barth I.2 §15.1-2.ii

This section of Barth's Church Dogmatics can be summed up in the phrase "very God and very man."  Or, if you like, the Word became flesh.  Barth is concerned in this section to highlight the mystery of the incarnation.  How is it that God takes on human flesh?  How can the two, which for Barth are in complete contradiction, come together to be unified in the person of Jesus Christ?

For Barth, Christology, who Christ is, is at the heart of all of dogmatics.  To fail to answer the question of Christology is to fail in all of theology.  Christ and who he is lies at the center of Barth's entire undertaking.  And, at the heart of Christology is the problem of the incarnation, or how the Word becomes flesh and unites the divine and human nature. This problem of Christology as Barth calls it must remain a mystery.  There is no explaining this mystery away, but one must let it persist as a mystery.

Barth is careful (as always) to protect the freedom of God in the incarnation.  That is, there was no necessity either inside or outside of God that compelled the incarnation.  It was not the necessary consequence of creation or even the fall. The incarnation remains God's free act of mercy.  As Barth writes:
"That is, in His Word becoming flesh, God acts with inward freedom and not in fulfillment of a law to which he is supposedly subject." (CD I.2 §15.2 p. 135).
Further protecting God's freedom is Barth's conclusion that the incarnation in no way limits or diminishes God in any way.  The Word of God, the λόγος, remains the Word of God in all of His deity.

Yet, the Word of God really does take on flesh.  He really assumes human nature "like us."  Barth is clear that even though the divinity of God is not diminished through the incarnation, still, the incarnation is a true assumption of human nature "like us."  Jesus is not a demi-god or an ideal man, he is a man "like us." For Barth, if in the incarnation God did not become "like us" he would be of no help to us.

Barth is careful to avoid any form of adoptionism.  There was not first a man Jesus whom the Word of God assumed.  No, This was a literal incarnation, the human nature united with the divine nature in the person of Jesus Christ. 

For Barth, σάρξ, is a neutral or negative term.  In its neutral sense, it is merely the stuff we are made of.  In the negative sense, is it what separates humans from God and other animals.  It is the result of the fall and what makes humans liable to the judgment of God. In the incarnation, Christ assumes flesh in both senses, but more importantly in the second sense.  In this sense, Christ takes on human flesh in all of its liability to the judgment of God.  This is the mystery and the miracle of the incarnation.  That God takes on the very nature of man that is liable to judgment is inconceivable. As Barth writes:
"He would not be revelation if He were not man.  And he would not be man if he were not 'flesh' in this definite sense.  That the Word became 'flesh' in this definite sense, this consummation of God's condescension, this inconceivability which is greater than the inconceivability of the diving majesty and the inconceivability of human darkness put together: this is the revelation of the Word of God." (CD I.2 §15.2 p. 152).
Indeed for Barth, the greatness of Christ, his perfection, lay not in his good deeds or special morality, but in his obedience, taking on human flesh in all of its liability to God's judgment, and doing so willingly. 

And here is the money quote:
"Mariology is an excrescence, i.e., a diseased construct of theological thought.  Excrescences must be excised." (CD I.2 §15.2 p. 139).
If you had any doubt about how Barth feels about the Catholic practice of the veneration of Mary, take a look at the definition of the word "excrescence" from
1.  an abnormal outgrowth, usually harmless, on an animal or vegetable body.
2.  a normal outgrowth, as hair or horns.
3.  any disfiguring addition.