Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Context or Transcendence?

I just finished a wonderful paper by fellow Fuller classmate Seth Gaiters on Barth and Cone. He pulls out a couple of real interesting quotes from Barth.

"Christianity exists in Germany and Switzerland and Africa, but there is no such thing as a German or Swiss or African Christianity. There is a church in England, but in the strict sense there is no Church of England."

"How much longer will it be possible in the United States and South Africa to ratify the social distinctions between whites and blacks by a corresponding division in the Church, instead of calling it in question in the social sphere by the contrary practice of the Church."

In one sense, Barth is emphasizing the Pauline line of the universality of the Church irrespective of race, sex or status. However, in doing this he may err in blurring the real differences there are between various expressions of "Christianities." Simply stated, what exactly is this universal paradigm of the Church that Barth desires? Would his interlocutors say it might be too Eurocentric (which incidentally in the quote he is trying to deny)?

Again, this goes back to my last couple of post regarding theology and history. The theologian will oftentimes strive to connect the theological tradition into one complete package whereas the historian will emphasize the particularities in each historical circumstance and say that any time of "universal" is to do violence to the actual, social-empirical phenomenon that we can witness.

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