Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Distinctively Barth

I am working on a paper Karl Barth's Doctrine of Creation: implications for the dialogue between science and theology. (Here are the slides for a talk on the subject).
Some might consider this all problematic, particularly because of Barth's famous objection to natural theology.

It is helpful reading John Webster's summary of the uniqueness of Barth's approach to the Doctrine of Creation in Chapter 5: Creation and Humanity in his book Barth. Here is an extract:
Barth offered resistance to the gradual metamorphosis of the Christian doctrine of creation into an account of the origins of reality which lacked much by way of Christian specificity. The atrophy of the particularities of Christian theological conviction has been an especially striking feature of those theologies of creation which have assumed that the co-ordination of theology and natural sciences requires the suspension of positive dogmatics in favor of more generic concepts - perhaps the most favoured of which is the notion of  `cause'. There is a very long history here: ... the result of over-anxious theologians conceding territory to colonizing natural scientists....   
The doctrine is “not simply an account of origins, the doctrine …. talks of the creator’s identity rather than of some opaque act undertaken by a nameless force.”
Indeed Barth has a distinctly different starting point from most engaged in the dialogue today. They appeared to take as their starting point current scientific knowledge and are concerned with a generic God which may or may not be consistent with science.

Barth's approach reveals just how problematic much of the dialogue may be from a distinctly Christian perspective. But it does not rule out a dialogue in general.

Barth's Doctrine has much to say about questions that are wrestled with: Why are we here? Why does science work? Why is their order in the world?

Indeed, Barth turns things around because he suggests that the most fundamental question is not "Does God exist?" but rather "Does the world exist?".

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