Friday, October 20, 2017

Well, good for her. And count me among those who "seemed to be sure what was right and what was wrong."

"Gerty Pestalozzi and Eduard Thurneysen really tried to understand the different problems each of the three had and did not advise a certain direction.  But others seemed to be sure what was right and what was wrong. . . .  His mother very often expressed how little she agreed to what he was doing.  In 1933, when they consider the option of divorce, he tells his mother that he is tired of having to discuss all issues with her:  'Again:  I would be very happy if you could tell yourself that a man who is 47 years old should be able to know what he does when he comes to such a conclusion after a marriage of 20 years, and if you could trust this son of yours who after all is not unfamiliar to you that he does not want unscrupulously [(er nicht gewissenlos will)].'  His mother responds the following day harshly that God’s commandments are for all.  'What is the most brilliant theology good for, if it is to be shipwrecked in one’s own house [(Was hilft die scharfsinnigste Theologie, wenn sie im eigenen Hause Schiffbruch leidet)]?'"

     Christiane Tietz, "Karl Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum," Theology today 74, no. 2 (July 2017):  106-107 (86-111).  There are problems with this article:  the fact that the wife of Barth's youth gets only a few lines in a footnote by way of a biography, but Charlotte, nine short paragraphs in a eponymously entitled sub-section of the main body; the clumsy translations; Tietz' (starstruck?) refusal to cut bait (as exemplified by the condescension exhibited here towards those who "seemed to be sure what was right and what was wrong", as well as the word "harshly"); and so forth.  And then there are the serious problems with Barth as outlined by (but by no means condemned in) it:  the compromised life, the theology of personal "experience [(Erfahrung)]" (!) and feeling constructed to justify it, and the implications of the said theology of personal experience for the very great confusions our own time, despite Barth's purported "No!" to all of that (though of course I am by no means a Barth specialist!).  If this makes me "'the legalist that under different circumstances [(i.e. without the persistent adultery) Barth] might have become'" (111), then so be it.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"intellectual resources about which the contemporary academy, for the most part, has only crude and tendentious intimations"

     "What . . . academicians [invoking ‘the academic motif of intellectual freedom, patient research, evidence-based judgment, and rational argument’] ignore . . . is that the gospel within the church has continually been at the center of intense and critical dialectic:  textual, hermeneutical, historical, intercultural, philosophical, theological.  Further, the church has steadfastly recognized the revelatory powers of inspiration, witness, repentance, and communal conflict within and without, as a stimulant to continuous redefinition and purification.  These are intellectual resources about which the contemporary academy, for the most part, has only crude and tendentious intimations.
     "Christian scholars knowledgeable in the long dialectical tradition of their faith know that it has zestfully grappled with criticism in diverse cultures and centuries.  It has been able to learn:  often when it was right, and also from when it was wrong.  If Christian scholars have the insight and the nerve to believe that the gospel and its church are gifted, that together they offer a privileged insight, a 'determinative perspective,' then they will be grateful to grapple some more, using the very insights of the gospel to judge critically both the church and the academy and the culture.
     "But if they lose their nerve and are intimidated by their academic colleagues, . . . they, too, will end up judging the church by the academy and the gospel by the culture.  In time, they will probably lose the capacity to tell them apart.  They will fail to judge the academy, or to notice intellectuals who are in thrall, not free; argument that is not rational; judgments that have become dogmas roughly enforced."

     James Tunstead Burtchaell, The dying of the light:  the disengagement of colleges and universities from their Christian churches (Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans, 1998), 850-851.
     . . . sophisticated learning is [not] like wealth and power, those inexorable corrupters of authentic faith.  Yet . . . higher learning, if not an irresistible seducer, is still a very able one.  The mind's affluence does seem at least as beguiling as that of the body.  There was, in the stories told here, little learned rage against the dying of the light.  Yet this book is written in the belief that the ambition to unite 'knowledge and vital piety' is a wholesome and hopeful and stubborn one.  It is a shame that so much of yesterday's efforts has become compost for those of tomorrow. 
     . . . The failures of the past, so clearly patterned, so foolishly ignored, and so lethally repeated, emerge pretty clearly from these stories.  Anyone who requires further imagination to recognize and remedy them is not up to the taks of trying again, and better.

Veni Creator Spiritus

  Standard critical edition fingered by the 3rd rev. (2005) edition of the ODCC:  G. M. Dreves, Lateinische Hymnendichter des Mittelalters 2 =AHMA 50 (1907):  193-194.

God's "grace would not be grace without His [wrath]"

"the grace of God would not be grace if it were separated from the holiness in which God causes only His own and therefore His good will to prevail and be done, holding aloof from and opposing everything that is contrary to it, judging and excluding and destroying everything that resists it. And grace would not be free grace if it were bound to any single form of its appearance and manifestation, if God always had to show Himself monotonously as 'love,' or what we think of as love, if He were not permitted to negate that which has to be negated, if He could not conceal Himself when He is resisted, revealing His grace only in the alien form of unwillingness and wrath. Above all, grace would not be grace, the serious and effective address of God to man, the effective establishment of fellowship with him, if God did not oppose man's opposition to Himself, if He left man to go his own way unaccused and uncondemned and unpunished, if He ignored the miserable pride of man, if the man of sin had nothing to fear from Him, if it were not a fearful thing to fall into His hands (Heb. 1229). . . . His grace would not be grace without His judgment. . . ."

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, 490 =KD IV/1, 545-546.  But of course, on the other hand,
That His grace would not be grace without His judgment is just as true as the supposed opposite with which it is indissolubly connected, that there is no holiness of God which can be separated from His grace, and therefore no wrath of Godthis is something which, unfortunately, A. Ritschl did not even remotely understandthat can be anything other than the redemptive fire of His love, which has its final and proper work in the fact that for our sake, for the sake of man fallen in sin and guilt, He did not spare His only Son.

Monday, October 16, 2017

"You owe God a penny, and He will not accept a pearl from you in its place."

"You owe God a penny, and He will not accept a pearl from you in its place.  Having lost chastity, do not allow fornication to remain in its place and give alms because of it:  God will not accept them, for in place of sanctification He requires sanctification....
     "Saint Ephraim said, 'In summertime, do not struggle against the scorching heat in winter clothing.'  Let each man reap by means that oppose the iniquity he has sown.  Every disease is cured with its own remedies.  And you, who are overcome with envy, why do you battle against sleep?"

     Saint Isaac the Syrian, Homily 5/42-43.  The ascetical homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, rev. 2nd ed., trans. from the Greek and Syriac by the Holy Transfiguration Monastery (Boston, 2011), 156-157.  Cf. Mystic treatises by Isaac of Nineveh translated from Bedjan’s Syriac text with an introduction and registers by A. J. Wensink (Amsterdam, 1923), 43-44/63.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

"The art of man is the expression of his rational and disciplined delight in the forms and laws of the creation of which he forms a part."

     John Ruskin, The laws of F├ęsole . . . (Boston:  Dana Estes & company, 1877), 11 =chap. 1, All great art is praise.  I was put onto this by Michael Hanby:  "Homo faber and/or Homo adorans:  on the place of human making in a sacramental cosmos," Communio:  international Catholic review 38, no. 2 (Summer 2011):  230-231 (198-236).

"One world at a time."

     "By his own account [Parker] Pillsbury then remarked to Thoreau, 'You seem so near the dark river, that I almost wonder how the opposite shore may appear to you.'  Thoreau's answer remains, for all intents and purposes, his last word:  'One world at a time.'"

     Robert Hogue Harrison, "The true American," New York review of books 64, no. 13 (August 17, 2017):   17 (14-17).
     But would that be the Christian view?  I wonder that, too, about these beautiful words, also quoted (from Walden) on p. 17:  "Be it life or death, we crave only reality."