Monday, November 23, 2009

Emerging Church and Karl Barth

Our missional church study group is studying a collection of essays published as An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, Edited by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones. Baker Books, 2007.

One of the better essays in this book is:
Digging Up The Past: Karl Barth (The Reformed Giant) as Friend of the Emerging Church
by Chris Erdman

It is remarkable to me to see the new conversation about emergent church connecting with some old, classic theological reflection from Karl Barth. When I see the old and the new connecting in fresh ways I pay attention. For people of my generation, Karl Barth was a very important theologian in our education. Indeed, Barth was a revolutionary thinker who had a giant impact on the post-World War Two generation of pastors, especially in the Reformed Tradition. This quote from Barth, in a book on Emergent Theology, is very relevant today:

This quote is from Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, volume 1:

"How disastrously the Church must misunderstand itself if it can imagine that theology is the business of a few theoreticians who are specially appointed for the task.... Again, how disastrously the Church must misunderstand itself if it can imagine that theological reflection is a matter for quiet situations and periods that suit and invite contemplation, a kind of peace-time luxury.... As though the venture of proclamation did not mean that the Church permanently finds itself in an emergency! As though theology could be done properly without reference to this constant emergency! Let there be no mistake. Because of these distorted ideas about theology, and dogmatics in particular, there arises and persists in the life of the Church a lasting and growing deficit for which we cannot expect those particularly active in this function to supply the needed balance. The whole Church must seriously want a serious theology if it is to have a serious theology."