Church Dogmatics IV.1 §57-59 // Karl Barth.

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By the time Karl Barth–the modern theological giant–started on IV.1, twenty-one years has past since the inaugural of his preeminent Church Dogmatics I.1. Within 21 years, Barth has already written over 6,000 pages (excluding his other works). Therefore, when one reads IV.1, one meets with a mature Barth–the fiery furies might not be as explosive or frequent (e.g., Epistle to the Romans) but his flames burn brighter and, even, more acutely. IV.1 is Christological theology at one of its best. Therefore, it’s no wonder IV.1 is polled, tied with II.2, as the favorite amongst CD readers and lovers (http://postbarthian.com/2015/07/20/most-popular-volumes-of-karl-barths-church-dogmatics/).

Though this student edition volume is only the first half of IV.1 (stops after §59; IV.1 continues until the end of §63–another 450 pages), one can still grasp the scope and grandeur of Barth’s Doctrine of Reconciliation. Reconciliation is God’s choice in his freedom to restore his covenant with humanity through Israel (§57). Reconciliation is reconcilable because of the Reconciling One: Jesus Christ (§58). Reconciliation is the Judge judged (§59).

Note, these are oversimplified sketches of Barth’s thoroughly dive into reconciliation, atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection. In other words, just read him and mull over his words. Let this erudite theologian teach you the centrality of Jesus: the God-Man who has subsumed God’s No and is God’s (overwhelmingly loud) Yes for us.

Also, I have this particular Amazon reviewer’s (barryb) outline helpful:

1. Pp. 1-10 CONCEPT-HISTORY-GRACE
2. Pp. 10-20 CONCEPT-PROCLAMATION-CONCRETE-ACTUALITY
3. Pp. 20-30 COVENANT-DIATHEKE-TRINITARIAN-QUALIFICATION
4. Pp. 30-40 ATONEMENT-PRESUPPOSITIONS-CORRESPONDENCE
5. Pp. 40-75 FAITHFULNESS-DECISION-FULFILLMENT
6. Pp. 76-86 RECONCILIATION IN-ITSELF / OUT-OF-ITSELF/ RETURNING-TO-GODSELF
7. Pp. 87-117 JUSTIFICATION-CONVERSION-BEARING OF PROMISE
8. PP. 118-138 HUMILIATION-EXALTATION-SON OF GOD
9. PP. 138-158 FORMS OF SIN / APPROPRIATION OF GRACE/ VERDICT AND PROMISE
10. PP. 160-190 DEITY-DOXA-ACTUALIZED GLORY
11. Pp. 194-214 SUBSTANCE-SUBORDINATION-MAGNIFICATION
12. Pp. 216-236 JUDGE IN-HIMSELF / INCARNATE EMBRACING / MAGNIFYING GLORY
13. PP. 237-251 DISCLOSURE / TRUE-BEING / EXALTATION AS LIBERATION
14. PP. 251-276 FASTING IN WILDERNESS/ PRAYER OF AGONY / REPRESENTATION
15. PP. 277-297 CHRISTOLOGICAL SPHERE / ANTHROPOLOGICAL SPHERE / OUTWARD-ASPECT
16. PP. 303-323 ONE HISTORY / SEQUENCE / PAROUSIA COMMUNITY
17. PP. 324-350 HOPE / PAROUSIA / RECONCILING WORD OF JUDGEMENT

(cf. https://www.amazon.com/gp/profile/amzn1.account.AHRCN7NOSM624FU6NA2KEE3AAW3Q?ie=UTF8&ref_=cm_cr_dp_d_pdp)

The Word Enfleshed // Oliver Crisp.

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With an eye towards the orthodox (‘Church Fathers,’ roughly 3rd c. to 7th c. AD) and Reformed traditions and the other towards current philosophical quandaries about them, Oliver Crisp perceives both through the lens of analytical theology–and The Word Enfleshed is the product of his vision.

The crux of the book, in my opinion, is the climax of chapter 7: “The Union Account of Atonement.” Chs. 1-6 set the foundation and chs. 8-9 sweeps the house that is ch. 7–built on the foundation. Much of the earlier chapters (especially 1-3) are adaptions and updates from his previous book (Divinity and Humanity; cf. my summary a couple reviews earlier). To illuminate the connective thread of the book, I quote his words at length:

Christ is the eternally begotten Son Incarnate, the Word enfleshed, an essentially incorporeal being that has assumed a human nature that includes a corporeal body. He is also the prototypical human being in whose image we are all created. He is the one entity in whom humanity and divinity are united personally as parts of one composite whole that comprises Christ. Because he unites a human and a divine nature in one person, human beings are in principle capable of being united to God in Christ by means of the secret working of the Holy Spirit, who joins believers to Christ. Those so united are members of Christ in a real, metaphysical sense; they are “parts” of Redeemed Humanity (165-6).

Crisp coins and nuances terms (e.g., “Word enfleshed,” “composite whole,” “parts,” “Redeemed Humanity”; each was explicated in their respective chapters) that impresses a deeper meaning than one might initially perceive here. This is, truly, a ‘progressive’ work–‘progressive’ as in each chapter progresses the argument further and fuller. To appreciate the climax, hear the crescendo.

Christology: A Global Introduction // Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen.

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Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, one of the most productive theologians of our time, revisits his Christology: A Global Introduction after more than a decade with a fresher and wider scope. Initially hoping to be a quick update, Kärkkäinen rather quickly found himself needing a wholesome revision, especially in light of his massive 5-volume Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World nearing completion. The breadth that Kärkkäinen displays is easily one of his most impressive features in this short introduction (~230 pages). Yet, this is an introduction: breadth is favored over depth. But as an introduction to Christology, I have found Kärkkäinen’s purview more than helpful to ‘mentally map’ the trends and tracks of various Christologies. Additionally, his near endless bibliography is a trusted reference for primary and secondary sources.

The first half is devoted to historical Christology. The second half then surveys various contextual theologies (Euro-American Global North [yes, Euro-American-male theologies are contextual], Global South [Africa, Asia, Latin America], and “contextual” American [feminist, black, womanist, mujerista, postcolonial, Asian American, queer]). Finally, roughly the last 30 pages or so are devoted to interreligious dialogues–however his Christ and Reconciliation (the first of his five-volume set) delves much deeper.

Again, as an introductory text, this is superb. However, it is shallow (not because of any lack in part of the theologian but because of the confines of the book’s purposes), therefore it is highly encouraged to read further. Read–especially read–primarily sources.

Lament for a Son // Nicholas Wolterstorff.

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After a tragic mountaineer accident, Eric Wolterstorff at the prime age of 25 fell to his death, leaving Nicholas Wolterstorff absent of his firstborn. Dr. Wolterstorff is a world renown Christian philosopher–he knows the problem of pain and evil intellectually–but even his astute mind did not prepare him for the overwhelming sorrows of the heart.

This book is not a guide to pass over remorse and grief. This book is a vulnerable window into a man–a father–doubting and weeping over his loss of his precious son. Some of the pages resound with hope, but others hang low in despondence. The flow and flux of emotions are normal and worthy of the act of feeling–as Wolterstorff not only speaks on but exemplifies.

Read and lament, for life is too valuable not to lament about when it is gone.

The Exploration of the Inner Wounds–Han // Jae Hoon Lee.

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Jae Hoon Lee’s analysis of han, unlike many others, has prioritized a psychological lens to interpret and understand han. This is a great supplement to readers of Minjung or others constructive theologians (the most published Korean American theologian being Andrew Sung Park) who utilize han in a more socio-economic sense. Lee is firm in claiming that a stringent oppressor-oppressed dichotomy does not get the full sense of han (Andrew Sung Park, on the other hand, is explicit about this dichotomy. However, he explains that he does so for heuristic purposes). Lee’s adoption and adaption of C.G. Jung and Melaine Klein brought light to three distinct levels of hanjeong-han (love from han), wonhan (hate from han), and huhan (nothingness/apathy from han). Knowing all three will help a subject to better diagnose his or her own sufferings and reactions, thereof.

Note: this was a scholar-read.

The Making of Korean Christianity // Sung-Deuk Oak.

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Sung-Deuk Oak’s The Making of Korean Christianity is a tremendous contribution to the World Christianity Series and religions scholarship in general. Sketched thematically, Oak surveys a host of letters by Protestant missionaries and emerging indigenous voices. Issues concerning Korean Christianity’s adoption of a shamanistic deity’s name (hananim), changing perspectives of the cross, awareness of spirits and the need for exorcism, funeral memorials, influences from Chinese tracts and messages, and Daoist spirituality and rituals are all considered under Oak’s astute scholarship. Additionally considered are the tumultuous and volatile times Korea had from 1876-1915: Tonghak Rebellion, Russo-Japanese War, Sino-Japanese War, and more. These pressuring forces undoubtedly, at times, prevented and, at other times, encouraged Christianity’s acceptance. Oak is, also, sharp enough to notice the difference between simplistic (and insulting) syncretism and indigenizing Christianity. On the other hand, if ‘syncretism’ is held purely as a neutral descriptor (as this blogger is starting to hold), then the what and how of Korean Christians’ reactions to the Protestant religion can be accurately depicted and affirmed as good indigenization of the Gospel.

Personally, I have found this extremely helpful academically and for my own self-discovery (as a Korean American). But I can understand why some people might feel uneasy about Oak’s ease to associate folk religions’ influence on Korean Christianity. To not feel uneasy, one then must think hard about Christianity’s relations with cultures and come to conclusions of their relationships. For Oak (and I), Christianity is inherently a translatable and (re)contextualizable religion. In other words, Christianity must be indigenized.

Reflections on the Psalms // C.S. Lewis.

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C.S. Lewis is always a delight to read. This particularly thin work was originally recommended as “one of the best introductions to the Book of Psalms” by my Psalms professor in undergraduate–my professor was not mistaken. In Reflection on the Psalms, Lewis faces some of the most common conflictual or confounding impressions any reader deals with from the Psalter: angry shouts of judgments and curses, death, infatuations with Torah (law) and nature, and second (or spiritual) meanings and interpretations. Lewis is not an academic theologian–much less an Old Testament scholar. He is, however, extremely lucid and well-read, and that’s something. And, perhaps, that is what’s wanted and needed for most people reading Psalms devotionally. So, let this literary sage share his insights with you.