Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Evangelical Theology: Book Review

The Book

Evangelical Theology: An Introducton
Karl Barth

I came across this book quite by accident. I had finished a novel and wanted to grab some weightier substance to crunch my brain cells on and so I searched my local library for various names I thought might serve that purpose.

Through their recommendations, I came across Karl Barth—a name that I recognized from my undergrads. So I clicked and was confronted with the Evangelical Theology: An Introduction audiobook. I snagged it and listened to it all the way to Walt Disney World (My wife was running the Glass Slipper Challenge).

No, I did not finish it in one weekend. No, I did not digest everything there is to learn in this work. But what I learned, I will share in this review using quotes that I think can be loosely attributed to this book. Please bear in mind that I listened to the book and furiously wrote down quotes.

I absolutely plan to buy this book and give it a thorough reading before shelving it for reference.

The Review

I gave the book 4 stars on GoodReads. The content is absolutely fantastic. The only problem I have is with the way certain things are phrased. I understand that Theology is not an easy subject, yet I feel that things may be phrased more simply. Perhaps this, again, has to do with the fact that I listened to the book and did not read it. It certainly does not lend itself to audio.

This could also be due to the fact that the work is a translation into English. That always makes for dodgy literature since translators may be to blame. Yet, there are moments when Barth bores through the dense language with a clear, condensed thought that cuts to the quick. I will not share some of those statements:
Think of Christianity more as a new nation and less as a system of beliefs.
Here, Karl Barth was referring to this new community that developed after Christ's resurrection. This new community that was called "Christian" in Antioch. They were a new kingdom that was held together by their King. They were less dependent on creeds than they were on their love for one other. They had no doctrine but the story of what Jesus had done. They had no qualifications other than what they heard from Christ.

Perhaps it would be good to remember that part of primitive Christianity. To be evangelical is to be devoted to basic biblical truths. It does not get much more basic than this.
How is your heart? That is the question every theologian must face.
Barth hones in on the study of Theology a lot in this book. He places a greater burden on theologian, for the theologian should know the most and be responsible for more than a person who does not study scripture. Theology is a dynamic study—the process should fundamentally change the theologian. Inevitably, the theologian will have to ask themselves: What about my heart? There will be nowhere to hide from the answer.
Christian faith is not a belief THAT but a belief IN...
Theology is the study of a person, not a thing. Likewise, the Christian faith is a belief in the person of Jesus Christ and not a belief that anything happened or that anything is. Without the living Christ, our faith is useless.
It is terrible when God keeps silence and, by keeping silent, speaks.
Returning to the Theologian's struggle to know and believe, Barth touches on the single most disturbing part of the study of theology: times of silence.

There are times when the theologian may cry out for understanding or clarification but hears no answer. But the silence is not God withholding a response, it is God's intended response. This could be due to a number of things like:
  • The theologian's stubbornness.
  • Some undealt with sin.
  • God's timing.
This leads right into another quotable from Karl Barth, "The theologian can only have God for himself when he has God against himself." That is, true faith is held against all doubt. True faith says, I believe. Lord, help my unbelief. It is not a stubborn refusal of facts to the contrary. It is the act of holding on to facts that were true yesterday and allowing them to carry you into tomorrow.


Again, there is no way I got all of this down. I listened to the book and wrote this review from memory with only the quotes to guide me. This review is more impression than actual rendering of the writer's work.

So I would recommend that you go out and read this book for yourself. It is a tougher, rewarding read so be cautioned in that regard. Do not let it intimidate you. Read and get what you can out of it.

Note that Barth does not bother to defend basic questions in this book. He assumes that the Bible is authoritative and that God exists and that Theology is important, etc. He tackles the next steps after those things are sorted out.
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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