Barth’s Church Dogmatics

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Vol. 1.1 and 1.2 of Karl Barth’s 14 volume Church Dogmatics came in yesterday (thanks to Chaz) and I am as happy as a hyena! Those who love theology understand why. Barth is considered by many as the greatest theologian of the 20th century, a modern church father, and it seems his influence is increasing as the years go by. The Church Dogmatics is a set which one would easily choose as the one set of books (next to the Bible) one would bring with him to a desert island. So I’m ready to be exiled!

But the arrival of Barth’s books caused me  to again ponder over what I’d really like to do in life: master theology or law? Choosing mastery in one means being average in the other. Which will it be? Vern Poythress answered the question in favor of theology (see quote below); but how would I answer it?


While I was doing my Ph.D. work at Harvard, my interest in the Bible
and theology continued, and I found that I was devoting all my spare
time to reading in this type of area. Then I had to reassess
which was my first love. In thinking and praying about it, I decided
that my first love had become theology. I wanted to spend the
rest of my life there rather than in mathematics. But I was in the
middle of my doctoral program. I decided to go ahead and finish it,
then make the switch. I could see that one did not have sufficient time
in one lifetime to be both a good mathematician and a good theologian,
so it was necessary to choose.

(from An Interview with Vern Poythress by Marco Gonzales)

Quote: We are Spiritually Inflammable

We are born again, we are Christians and yet sin rages within us. Our lives fall short of their potential. Our lives are not straight. They are transgressive and anomalous. There can be no bigger mistake than to forget this power and force and prevalence of sin in our lives. Indeed, we must build our whole spiritual strategy on this fact. We must remember that because there is sin in us we are spiritually inflammable. One thought from Hell, one suggestion, one opportunity to sin, can set our whole lives ablaze. That means that, as Christians, we have to live far from the boundary. We cannot live at the outer limits of the permitted.

— DONALD MACLEOD, A Faith to Live By

Poverty of Spirit

Kingdom Life in a Fallen World   - By: Sinclair FergusonIn preparation for tomorrow’s talk on the Beautitudes which I will be giving to a group of policemen I read Sinclair Ferguson’s book on the Sermon on the Mount and here are some quotes which touched me:

We are poor men and women in ourselves, with no righteousness of our own to plead before God. We are bankrupt, debtors in his court. Our plea must be for mercy.”

“There is much teaching on how to be filled with the Spirit, but where can we learn what it means to be spiritually emptied – emptied of self-confidence, self-importance, and self-righteousness?”

And here’s the quote which convicted me most:

“In fact, there is no sadder commentary on our lack of this spiritual poverty than the readiness so many of us have to let others know what we think. But the man who is poor in spirit is the man who has been silenced by God, and seeks only to speak what he has learned in humility from him.”

That is a very interesting thought – the blessing of being silenced by God. This blessing comes only through much pain; but that’s the way God’s greatest blessings come. It means being broken, being humbled, maybe even being despised and forsaken, so that you can be alone with God and learn to depend completely and solely on him. But it’s only through being silenced that we can learn to truly speak according to his will. Somewhere Shakespeare speaks of words that are nothing more than sound and fury, signifying nothing. Maybe because they are words that have not been forged in the deep silences of the soul that has been alone with God.

Valley of Vision

A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions- Gift Edition, black bonded leather  - By: Arthur Bennett“Sin is my greatest evil,

but thou art my greatest good;

I have cause to loathe myself,

and not to seek self-honour,

for no one desires to commend his own dunghill.”

My reading this morning from The Valley of Vision (a collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions) on “Self Knowledge’ reminds me of that verse in Jeremiah about not seeking great things for one’s self. To seek one’s honor is no honor at all, especially when one knows how undeserving he is of honor since there are a lot of things that still need changing in his life. From a different angle, here’s what Matthew Henry has to say about this verse:

” The frowns of the world would not disquiet us as they do if we did not foolishly flatter ourselves with the hopes of its smiles and court and covet them too much. It is our over-fondness for the good things of this present time that makes us impatient under its evil things….”

“It is absurd for thee to be now painting thy own cabin. Canst thou expect to be high when all are brought low, to be full when all about thee are empty?” To seek ourselves more than the public welfare, especially to seek great things to ourselves when the public is in danger, is very unbecoming Israelites. We may apply it to this world, and our state in it; God in his providence is breaking down and pulling up; every thing is uncertain and perishing; we cannot expect any continuing city here. What folly is it then to seek great things for ourselves here, where every thing is little and nothing certain!”