Was Karl Barth Unfaithful to His Wife Nelly, His ‘Life-Partner’?

“Men are men, and God is God.” – Karl Barth (link)

https://www.amazon.com/Karl-Barth-Introductory-Biography-Evangelicals/dp/0802869394/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1507767977&sr=1-1&keywords=karl+barth#reader_0802869394Amazon.com

My October 2017 issue of Christianity Today arrived last week, and I have been making my way through it. CT’s Editor in Chief, Mark Galli, contributed an article entitled “The Godness of God”, which has been adapted from his biography Karl Barth: A Biography for Evangelicals, just published on September 28, 2017 (pictured above).

Perhaps the most controversial part of Galli’s two-page CT article is the following excerpt:

Barth’s Romans is, in some ways, one long commentary on the commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me. As Barth puts it simply, “Men are men, and God is God.” One way this works itself out is in how Barth interprets passages that we instinctively imagine are about us. (page 59)

To be absolutely frank, I really didn’t know much about Karl Barth. I recognized his name because I have heard him quoted in sermons delivered primarily by Reformed theologians.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Barth, here is a screen shot from the Theopedia article on him.

http://www.theopedia.com/karl-barthNo doubt the primary reason for the recent focus on Barth is because he fits squarely in the “Reformed” camp.

Something else you should know about Karl Barth is his most unusual personal life. The reason Mark Galli’s article caught my attention is because I had just read some highly controversial information about Barth (prior to getting my latest CT magazine). I wanted to see whether Galli broached the subject, and clearly he avoided it.

In his article Karl Barth is Overrated (published on 10/4/17), Tom Cooper shares this shocking information:

Recently, some discussion has arisen on the blogosphere surrounding Karl Barth, and in particular, his odd relationship to Charlotte von Kirschbaum. Though for some time the exact nature of the relationship between Barth and his secretary was subject to speculation, recent publications have demonstrated what has been assumed: this was an adulterous relationship, almost certainly sexual in nature. Bobby Grow of the Evangelical Calvinist blog has written several posts on the topic, discussing his frustration with the obvious immorality in Barth’s life [1]. William Evans has added some of his own thoughts on Barth on the Ecclesial Calvinist blog [2].

Go to the above link to see the footnoted information.

According to the Wiki article regarding Charlotte von Kirschbaum, she was a Red Cross nurse who was interested in theology. In 1924 Charlotte met Karl Barth at the University of Göttingen when she was 25 years old. Prior to meeting him, she had been introduced to his writings. Barth both encouraged and helped her to attend secretarial school. By 1929 Charlotte was working as his personal secretary. She also assisted him in preparing lectures.

The Wiki article goes on to explain that in October 1929 Charlotte moved into the Barth household. Purportedly, Karl Barth and Charlotte shared an academic relationship, while Nellie took care of the children and the household. It seems Karl and Charlotte took semester break vacations together.

Not surprisingly, the relationship caused much consternation. Barth’s friends, as well as his mother and brothers, were not approving of the living arrangement, and Barth’s wife and children suffered much stress.
An interesting article published a few days ago provides the following insight (see screen shot below):
http://postbarthian.com/2017/10/09/bright-bleak-constellation-karl-barth-nelly-barth-charlotte-von-kirschbaum/In researching for this post, I came across some very interesting information published in July 2009 by Steve Hickey, a Scottish pastor who was able to locate Karl Barth’s grave (see link below).

The hunt for Karl Barth’s grave

Here is a screen shot from the above post.

We loved the question Steve asked at the end of his post (see screen shot below).

https://stevehickey.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/the-hunt-for-karl-barths-grave/I (Deb) voted for Nelly, and here are the results thus far. 🙂

https://stevehickey.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/the-hunt-for-karl-barths-grave/What is especially irritating to us is that Barth wrote about marriage as a life-partnership (see link below).

Karl Barth on Marriage as a Life-Partnership

As information spills out all these years after Barth’s death, all we can say is how hypocritical was this ‘great theologian’? 🙁

Yes, some in the Calvinista (Neo-Cal) camp are holding up Karl Barth as a great theologian, perhaps the most gifted one of the 20th century; however, we appreciate what Tom Cooper said in his post Karl Barth is Overrated.  Cooper wrote:

The question which arises is at this juncture is whether the immorality of a teacher has any impact upon the benefit of their teachings. While some have argued that it is irrelevant, as the truth or falsity of one’s teaching is not dependent upon anything within the character of that person, Grow has noted that the nature of such immorality is a Biblical disqualification from having a teaching position in the church.

We are of the opinion that not only is Barth’s immorality a Biblical disqualification from teaching in the church, it should disqualify him from being an authority on anything having to do with the Bible.

Does the above quote by Barth “Men are Men” equate to “Boys will be boys…” ?

Cooper goes on to state:

“he [Barth] was well aware of the sinful nature of his situation, and was also warned about it by Bonhoeffer and others. Yet, he remained unrepentant in such a lifestyle until his death.”

We’d love to hear your thoughts!


Comments

Was Karl Barth Unfaithful to His Wife Nelly, His ‘Life-Partner’? — 212 Comments

  1. “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”
    But I already had dinner, so maybe I’ll polish off the ice cream while I actually settle in to read.

  2. I would say that while Barth was technically “Reformed” he does not really have any meaningful connection to the Neo-Calvinist evangelicals of today – most of the Neo-Cal guys I have known are ambivalent about him at best, and the conservative Calvinist theologians of his era (such as Cornelius Van Til) considered him practically a heretic.
    And, regardless of whether he is “overrated” (probably) he was maybe the most well-known theologian of the mid-20 th century, so I don’t think it’s accurate to say that he’s being overinflated by the Neo-Cals.

    This business with the secretary/mistress is just sad. I think it is an interesting question to consider: Does personal immorality invalidate all of a pastor or theologian’s work? I’m not sure.

  3. I almost posted this the other day as a follow-up comment in the thread on the come-back “fallen leaders” post, but didn’t. Turns out it seems more appropriate here. This is edited some from what I was thinking about posting then. It’s about John Howard Yoder, where there is a somewhat similar situation to that of Karl Barth. Yoder’s involved sexual infidelity and indiscretions, along with an extensive, systemic cover-up that went on for decades while he was a prominent Mennonite denominational figure, professor, author, and even a leader in a Christian ethics society.

    The topic of Yoder came up a few weeks ago with a public Facebook post by Dr. David Fitch. He posted a link to a YouTube video on “Stanley Hauerwas responding to John Howard Yoder’s sexual assaults.” There are critiques of the language Hauerwas uses — such as talking about the women “involved with” Yoder, which downplays the misconduct aspect on Yoder’s part as a well-known figure in a position of power. Anyway, the larger question there, in academic circles especially — which is relevant to this TWW post on attempted comebacks by disqualified Christian leaders, and about Karl Barth — is this:

    How should we handle resources created by people like this? Should we quote them at all? Always note their infidelities or other failings when we do quote them?

    https://www.facebook.com/fitchest/posts/10155227299923277

    There are other famous (and not-so-famous) academicians and theologians than just John Howard Yoder whose lives failed to meet the biblical threshold for Christians in the public eye. Some are frequently quoted. What should we do about them? Do we treat them like we do King David or the Apostles Paul or Peter who exhibited some horrendous behaviors, and just read ’em anyway as some commenters suggested? Or do we have have other responsibilities?

    Here is the comment I left on that post, slightly edited for clarity:

    FWIW David, I thought about this issue for a few days […]. It seems to me that if we intend to apply and/or quote from the work of an author whose life showed some gross inconsistencies with biblical morals and ethics, then we have a few tasks we should be willing to invest ourselves in doing.

    (1) Study the life issues of the person, including how their sinful/broken behavior affected others in destructive ways.

    (2) Consider what *could* and *should* have been done at the time such actions became known by those with individual or institutional connections with the person, to challenge the author to work for repentance and remediation — and restoration to positions of influence only if appropriate once sufficient time has passed to verify a substantive change process.

    (3) Figure out what elements in the author’s theology may have led to and/or enabled such destructive behaviors, and note those as needed. To quote uncritically or unwittingly because we’re unwilling to do this kind of work may mean we create some complicity in a cover-up, or culpability in steering others into a similarly flawed theological track.

    (4) If we are in positions where we can possibly lead toward repair of damage and reconciliation for people harmed by the author, we should actively pursue those peace-making steps.

    It may be easy to say things like, “Yes, Yoder had problems, *but* look at the good he did, look at the doctrines he developed, etc.” As my friend Kathy Koch says, “BUT is a verbal eraser.” Perhaps a significant part of our role as theological analysts is to be prepared to have a balanced, “Yes … AND …” regarding the writer in question, with sufficient details on both sides of that equation to be able to describe the good without defending the brokenness.

    I attempt to do this in my role as a student of what constitutes malignant leadership and toxic ministry systems. It’s not easy, yet, I believe it’s necessary so we carefully evaluate the situations involved without totally condemning the persons involved. I’ve worked on a case study about John Howard Yoder and steps that were and weren’t taken for repentance and remediation. I’m sure I have several more rounds of research and reflection to do before that is ready for public consumption, given what I noted above …

    Meanwhile, it looks like the culture is dealing with this in parallel, with the explosive news about Harvey Weinstein this week (and leaders of the Academy of Motion Pictures/Oscars meet this Saturday to discuss that case and decide on censure and/or other actions). A few days ago, it was Andy Signore of Screen Junkies, fired after multiple women posted sexual assault allegations. Then, there are other such situations in the recent past of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Jerry Sandusky (and systemic cover-up by Penn State officials), Jimmy Savile (and BBC), etc.

    I’m not sure the Church overall has much to say about any of those situations when we haven’t even figured out what to do about disqualifyingly flawed and fallen leaders in our own camp. But think how much we could say, with street cred, if we did! The Mennonites have made substantive efforts to address entire systems that were adversely impacted by John Howard Yoder’s moral failings and likely twisted theological underpinnings to those actions. So, it is possible to do so — but what will we choose to do?

  4. As Edward notes above, Barth might be “reformed” in the very broad sense, but certainly not in the conservative/evangelical sense. Van Till, Carl Henry, and others strongly opposed him, particularly his view of Scripture and history (note the “neo-orthodoxy” ref in the quote from theopedia above). Most conservative seminaries/theologians would warn students off Barth, and if anything, this sad revelation (excuse the pun) would only confirm their rejection of his theology.

  5. This is an add-on to my last comment about what the Mennonite denomination did over a several-year period to implement repair work to systems negatively impacted by actions of John Howard Yoder and those who protected/enabled him. I find case studies like this tremendously helpful as practical exercises for applying theology, because the questions that face us today are rarely completely new. Who else has wrestled through such situations and can invest insight into us, now that we have similar questions to address? And we have one coming up soon that is relevant to issues of corporate repentance and remediation/repair work that could apply to what to do about Barth.

    In just about a week, on October 19, we’ll be at a milestone for the German church, when in 1945 a group of leaders presented the Stuttgart Declaration, in which they publicly repented and acknowledged aspects of the Church’s complicity in the rise of Nazism.

    Which I believe goes to show the importance of taking issues of culpability seriously in active and passive failures to resist or speak up at systemic abuse. It’s part of (re-)establishing a profile of integrity in our communities.

    http://en.evangelischer-widerstand.de/html/view.php?type=dokument&id=370

  6. The Stuttgart Declaration group included Martin Niemöller, probably best known for his poetic statement, “First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Communist. [And so on, with Socialists, the Trade Unionists, the Jews.] Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

    https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/654579-als-die-nazis-die-kommunisten-holten-habe-ich-geschwiegen-ich

    Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Kommunist.

    Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

    Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
    habe ich nicht protestiert;
    ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

    Als sie die Juden holten,
    habe ich geschwiegen;
    ich war ja kein Jude.

    Als sie mich holten,
    gab es keinen mehr, der protestierte.

  7. Thank you for the encouragement to follow the links! The one dealing with marriage was something else. Apparently he was just fine violating his conscience (if he had one).

  8. IMO, the work of the greatest theologian of all time (someone from The Gospel Coalition tweeted that Calvin was the greatest) is no more important or illuminating than the experience of one humble soul guided by the two great commandments. In fact, I’d much rather read the journal of the latter than the all encompassing taxonomy of the former. Unfortunately the deeds of the humble are usually enjoyed only by those lucky enough to catch a glimpse when no one else is looking.

  9. I have a couple of thoughts here.

    My first thought is that I have heard of the strange relationship between Barth and von Kirschbaum before. I also remember being deeply shocked by it because I have known of Karl Barth for decades–in fact, I read his “Romans” when I was an undergraduate to see what it was all about. (To be honest, it was completely over my head. Thirty-five years later, my big question on Romans is whether all that parsing, slicing and dicing is really necessary.) I have to say that this situation sets off so many ringing bells in my head. One of my own personal commandments is “Thou shalt not mess around with thy married friends” and this just stomps all over it. I also believe Barth used his reputation as Great Theologian to browbeat both his wife and von Kirschbaum into accepting an untenable situation. The whole thing was wrong.

    My second thought is that I find it amusing how Calvinistas are trying to remake Barth in their own image, just as Eric Metaxas tried to do the same with Bonhoeffer. Anyone who is familiar with European/German Protestant theology of the first half of the 20th century knows these guys are not American Evangelicals. Not even close. Barth rejected some of the theology he was taught, but he never went so far as to reject the basics. Much of American Evangelicalism sees scripture as alternately inspired, inerrant or infallible. Barth would have probably been on the loose end of inspired, but would have flatly rejected inerrancy and infallibility.

    I have to wonder if this situation would have arisen had von Kirschbaum been able to get a faculty position somewhere. It appears she was dependent on Barth for the work she was doing. And I do think the prejudice against women in academia was pretty strong in the first half of the 20th century, and probably even more so in the theological schools.

    I need to go to bed. I was selected yesterday for a jury in a federal case which will last through next week. The court schedule is significantly different from my usual work hours that it’s completely messed up my sleep cycle. Add in a twice-daily hair-raising drive to/from Phoenix and I’m dead tired by the time I get home.

  10. Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Tillich are fishing on Lake Geneva. It’s hot and they are getting thirsty. So Barth stands up, steps out of the boat, and walks across the water to the shore, where he gets some beers and then returns to the boat. But the drinks don’t last long. So Barth says to Tillich: “Your turn, Paul.” Tillich gets up, steps out of the boat, walks across the water, and fetches some more beers. It is really hot now, and the drinks are soon finished. Barth tells Bultmann: “Come on, Rudolf, it’s your turn now.” With a slight tremor in his knees, Bultmann gets up, steps out of the boat—and sinks. He drags himself back into the boat and sulks at the far end. Tillich turns to Barth and says: “Do you think we should have told him where the stepping stones are?”

  11. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:

    I was selected yesterday for a jury in a federal case which will last through next week. The court schedule is significantly different from my usual work hours that it’s completely messed up my sleep cycle. Add in a twice-daily hair-raising drive to/from Phoenix and I’m dead tired by the time I get home.

    Hope the week goes by quickly for you!

  12. 12 considered influencers of Modern Protestant Thought, compiled by George Laird Hunt:

    1. Albert Schweitzer
    2. Walter Rauschenbusch
    3. Sören Kierkegaard
    4. Karl Barth
    5. Reinhold Niebuhr
    6. Paul Tillich
    7. Rudolph Bultmann
    8. Martin Buber
    9. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    10. Martin Heidegger
    11. Jürgen Moltmann
    12. Alfred North Whitehead

    Studied these guys’ (and BTW, they are all guys) in college. However, lifestyle over thought brings Schweitzer and Bonhoeffer to the top.

    CS Lewis had a highly questionable personal life. Personally, I’m not a fan and refrain from quoting his work and celebrating his legacy. Moreover, we shy away from magic and imaginary creatures, such as in the Narnia lit. Just a thought.

  13. Never heard of Barth. But his antics sound familiar. It’s the hypocrisy that gets me. These guys (and they are mostly guys) love to tell everyone else what to do but never apply it to themselves.

    As a study, I’ve started to think theology has about as much relevance as Victorian Tippy Toe dancing.

    Cut the bible into enough pieces and it can say anything you want.

    Kind of like those ransom notes made from newspaper cutouts.

  14. This reminds of an old adage I’ve heard many times: “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one.” His lifestyle, in my opinion, totally deafens any message his theology might have attempted to convey.

    Jesus spoke of good trees bringing forth good fruit and bad trees bringing forth bad fruit. The Apostle Paul spoke of disciplining his body so that he’s not disqualified. They seem to get it…your lifestyle is a testimony! This notion of “do as I say not as I do” has no place in the Christ’s Kingdom.

  15. @ brad/futuristguy:
    How should we handle resources created by people like this? Should we quote them at all? Always note their infidelities or other failings when we do quote them?

    A suggestion: When quoting these people, we should put an asterisk * next to their names like what the baseball commission did with Barry Bonds’ records!

  16. As others said above, most conservative Calvinists regard Barth as heretical; wouldn’t be caught reading him.

  17. Root 66 wrote:

    @ brad/futuristguy:
    A suggestion: When quoting these people, we should put an asterisk * next to their names like what the baseball commission did with Barry Bonds’ records!

    I like this idea! Seriously… Just because of serious and important failings in one area of their lives, doesn’t mean everything in their thinking, or even other things in their lives aren’t worth modelling.

    What’s been really hard for me is to learn to not put people on pedestals. Just because someone is a great Christian teacher, who really can influence a lot of people to know God in many ways, doesn’t make them a model for emulation.

    I agree (at this point in my life) that I’d rather study the lives of the true saints such as Albert Schweitzer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Mother Teresa. In American Evangelicalism we escalate intellectual assent to detailed doctrine way, way too far above the more important things.

    But in the end we SHOULD have at least some intellectual or mental grounding for our actions. “Faith without works is dead” but “though I give my body to be burned, but have not love [faith and knowledge of God], I am nothing.”

    So how to parse all that out? I find that I can only turn to God and ask for help. “What do I do with this situation, God?” When that happens, I discover that I’d been doing this anyway. Putting teachings and writings into whatever Light God has given me, and seeing what shines, and what doesn’t. It’s the only way for me to be able to fully study and learn what others have taught.

  18. Root 66 wrote:

    How should we handle resources created by people like this?

    This question was addressed recently by someone who tweeted an article in the subject. I think it was Piper. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but it seemed like a salve for his own ego; having leaned on the works of such a person.

  19. Edward wrote:

    I would say that while Barth was technically “Reformed” he does not really have any meaningful connection to the Neo-Calvinist evangelicals of today – most of the Neo-Cal guys I have known are ambivalent about him at best

    Interesting comment. Have you ever searched “Karl Barth” on The Gospel Coalition website?

    You might want to check it out.

    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/search/results/?q=karl+barth

    Neo-Cal Trevin Wax considered Barth to be one of the Top Five Christian Theologians, right behind John Calvin.

    https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2008/08/22/top-5-christian-theologians-karl-barth/

    In a subsequent post, Trevin lists Martin Luther as an “Honorable Mention”. Check out this post:

    https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2008/08/23/top-5-christian-theologians-who-did-i-leave-out/

    Finally, I find it interesting that Al Mohler’s 1989 dissertation was about Karl Barth. It was entitled: Evangelical Theology and Karl Barth: Representative Models of Response.

    Unfortunately, Mohler’s dissertation is only available to those using SBTS WiFi. 🙁

    https://twitter.com/sbtslibrary/status/328222909522911232?lang=en

  20. 1. As to the question of whether the sins of a teacher/writer discredit all their work:

    -I am convinced that examples from scripture, eapecially the life of King David, show that truth is truth, no matter who said it. The Lord IS my shepherd…even though an adulterer and murderer wrote it. Luther was anti-Semitic, Wesley did not have a good marriage…both have written things I can learn from. HOWEVER, learning about a teachers sins DOES make me read them differently, with eyes open to potential problems.

  21. Deb wrote:

    Neo-Cal Trevin Wax considered Barth to be one of the Top Five Christian Theologians, right behind John Calvin.

    It’s a mind game, emphasis mind, not relational, and game, a scheme. Question is, what’s the end game, in other words, what are they going for? Or, as Simon Sinek would say, What’s the “Why?” behind the legacy? It all starts with the “Why?”.

  22. Karl Barth (Protestant) and Karl Rahner (Catholic) were the two theologians we read at Yale Divinity School to learn Systematic Theology. The rumors of Barth’s infidelity were flowing back then, and reportedly, one professor was HIGHLY offended that anyone would even suggest Barth was a cheater. I find it hard to believe otherwise considering the family arrangement. Does that mean his work is worthless because his life was a mess? The same thing could be argued about Paul Tillich who had a similar (maybe more blatant) flaw in that realm.

  23. Deb wrote:

    Edward wrote:
    I would say that while Barth was technically “Reformed” he does not really have any meaningful connection to the Neo-Calvinist evangelicals of today
    //
    Interesting comment. Have you ever searched “Karl Barth” on The Gospel Coalition website?
    You might want to check it out.
    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/search/results/?q=karl+barth
    Neo-Cal Trevin Wax considered Barth to be one of the Top Five Christian Theologians, right behind John Calvin.

    I have heard other New Cals talk about Barth, so to say no New Cal admires Barth is a bit of a stretch.

    But may I point out that these are the guys that have mentioned Machiavelli on TGC at least 50 times and sometimes quite favorably?

  24. Well, the idea that Bonhoeffer raised an eyebrow about Barth’s ‘friend’ is interesting since he himself had a same sex ‘friend’ that the lived with for some time and about which relationship questions have been raised.

    IMO there is no need to reject every word out of either man’s mouth, and there is no need to genuflect at the mere mention of either name. Ideas stand or fall on their own. The fact that people get all in a tither for and against certain theologians is not the final answer about the validity of lack of validity of what they wrote.

  25. So… if the most theologically prolific period of the guy’s life was during his special “professional” relationship with another theologian, how do we know she didn’t have a part in writing his works?

    (maybe I shouldn’t have read this right after watching “Hidden Figures” where the protagonist often had to add another person’s name onto the work she did…)

  26. I agree with the previous commenters who have pointed out the majority position of conservative Calvinists regarding Barth. I have an MDiv from one of the preeminent neo-cal seminaries, know many of the men mentioned frequently here among them (went to seminary with some of them and worshipped with others), and still attend one of the big conferences.

    It comes to this: you cannot be in that world (academically) without *dealing with* Barth. He was so influential in his own lifetime and brilliant, and opposed the predominant theological currents that the evangelicals also opposed, that ignoring him makes it highly likely that your work will fail to actually engage the academic discourse and will be ignored.

    He was also so ridiculously prolific that there is a huge amount of material to wade through on almost any given topic. Thus, if you want to actually engage in almost anything that is relevant to the calvinistic or reformed mindset, you have to deal with Barth even if only to dismiss or argue against his position. It really is worth investigation for people who don’t know Barth because there are very few people who have written as much, as widely, and as influentially as he has.

    That said, even men like Wax will know that Barth taught a universalistic soteriology. We all know that he is not one of us. But that doesn’t necessarily discount him from consideration in the minds of many. That being said, I am continually astonished at the naivete of many of the people that are so frequently held up as pillars among the Neo calvinist camp when you step outside their area of expertise. A clear exception to that is D A Carson. So it’s possible that some of them actually only know Barth through the eyes of evangelicals and therefore don’t know his beliefs that we would consider heretical. They are many. And not subtle. An earlier comment or mentioned Van Til, and Van Til was attempting to sound the alarm because of the very same naivete in his day.

    Yet Van Til is another example of my earlier statement – they say that his copy of Barth’s 38 volume Church dogmatics was dogeared, highlighted, and annotated to a ridiculous degree.

  27. Edward wrote:

    I would say that while Barth was technically “Reformed” he does not really have any meaningful connection to the Neo-Calvinist evangelicals of today

    The reason I wanted to jump on this story is because I have heard a number of the Calvinista crowd referencing Barth over the last 5 years or so. In my opinion, he was rapidly becoming one of those memes “Well, Barth said…”

    Maybe I have noticed it because I read widely from this crowd almost every day. The mere fat that Galli came out with his book on the matter at this time is proof positive that Barth was becoming ‘the man of the moment’.

  28. John wrote:

    Most conservative seminaries/theologians would warn students off Barth

    Which theologians and seminaries? I can say that I have heard Barth discussed by guys from SBTS and Westminster.

  29. Tree wrote:

    Apparently he was just fine violating his conscience (if he had one).

    Did he just like “theology” as a theoretical exercise. I find it hard to believe that a guy who lived a threesome was engaging his conscience.

  30. For what it’s worth, the neo-cals (i.e. neo-puritains) such as Piper, Mohler, Grudem, Dever, etc. despise Barth. They have always considered him a liberal theologian. Barth is not “reformed” the way that the neo-puritans are reformed. They might pretend to read Barth but that is only for appearances sake so they can act and look scholarly. None of them understand or have actually read Barth.

  31. @ andy williams:
    Here is my concern. I get an affair, etc. David was dealt with. Unfortunately, Luther was a product of his Roman Catholic teaching in which the Jews were blamed for the death of Jesus- a belief that has listed for millennia. Despicable and wrong but believed, nonetheless.

    What I do not get is a decades long threesome. Barth knew that this was wrong and kept it up year after year, even having her buried in the family tomb! Even after death he was flaunting this relationship.

    There is something inherently worrisome about this sort of behavior. Tullian Tchivdjian and Iain D Campbell are others who concern me.

  32. Would Barth’s relationship with highly-intelligent student be any different if he were a male who moved in with Barth’s family?

    I realize that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence but is there any evidence this was more than a scholarly relationship?

  33. okrapod wrote:

    Ideas stand or fall on their own. The fact that people get all in a tither for and against certain theologians is not the final answer about the validity of lack of validity of what they wrote.

    Encapsulated very well okrapod, and I agree.

  34. okrapod wrote:

    Well, the idea that Bonhoeffer raised an eyebrow about Barth’s ‘friend’ is interesting since he himself had a same sex ‘friend’ that the lived with for some time and about which relationship questions have been raised.

    Bonhoeffer wrote from prison that he would die as a virgin. Being gay and celibate is not a sin. There are no questions about Barth since the woman was buried with Barth and his wife.

  35. @ drJ:
    It’s possible just like it is possible that CJ Mahaney never knew anything about all those sex abuse claims.

  36. It’s nice to know that somebody at Theopedia (in the main article up top) had the presence of mind to point out that a German ‘TH’ is not the same as an English ‘TH’.

  37. Comment 1 of … er… several

    I’ve been away for a couple of days visiting friends and family, so I’ve a bit to catch up on. But I’m sure you’ll all appreciate my supplying you with the definitive correct answers because – and I alone have uncovered this secret – everything I believe is based on God’s infallible Word as revealed in the scriptures rather than just being my own opinion.

    Anyway:

    The problem of “condoning” something

    This post/thread touches on the issue of “condoning” in an interesting way. So:

     If I read Barth’s many thousands of books, never mind like or appreciate his theology, does that mean I am “condoning” what he did in his private life?
     If I quote him without adding a postscript to the fact that of course he was an evil philanderer, does that mean I am “condoning” what he did in his private life?
     If I let people around me quote (approvingly) from Barth without correcting their appreciation of him, does that mean I am “condoning” what he did in his private life?
     If I let people around me disparage Barth’s theology, without adding in the observation that on top of his dodgy theology he was of course an evil philanderer, does that mean I am “condoning” what he did in his private life?
     If I ever, in any interaction, or on any day, fail to state my explicit disapproval of how Barth apparently lived, does that mean I am “condoning” what he did in his private life?

    I kind of throw this one in, not so much because it’s a central theme of THIS thread, as because it’s never far from a discussion on abuse in The Church. Personally, I am deliberately slow to accuse a person of “condoning” something, unless they are doing so explicitly. And of course, rather like the earth’s atmosphere doesn’t have a true edge *, I can’t give a single-line one-or-zero definition of what I mean by “explicitly”.

    * AWWBA, space isn’t a perfect vacuum even in orbit.

  38. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:

    My second thought is that I find it amusing how Calvinistas are trying to remake Barth in their own image, just as Eric Metaxas tried to do the same with Bonhoeffer.

    In Transactional Analysis (Seventies pop psychology), there was a Mind Game called “All Great Men Are” in which a group claims legitimacy by claiming ALL Great Men of the past were One of Them.

  39. Muff Potter wrote:

    It’s nice to know that somebody at Theopedia (in the main article up top) had the presence of mind to point out that a German ‘TH’ is not the same as an English ‘TH’.

    Yes. German “TH” is always a HARD “T”.

    And English has two “TH”s — Hard “TH” (Thorn) an Soft “TH” (The). Which are separate letters in older Scandinavian languages. (For instance, the “D” in “Odin” was originally a soft “TH”.)

  40. dee wrote:

    What I do not get is a decades long threesome. Barth knew that this was wrong and kept it up year after year, even having her buried in the family tomb! Even after death he was flaunting this relationship.

    Could this have been an under-the-table “plural marriage”?

    Or just the “My Soulmate” shtick (which is NEVER the one you’re married to).

  41. @ Muff Potter:

    Quite true, and for a number of subtle reasons.

    Even the intergalactic voids are thought to have a few atoms/molecules per cubic meter. But also, in a “perfect” vacuum, there is still always a certain amount of energy due to quantum fluctuations, so that particle/anti-particle pairs can spontaneously appear and then annihilate (and if they do so right next to an event horizon, and one of them gets sucked in but the other doesn’t, you get Hawking radiation… sort of…).

    And so on.

  42. What Happened wrote:

    IMO, the work of the greatest theologian of all time (someone from The Gospel Coalition tweeted that Calvin was the greatest) is no more important or illuminating than the experience of one humble soul guided by the two great commandments.

    CAVEAT: As long as the “one humble soul” doesn’t go out-of-balance in the opposite direction into “Holy Nincompoop”, where stupidity and ignorance become the Mark of Godliness. We’ve seen too much of that as well.

  43. Btw, this may be a nitpick, but the one post on the Just And Sinner blog was by Jordan Cooper, not Tom Cooper.

  44. Hahahahahahaha! It struck me very funny to read “pronounced ‘Bart'” in the OP.

    I can still hear those pretentious people (the ones who worked their way to the top, took over the church, and systematically imposed a culture of legalism there) at the old church, very seriously and weightily discussing reformed theology, and pronouncing it “barth” (to rhyme with “hearth”).

    I don’t know why, but in terms of irony, it fits somehow.

  45. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
    Or just the “My Soulmate” shtick (which is NEVER the one you’re married to).
    I beg to differ…

    Nick, whenever I have heard the gushing of “Oooo My Soulmate”, it has never been the one the gusher is married to; always the honey or stud on the side.

  46. Jack wrote:

    Cut the bible into enough pieces and it can say anything you want.
    Kind of like those ransom notes made from newspaper cutouts.

    GREAT TWO-LINER!

  47. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Comment 1 of … er… several
    I’ve been away for a couple of days visiting friends and family, so I’ve a bit to catch up on. But I’m sure you’ll all appreciate my supplying you with the definitive correct answers because – and I alone have uncovered this secret – everything I believe is based on God’s infallible Word as revealed in the scriptures rather than just being my own opinion.

    Nick, I find you a breath of fresh air. Thanks.

  48. brad/futuristguy wrote:

    This is an add-on to my last comment about what the Mennonite denomination did over a several-year period to implement repair work to systems negatively impacted by actions of John Howard Yoder and those who protected/enabled him.

    I remember this blog reporting when Yoder came under scrutiny — Sexual Harassment, wasn’t it?

    I specifically remember an account by a female witness who was on the phone with Hoder. Hoder was talking Heavy Theology in a detached “Mr Spock” manner with a vibe of “We Theologians have a High and Lonely Destiny, Digory” while the springs of an office chair squeaked rhythmically in the background (like “Rinky-Chow” in Boont).

  49. @ dee:

    Conservative seminaries discussing him as an important/problematic theologian is very different from his being approved for the masses as “one of us”.@ Deb:

    I would say that conservative Calvinists certainly do discuss him (in the circumscribed Seminary context) as a theologian that is both important and problematic. This is different from his work being “approved” for public consumption by Neo-Cal laypeople.
    I guess it’s possible that he’s been appropriated as a Neo-Cal hero (like Boehnhoffer) in the few years since I left that circle, but I find that unlikely.

  50. refugee wrote:

    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Was that the “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” thing?

    My brain is feeling remarkably fuzzy this morning.

    Yes. “I’m OK, You’re OK” was the main mass-market paperback for it. Though I was first introduced to it by another book called “No Grown-Ups in Heaven” by Art Greer. (Search shows available used from both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.) TA made a lot more sense than a lot of psych theory or other pop psych, and was presented in simple and clear language.

  51. @ a new prologue:
    Thank you for this comment. It brings a few things into focus, at least from my memory of discussions in the former church. Barth, Clark, Van Til… hot topics of discussion.

  52. NJ wrote:

    Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
    Could this have been an under-the-table “plural marriage”?

    HUG, I was wondering that earlier myself. You may be on to something.

    Historically, polygyny/”plural marriage” was often a privilege of high social status.

    When Christianity enforced monogamy, the secondary wives just got downgraded to mistresses on the side. Note that keeping mistresses (and more important, getting away with it) was often a Privilege of Rank for the Rich and Powerful.

  53. Here’s an interesting excerpt from a 2015 Christianity Today article:

    https://www.christiantoday.com/article/saints.and.sinners.the.skeletons.in.the.closets.of.great.theologians/53492.htm

    5. Karl Barth

    Barth was a giant of 20th century theology, whose multi-volume “Church Dogmatics” is a hugely significant work. But Barth’s relationship with his secretary and collaborator Charlotte von Kirschbaum, whom he met at Gottingen when she was 25, was a scandal during their lifetime. She moved into the Barth household four years later and became his full-time assistant, sometimes holidaying with him. Again, it is not clear whether the relationship was ever consummated, but it was the cause of considerable unhappiness to Barth’s wife Nellie and to her own family.

  54. @ JYJames:

    I’m totally opposite of you on the theologian list 🙂 It seems God gave us imaginations and ignoring them would be a waste.

    Everyone’s mileage will vary.

  55. brad/futuristguy wrote:

    I’m not sure the Church overall has much to say about any of those situations when we haven’t even figured out what to do about disqualifyingly flawed and fallen leaders in our own camp. But think how much we could say, with street cred, if we did!

    I like implementing the first sentence and then come to a full stop, skip weighing in on moral failures outside its realm. If there is anything I can add related to Hollywood’s hypocrisy is, everyone is tired of preachy moralizing. To simply fix your own tent is where actions not only speak louder than words but where the words likely detract from the message.

  56. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    If I ever, in any interaction, or on any day, fail to state my explicit disapproval of how Barth apparently lived, does that mean I am “condoning” what he did in his private life?

    This reminds me of the virtue signaling going on over here in the States regarding any number of historical figures that have marks against them. There is a spectrum between suppressing bad things we know about influential people of history and purging them from history entirely because of their flaws.

  57. The biggest mystery to me is why Nelly didn’t separate (notice I am not even saying divorce) from Karl until he repented. Because she remained under the same roof with those two, she enabled the relationship to continue. The true power was in her hands. Further, her children were raised under this dysfunctional and sinful condition.

  58. Finegold wrote:

    The true power was in her hands.

    I suspect that there was an abusive relationship. She was a *submissive* wife-something eagerly taught by authoritarian Reformed theologians.

  59. @ Deb:
    They wondered if the relationship was even consummated? How frequently do you see secretaries entombed with their boss and his wife?

  60. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:

    My second thought is that I find it amusing how Calvinistas are trying to remake Barth in their own image, just as Eric Metaxas tried to do the same with Bonhoeffer. Anyone who is familiar with European/German Protestant theology of the first half of the 20th century knows these guys are not American Evangelicals. Not even close.

    C.S. Lewis should also be added to that list.

    “Bell’s book posited a fairly familiar view of purgatory, one that was strikingly similar to that of C.S. Lewis. Thus, when I consulted the bibliography of Love Wins, I found just what I expected: a reference to C.S. Lewis’ fictional book, The Great Divorce. For those unfamiliar with church history and the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory, Bell’s teaching most likely appeared to be quite dynamic and new. Others, failing to discern the vagaries of Bell’s writing, had prematurely assumed that he was teaching universalism.[ 94]

    By itself, Bell’s book was certainly problematic, yet reactions to what he wrote were even more problematic and even ironic. I say ironic because many of Bell’s greatest critics also happen to be the loudest advocates of C.S. Lewis, whose theology of purgatory was no less dangerous than that of Bell’s.

    In 1998, J.I. Packer noted the irony of C.S. Lewis’ popularity within Evangelicalism, despite his views on purgatory and many other things: “By ordinary evangelical standards, his [Lewis’] idea about the Atonement (archetypal penitence, rather than penal substitution), and his failure ever to mention justification by faith when speaking of the forgiveness of sins, and his apparent hospitality to baptismal regeneration, and his noninerrantist view of biblical inspiration, plus his quiet affirmation of purgatory[ 95] and of the possible final salvation of some who have left this world as nonbelievers, were weaknesses; they led the late, great Martyn Lloyd-Jones, for whom evangelical orthodoxy was mandatory, to doubt whether Lewis was a Christian at all. His closest friends were Anglo-Catholics or Roman Catholics;[ 96] his parish church, where he worshiped regularly, was ‘high’; he went to confession; he was, in fact, anchored in the (small-c) ‘catholic’ stream of Anglican thought, which some (not all) regard as central. Yet evangelicals love his books and profit from them hugely.”[ 97]”

    Beasley, Michael John. My Banner is Christ: An Appeal for the Church to Restore the Priority of Solus Christus and to Mortify the Idols of Celebritism and the Fear of Man (Kindle Locations 1347-1365). The Armoury Ministries. Kindle Edition.

  61. Jack wrote:

    Cut the bible into enough pieces and it can say anything you want.

    Right on the money Jack. And when you (generic you) connect the dots the way you want em’ connected, VOILA!, you have absolute linearization and perfect harmony.
    Some of the big name Fundagelicals have evolved this into an art form over the last 40-45 years or so.

  62. And then there was the issue of what exactly was the relationship between C S Lewis and Jane Moore and the question of did it matter and who cared anyhow.

    I just don’t think we need to toss these guys ideas just because of their either real or alleged relationship details.

  63. In my continuing role as a nay sayer, where in the bible does it say that polygamy is a sin? The closest I can find wold be the admonition to obey the secular laws (submit to the secular authorities) and the prohibition for an elder to be anything but a one-woman man.

    And of course there was FDR, but he was not a pastor or a theologian, but he was a sort of secular saint to many.

  64. There was a spate of time there when the German theologians were all the rage. But then so were the German scientists, to the point that where I got my undergrad degree there had been a graduation requirement to be able to read scientific German for any degree in one of the big three (chemistry, physics and biology) at the time.

    Somehow if you were German, or if not that at least a lover of all things German (Swiss would have been close enough) then you were certainly more special than the rest of the world. Optics research and all-don’t you know. If we had not lured? German scientists to work on nuclear development then perhaps world history would have been different. Who knows.

    Well, pooh on that, IMO. Higher criticism is not higher.

  65. dee wrote:

    LOL. Usually proclaimed by middle aged men regarding their latest babe.

    And usually a younger model too. But not always. I know a Lutheran guy who left his smokin’ hot California blonde trophy wife for a lady 14 years his senior that he met in choir.

  66. Thersites wrote:

    This reminds me of the virtue signaling going on over here in the States regarding any number of historical figures that have marks against them.

    “Virtue Signalling” = Tribal Orthodoxy Signifiers Rubbing MY Righteousness in YOUR face.

  67. Apologies in advance for the lengthy post. I’ve been grappling with this section of Barth for most of the day and it seems to me that he is downplaying adultery on the grounds that the commandment is Old Testament and that our sins are forgiven under the New Testament. He then adds in, by way of further diminishing the “Thou shalt not”, that everyone is guilty, no marriage has ever been perfect, so we can all carry on regardless, so long as we admit it and try to do better.

    This is only part of a lengthy discussion on human relationships, sexuality, marriage, ethics. He discusses the woman taken in adultery in John and again emphasizes that although she was guilty, she wasn’t punished but forgiven.

    Here’s the section:-

    “The commandment (Ex. 20:14, Deut. 5:18) “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” understood abstractly and apart from its connexion with the covenant, might refer only to the actual sexual violation by one man of the marriage of another, and the related defection of the wife of the latter.

    Abstractly understood, it might thus involve a large but comparatively limited number of men and women. Not all men have done what David did according to 2 Sam. 11, nor have all women committed the offence of the woman cited in Jn. 8:2–11. But we know that in Mt. 5:28 this Old Testament text is made more radical and inward: “But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” When it is understood in this way the number of men accused by the command is obviously much greater.

    And in this sense does it not apply equally, if not explicitly, to women who similarly look upon another married man? Again, can the more radical interpretation of the command proposed by Jesus, and the related broadening of its implications, really be limited to the special sin of adultery which He has in view in relation to the Old Testament text? Obviously not. Immediately afterwards (Mt. 5:31f.; cf. 19:3f.) we read that in contrast to the Old Testament He describes divorce as adultery. And how many necessarily felt themselves threatened by this judgment is clear from the remark of the disciples in Mt. 19:10: “If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.”

    But again it would be quite impossible to understand the equation of divorce and adultery otherwise than as a further example of the radical and universalistic character which the divine command generally assumed on the lips of Jesus. In the mind of Jesus, in the light of the covenant of the revealed grace of God which is the source of the revelation implied in His command, adultery, including, of course, the special thing which is thus mainly denoted in the Old Testament, and the more general thing which Jesus expressly describes as such in the Gospels, is all thinking and speaking, action and conduct, which is inconsistent with and destructive of marriage, and beyond this all perversion, depletion, falsification and corruption, all unreason, laziness and wickedness in the life and relation of the sexes generally, whether within or outside marriage and either way in evil thoughts, words and works.

    The Christian interpretation of “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (cf. the Reformation catechisms) has always and rightly insisted on this. But if this is so, who is not affected by this command, and unmasked and challenged by it as a transgressor? Obviously all men and women in their different ways are thus brought to judgment. It is self-evident, therefore, that Jesus should denounce the humanity of the old aeon (Mk. 8:38, Mt. 12:39, 16:4) as an adulterous generation, not merely in the metaphorical sense of many Old Testament passages, but also literally. In the same general sense, but probably literally as well according to the context, we read in Jas. 4:4: “Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity against God?” We also read in Jn. 8:7: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” and in v. 9: “And they which heard it … went out one by one, beginning at the eldest.”

    On the assumption—which is the only possible one in Christian ethics—that the command is to be understood in the light of the divine grace manifested, the covenant fulfilled and the kingdom come in Jesus Christ, it not only may but must be said that all are equally accused, each in his own and none in just the same way, but each in such sort that, especially affected at this or that point, he is unable to excuse, much less to justify himself, in relation to the integrated whole.

    This can be tested by asking with regard to all those questions whether there is any one who does not necessarily find himself inculpated and convicted in some way by at least every second question directly, and indirectly by all of them; whether in the light of the divine command disclosed in those questions—we are again concerned with the main point of our investigation—there could ever be or ever has been a marriage which is wholly satisfying, blameless and perfect, and which in one or other, and perhaps many or all the dimensions of the concept of a true marriage, does not prove to be wrong and broken; and outside the sphere of marriage, on the way towards it or among the unmarried, whether there is a single man or woman who, in the light of what God’s command wills of men, knows himself to be pure, intact and innocent, and involved in no deviation.

    The negative answer must not, of course, be derived from a supposed knowledge of the course of the world, of the historical realities of this sphere both past and present. But it springs from the concrete confrontation of the life of each individual with the divine command as it is made known to us in the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself.

    The test, then, is where we can find a man or woman who is not inculpated by this confrontation? And the command is kept, and a man free and justified in the presence of God, when he admits the truth and validity of the accusation which this confrontation implies. It must be understood that he is not free and justified because in admitting the truth of this accusation he obviously has to humble himself. It is his duty and obligation to do so because the accusation is true. And in this connexion we must immediately go on to ask where is the man who will humble himself before this accusation as sincerely and as deeply as is befitting. No, he is free and justified because the command and its impeachment flows from God, and because he may accept it from God and humble himself before the One who has loved him from all eternity, and on the cross of His Son made atonement for his sin, even for his sin in the relationship of male and female, disclosing and revealing the sin of man by forgiving it, i.e., by taking it upon Himself and removing its burden from man.

    A man keeps the command by bowing before its judgment as before the judgment of the gracious God who has already executed it, not at the expense of the transgressor and by causing the death of the latter, but at His own expense through the death of His dear Son, thus unsparingly and incontestably revealing as such the sin and guilt of the transgressor.

    To heed the accusation, as every one must heed it who heeds the divine command, is to note the mercy and also the severity of the One who has so loved transgressors, even transgressors in this sphere. And to accept His judgment is to accept the fact that transgressors are pronounced righteous, just and free by this very judgment, and in this very way are unmasked as transgressors. A man keeps the command when he can realise that he is a transgressor who is pronounced free and righteous in God’s judgment and can confess himself to be such and live accordingly.” (Church Dogmatics vol. 3, Doctrine of Creation, Part 4, Man and Woman)

  68. dee wrote:

    @ Deb:
    How frequently do you see secretaries entombed with their boss and his wife?

    That’s taking bone of my bone a little to far – LOL.

  69. dee wrote:

    @ Deb:
    They wondered if the relationship was even consummated? How frequently do you see secretaries entombed with their boss and his wife?

    Very wise comment. I am still laughing. You truly said it so very well!!

  70. okrapod wrote:

    And of course Augustine who dumped his concubine? and the mother of his child. What a mess.

    And I read somewhere (probably Augustine for Dummies or the equivalent) the mother of his child claimed, after she was dumped, that she could never love another man. This could be taken in two ways, she was still in love with Augustine and will always be in love with him or she despised what he did and wanted nothing to do with any man.

    As a general observation, there seems to be only one sin in Christianity that is the focus of attention and all others seem to be swept under the carpet.

  71. And while we are at it, how often do we hear the free and open admission that someone did indeed have relations with ‘that woman’ or man or whomever.

    I think that it is unwise to believe every rumor and unwise to believe every denial.

    On a different aspect of Lewis, I think I read that Tolkien expressed surprise that Lewis did not convert to Catholicism when he became a believer. I am thinking that Tolkien knew C/c/atholic when he saw it, and he appears to have seen it in Lewis, if indeed he did say that.

  72. Muff Potter wrote:

    And usually a younger model too. But not always. I know a Lutheran guy who left his smokin’ hot California blonde trophy wife for a lady 14 years his senior that he met in choir.

    Aren’t we told to enjoy the game rather than the trophy? Maybe he preferred being a “player”.

  73. @ Thersites:

    Maybe she was a widow with land and money. If there is enough of that one can skip the plastic surgeon and go straight for the altar sometimes.

  74. On the issue as to whether a spouse ‘ought to’ leave when there is adultery. There are several different ways to look at the issue. I prefer what was the Catholic idea, at least when I was in RCIA, and that was that one may leave but that nobody ‘must’ leave. I said leave, not divorce, or course.

    I can see where an unskilled woman with several children married to a successful man might emotionally ‘leave’ but physically stay in the marriage. I do not see that it is her responsibility to leave lest she enable the situation. He (assuming he is the adulterer) is responsible for his own behavior; she does not have to trash her life in order to assume the responsibility for his treachery. I have known some marriages where he was a tom cat and she stayed and continued to enjoy the life which his income provided, and the kids were not torn to pieces, and she still maintained her privileged place in the community. One marriage like that was a physician whom we knew. I should have said ‘at least one marriage like that…’ to tell the truth.

  75. @ dee:
    Honestly I don’t think Barth is a “thing” lately. People like Galli want to sell books, so they find someone who has not been much written about. The reason Barth has not been written about is because he is anathema to most conservative Christians (there are always exceptions). Barth was clearly neo-orthodox. Galli himself identifies as “evangelical,” while his online bio says he has become Anglican. Anglicanism is not a hotbed of Calvinism. Basically the author is all over the map.

  76. dee wrote:

    Finegold wrote:

    The true power was in her hands.

    I suspect that there was an abusive relationship. She was a *submissive* wife-something eagerly taught by authoritarian Reformed theologians.

    Bingo! How much agency did Barth’s wife actually have? Would she have been able to leave and take the children with her? How would she have financially supported herself if Karl Barth was unwilling to give her alimony? What choices did Nellie really have? Remember, women back then did not have the options that women have today. Society was set up in such a way that women were dependent upon men – especially wives. It would take a unique woman of strength and resiliency to break out of that mold. Many women just didn’t have the wherewithall to break out of that mold and find a way to become self-sufficient.

  77. Thersites wrote:

    I like implementing the first sentence and then come to a full stop, skip weighing in on moral failures outside its realm. If there is anything I can add related to Hollywood’s hypocrisy is, everyone is tired of preachy moralizing. To simply fix your own tent is where actions not only speak louder than words but where the words likely detract from the message.

    I do agree with this.

    And also, the “tent” I’m working in is beyond churches. For 15 years, I’ve been part of a non-profit that networks with other social transformation entrepreneurs, facilitates and/or participates in social change enterprises, and trains entrepreneurs both inside churches and in community development settings. These activities are already in the thick of considering moral/ethical concerns and their impacts on society. So, there’s little street credibility working in community settings as Christian members of society, if we can’t respond to what we’ve done in church settings — or what churches should do — in cases where their own insiders have perpetrated abuse.

  78. Godith wrote:

    Anglicanism is not a hotbed of Calvinism.

    Actually, this may be slowly changing. The Deebs are observing more and more Angelical pastors who are writing posts carried on Calvinists sites like TGC. There are a few who are now being invited to the typical conferences.

    If you read my history, it was due to a close alliance (unknown to me at the time because I used to believe that the Anglican crowd was not part of the Calvinist crowd) between and Anglican pastor and my Reformed Baptist pastor which led to the Anglican pastor refusing to allow us to join the church until we had reconciled to the Reformed Baptist pastor.

    Sadly, it was the Reformed Baptist pastor and BFFs who were supposed to do some reconciling but it didn’t happen. Long story that we have discussed one too many times on the blog.

    We have been keeping notes and have considered writing a post in the future about the growing alliance between the Calvinists and Anglican pastors.

  79. okrapod wrote:

    There was a spate of time there when the German theologians were all the rage. But then so were the German scientists, to the point that where I got my undergrad degree there had been a graduation requirement to be able to read scientific German for any degree in one of the big three (chemistry, physics and biology) at the time.

    I am reminded of the Austrian guy who runs the “Military History Visualized” channel on YouTube:
    “If it wasn’t German, it wouldn’t be complicated.”

  80. @ Watchman on the Wall:
    Funny true story:

    My Russian History professor visited Lenin’s Tomb. He then started asking all the tour guides where Inessa Armand, Lenin’s mistress, was buried. Apparently he loved her so much that he had her buried in the wall of the Kremlin. His legal wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya was well aware of and accepted the relationship.

    This caused great consternation at the time because Lenin was *pure* and didn’t have a mistress. That was official™ Soviet history at the time. It is amusing that both women are buried in the Kremlin wall.

  81. TEDSgrad wrote:

    That’s taking bone of my bone a little to far – LOL.

    This made me remember that country song “Work my fingers to the bone, whadda ya get? Bony fingers.”

  82. @ Lowlandseer:
    What a Word Salad by Barth! And all for the purpose of what? For a married man to have a sweet thang on the side? It sounds to me like a bag of highfalutin theological pondering to justify one’s sins.

  83. Muff Potter wrote:

    But not always. I know a Lutheran guy who left his smokin’ hot California blonde trophy wife for a lady 14 years his senior that he met in choir.

    Prince Charles and Camilla come to mind as well.

  84. The lengthy quotation of Barth in a comment above only reinforces my conviction that in most cases theology is a complete waste of time.

  85. @ Edward:
    That is correct. Barth is more popular in Baptist circles than he is in NeoCal or even old-school, hard-core Calvinist (PCA, OPC) circles.

    Barth, for his time, was a moderate rebuttal to the liberalism of the day. At the same time, he still was comparatively moderate in his handling of the Scriptures in contrast to the classical Fundamentalists–Henry, Packer, Warfield, etc.–who would emerge to provide a harder rebuttal to the same liberalism.

    Barth was/is extremely popular among Baptists, particularly moderate/liberal Baptists. Today’s conservatives, however, aren’t particularly enamored with Barth, as they are more loyal to Schaeffer, who was a major critic of Barth.

    Having said that, given Barth’s longstanding de facto polygamous setup, one ought to question his veracity as a theologian.

  86. dee wrote:

    We have been keeping notes and have considered writing a post in the future about the growing alliance between the Calvinists and Anglican pastors.

    …perhaps bringing us one step closer to Mohler’s “Where else can they go?” At least, in Mohler’s dreams… How wonderful in his eyes, it sounds like, to be the only shop in town. (or whatever that cliche is)

  87. Darlene wrote:

    What choices did Nellie really have? Remember, women back then did not have the options that women have today. Society was set up in such a way that women were dependent upon men – especially wives. It would take a unique woman of strength and resiliency to break out of that mold.

    How was society was set up in pre-WWII Germany and in Switzerland when Barth returned because he had to leave Germany for refusing to support Hitler?

  88. I think it is a little unfair to say of Karl Barth “No doubt the primary reason for the recent focus on Barth is because he fits squarely in the “Reformed” camp.”
    I have heard and read lots of the modern day reformed Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, etc., etc. The only one of the modern day reformed I have heard quote him more than occasionally was Sproul. I don’t think you will find Sproul embracing him as reformed though. He was a respected scholar. But the reformed of today don’t claim him other than to quote him for his scholarship. That is my understanding anyway.

  89. dee wrote:

    We have been keeping notes and have considered writing a post in the future about the growing alliance between the Calvinists and Anglican pastors.

    I have heard that some Anglicans here are going more hard line in response to the Anglican Church of Canada taking a more liberal stance with same sex marriage among other things. As a former Anglican, I feel this is a big step backwards. The Anglican Church is already taking hits, becoming authoritarian/patriarchal will only hasten it’s demise.

  90. dee wrote:

    We have been keeping notes and have considered writing a post in the future about the growing alliance between the Calvinists and Anglican pastors.

    Actually Mark Dever and his crowd have long been friends Phillip Jensen, an Australian Evangelical Anglican cleric of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and the former Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral.

    Here is a video of Dever interviewing Jensen:
    https://vimeo.com/163613659

    John Folmar, pastor of United Christian Church of Dubai and former assistant pastor to Mark Dever, had Jensen come to his church in Dubai for a conference a few years ago. To my knowledge Jensen never ventured next door to the Anglican church to say hello.

  91. Ken G wrote:

    Darlene wrote:

    What choices did Nellie really have? Remember, women back then did not have the options that women have today. Society was set up in such a way that women were dependent upon men – especially wives. It would take a unique woman of strength and resiliency to break out of that mold.

    How was society was set up in pre-WWII Germany and in Switzerland when Barth returned because he had to leave Germany for refusing to support Hitler?

    Hmm…is that a rhetorical question, Ken? I don’t think I’m interested in expounding upon the rights of women in pre-WWII if, out of the gate one assumes women had all the same rights as men. Let’s just say we probably have some sharp disagreements on this issue.

  92. @ dee:
    This article in TGC, written by a prominent Sydney Anglican Evangelical, shows there is a strong and growing connection with Reformed views. GAFCON is another Association and there are prominent Reformed Anglicans in The Proclamation Trust, Porterhouse and Cornhill Trusts. You also find some of them appearing at various sponsored conferences in the USA.

    https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/nine-things-you-should-really-know-about-anglicanism

  93. @ dee:
    The Calvinista crowd is very keen on spreading their brand of Christianity. I hope they are thwarted in that. C.S. Lewis said (somewhere) that the glory of Anglicanism (his time period–the Church of England, now drastically changed) is that there were no celebrity preachers (not his words) because the liturgy is very set, the homilies are not the centerpiece of the service–the Word of God is. I guess like in Lutheranism. I’ve wondered that last few years why so few Catholic, Lutheran or Anglican priests are celebrated. It seems that they just go about doing good and minding their own business, which is, their own parish; not seeking fame, fortune, or a bunch of new members.

  94. andy williams wrote:

    -I am convinced that examples from scripture, eapecially the life of King David, show that truth is truth, no matter who said it. The Lord IS my shepherd…even though an adulterer and murderer wrote it. Luther was anti-Semitic, Wesley did not have a good marriage…both have written things I can learn from. HOWEVER, learning about a teachers sins DOES make me read them differently, with eyes open to potential problems.

    Would the apostle Paul’s letters have been canonized, made books in the Bible, if he had openly had a mistress?

  95. drJ wrote:

    Would Barth’s relationship with highly-intelligent student be any different if he were a male who moved in with Barth’s family?
    I realize that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence but is there any evidence this was more than a scholarly relationship?

    I wonder what would have happened if Nelly had insisted that, say, their male gardener or the milk man move into their home and live with them????

  96. Amir Larijani wrote:

    Having said that, given Barth’s longstanding de facto polygamous setup, one ought to question his veracity as a theologian.

    To me, listening to or reading the works of a theologian who does not practice what he preachers is akin to seeing a doctor who openly and repeatedly commits malpractice.

  97. Should not Charlotte also receive a crown? I notice there is no poll for her–but was she not also faithful, loving and courageous? Many will argue that she made for a tense situation in the Barth household but who did she ever betray? She had no husband to leave and no life but helping Barth, and this she did, faithfully, lovingly and bravely. Barth could not divorce Nelly, Nelly could not divorce him and Charlotte could not be abandoned.

  98. Todd Wilhelm wrote:

    In 1998, J.I. Packer noted the irony of C.S. Lewis’ popularity within Evangelicalism, despite his views on purgatory and many other things: “By ordinary evangelical standards, his [Lewis’] idea about the Atonement (archetypal penitence, rather than penal substitution), and his failure ever to mention justification by faith when speaking of the forgiveness of sins, and his apparent hospitality to baptismal regeneration, and his noninerrantist view of biblical inspiration, plus his quiet affirmation of purgatory[ 95] and of the possible final salvation of some who have left this world as nonbelievers, were weaknesses; they led the late, great Martyn Lloyd-Jones, for whom evangelical orthodoxy was mandatory, to doubt whether Lewis was a Christian at all. His closest friends were Anglo-Catholics or Roman Catholics;[ 96] his parish church, where he worshiped regularly, was ‘high’; he went to confession; he was, in fact, anchored in the (small-c) ‘catholic’ stream of Anglican thought, which some (not all) regard as central. Yet evangelicals love his books and profit from them hugely.”[ 97]”

    Lewis was something of an odd bird on the theology front; not surprising for a serious admirer of George MacDonald. However, to my knowledge he was never guilty of adultery with one or many women. The situation with Joy Gresham, while unusual, I don’t believe violated Scripture (although some Christians would probably disagree).

  99. Juulie Downs wrote:

    @ Lowlandseer:

    He seems to completely ignore, “Shall we sin all the more, that grace may abound? Heaven forbid”

    Yep, and with a scholarly, pretentious sounding word salad.

  100. Well, in defense of St Augustine, when he *did* finally convert fully to Christianity, he opted for celibacy, not another mistress! (Yes, I know, he did have another GF after ditching the first one, but IIRC that was while he was still a Manichean, before his famous “tolle, lege” conversion.)

  101. IOW, re Augustine: Should someone be held accountable for sins committed *before* conversion to Christianity, if said sins are duly repented of and completely forsaken *after* conversion to Christianity? If we are held accountable for our pre-conversion sins, then God help us all!

  102. OK, true confessions here. I have always had issues with Solzenitzin’s treatment of his first wife. He actually told Wife #1 he was dumping her in favor of his younger mistress because she (Wife #1) no longer served as an effective Muse for his all-important Creative Genius. Frankly, this makes me want to barf.

    I have actually​ known people in Real Life who thought that Creative Genius (real or imagined) entitled them to near-worship and endless accommodation from “lesser” human beings. Taking a page from the early 19th-century Romantics, these “monsters of narcissism” (Philip Roth’s term) truly believed that they were above and beyond the rules that apply to mere mortals.

    ISTM that Solzenitzin subscribed to this self-serving view of the special privileges supposedly attending artistic greatness. Thus he could cast off his first wife like an old shoe…and then assuage his conscience with the assurance that he was Doing the Best Thing for His Art.

    I’m sorry, but to heck with his Art. His first wife was a precious human being, infinitely more valuable than anyone’s supposedly deathless “Art.”

    Yet, having said all that, I recognize that Solzenitzin’s works are of towering importance. Yes, they are well worth reading. But I can never read a word he wrote without thinking of how poorly he treated his first wife.

  103. So, this guy’s mistress lived with him and his wife? For years?

    So, marriage doesn’t somehow make people impervious to sexual sin?

    Because I keep seeing some of the conservative Christians and think tanks who over-promote marriage (such as Mark Regnerus and Al Mohler) insist that most of society’s problems could be fixed if only golly shucks, people would stop being single, and marry already.

    And the “Billy Graham Rule” doesn’t stop self professing married Christian men from boinking around if they really want to, is that right?

    (This guy not only didn’t care if people saw him with his mistress, he didn’t care if his wife knew and saw, and he moved her right into the same house.)

  104. Lowlandseer wrote:

    it seems to me that he is downplaying adultery on the grounds that the commandment is Old Testament and that our sins are forgiven under the New Testament. He then adds in, by way of further diminishing the “Thou shalt not”, that everyone is guilty, no marriage has ever been perfect, so we can all carry on regardless, so long as we admit it and try to do better.

    The way you put it, it sounds like sin leveling.

    There’s truth in his point about forgiveness. We don’t practice stoning, however, relationships matter, more than anything else. Love God, Love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus died to improve not diminish the quality of our relationships.

    If there is deception involved, such as with IDC for example, the situation is beyond two consenting adults respectfully doing their thing. To the point where IDC took his own life. If there are minors involved, it’s predatory. How we treat each other matters more than anything.

    In the previous post from Dee about her lovely church, the doctrine was not unique. Kindness was.

  105. dee wrote:

    @ andy williams:
    Here is my concern. I get an affair, etc. David was dealt with. Unfortunately, Luther was a product of his Roman Catholic teaching in which the Jews were blamed for the death of Jesus- a belief that has listed for millennia. Despicable and wrong but believed, nonetheless.

    Luther’s antisemitism exceeded that of general Catholic views. He is generally considered to be especially excessive.

  106. It sounds like Charlotte was the theological heavyweight though; I mean, if it was all Karl’s brains and she was simply copying everything down, then when she was no longer able to do her work, it should have been an easy matter to find another secretary to take over. But when she was out of the picture, the work was stalled. I’ve love the irony if the Reformed camp were secretly devotee’s of Charlotte’s theological smarts and unorthodox lifestyle and didn’t know it because she was Karl’s ghostwriter.

  107. Catholic Gate-Crasher wrote:

    I’m sorry, but to heck with his Art. His first wife was a precious human being, infinitely more valuable than anyone’s supposedly deathless “Art.”

    Yes. Wives matter. People, yes, “little people” matter.

    Divorce is legal and sometimes a person makes a mistake in whom they marry at a young age. Thinking of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, which seemed to work better for them. Divorce can work, then moving on to find the right mate, rather than lie, cheat, deceive, side chicks, serial philanderers, etc. FWIW, my 2 cents.

  108. @ Deb:

    Your link makes it sound as though there was nothing sexual about Barth’s relationship with the other lady.

    I was under the impression from the OP there was hanky panky going on, but I guess not?

    Though I have to say I kind of disagree with the link author’s commentary on “emotional infidelity.” This Christian fear of married people being friends with anyone outside of the marriage causes single adults to be ostracized and lonely.

    There may or may not be other singles for a single adult to pal around with.

  109. I just did a google image search on these two. NOBODY in a strictly professional relationship snuggles up together the way these two did. Just looking at the still images raises red flags. One can only imagine what Barth’s poor, long suffering wife endured.

  110. Jamie Carter wrote:

    It sounds like Charlotte was the theological heavyweight though; I mean, if it was all Karl’s brains and she was simply copying everything down, then when she was no longer able to do her work, it should have been an easy matter to find another secretary to take over. But when she was out of the picture, the work was stalled. I’ve love the irony if the Reformed camp were secretly devotee’s of Charlotte’s theological smarts and unorthodox lifestyle and didn’t know it because she was Karl’s ghostwriter.

    That was rather my thoughts as well. Her thoughts and smarts, his name?

  111. You guys should all go watch “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” about the psychologist who created Wonder Woman. And the lie detector (sort of). Who was in a longtime threesome with his wife and secretary, all of which influenced the WW comic.

    But the Barth family situation seems unhappier, what with all the discussion of divorce. Has anybody considered the possibility that Nelly (Mrs. Barth) didn’t want to sleep with him anymore? (They had five kids.) And that this arrangement was a sort of compromise? It’s just a possibility, but a common enough situation, it seems to me. A variant would be if he had kinks that she was unwilling to fulfill.

    That list of great 20th-c. theologians looks awfully German.

    On a lighter note, does everybody know about the Calvinist Cadets?

    https://www.calvinistcadets.org/

  112. Finegold wrote:

    Because she remained under the same roof with those two, she enabled the relationship to continue. The true power was in her hands. Further, her children were raised under this dysfunctional and sinful condition.

    Ouch, quite frankly. How on earth was she the enabler here? How on earth did she have any ‘true power’? That’s frankly nonsensical. You do realise that those children were his property under law back then, as she was? Don’t make the mistake of thinking this was carried on in modern conditions. She could have ended up destitute & with her children still being in that situation…who are you expecting would have taken them all in & sided with her against her husband, exactly? I’m sorry but I think this is a profoundly mistaken comment that judges all the wrong people.

  113. GMFS

    (Although it’s actually almost afternoon.)

    There’s a famous apocryphal quote, attributed to Francis of Assisi, made when the then Pope was showing him around the Vatican and its many artefacts of great monetary value. AWWBA, the exchange goes something like this:

    POPE: So you see, Francis, we cannot say, like St Peter, “Silver and gold I do not have”.
    FRANCIS OF ASSISI: True; but you cannot say “Rise up and walk” either.

    And lest any of we non-Romans should get overly smug, this from Acts 4:

    Now as they [i.e. the Sanhedrin] observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognise them as having been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply.

    These days, it cannot be said of most of the famous professional evangelicals that they are uneducated and untrained. But neither is it always obvious, to the secular world, that they have been with Jesus. Nor can they routinely accomplish things that would have been impossible for them – or anyone – without him.

    I’m a stuck record on the notion that anyone who preaches, demonstrates by that very action that (s)he doesn’t believe in the sufficiency of scripture. If you’ll pardon my spelling out the obvious: if Scripture is sufficient, why on all earth would it need to be supported by my (or anyone’s) pronouncements on it? For that matter, what on earth could possess me to think I could add any value to what was already perfect? I have, on occasion, praught the sermon on a Sunday.

    I can’t speak for why others have done this, but for myself, quite frankly I’ve done it because I’m an idiot. I comment here for the same reason. To repeat: I make no judgement on other speakers or commenters. I do not believe in the sufficiency of scripture; not least because I believe scripture is God-breathed and I can’t find the idea in scripture itself. I couldn’t hope to pursue the Christian life without the company and input of my believing friends, online and IRL, or without the direct contact of the Holy Spirit himself, or without reading the Bible.

    Nevertheless, I am wary of over-relying on books written by people I’ve never met.

  114. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    I don’t follow your logic Nick.philip the evangelist did it – “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” Jesus also did it throughout His Ministry.

  115. Jamie Carter wrote:

    But when she was out of the picture, the work was stalled. I’ve love the irony if the Reformed camp were secretly devotee’s of Charlotte’s theological smarts and unorthodox lifestyle and didn’t know it because she was Karl’s ghostwriter.

    Love it!

  116. This post by Deb is very disappointing to me. It appears to me there was somehow an attempt to link the “Neo-Cals” with Karl Barth. I hope you ladies know I agree that the Neo-Cals have gone off the rails. There is real problems there. But in an effort to indite them to somehow say that they think highly of Karl Barth is bordering on slander, if you ask me.
    Like I have said I have read and heard the icons of the recent Calvinist such as Sproul, Piper, MacArthur, Ware, Schreiner, etc., etc. I looked at them too uncritically for approximately 30 years. It was my understanding from the inside that Karl Barth fell into the category of “German Higher Textural Criticism” This is something very critical of inerrancy and a high view of the Bible. It has always been my experience that the only ones to quote Karl Barth were always critically and only those with scholarly backgrounds. It was always my impression that to be a respected 20th century scholar you had to deal with the writing of Barth and criticize the “German Higher Textural Criticism” crowd. Pastors rarely if ever quote Barth. Scholars do. But almost exclusively critically. At least this is what I got out of it. If you pursue a degree in Theology at a post graduate Evangelical institution it is expected that you will bring forth Barth and criticize and show why he was wrong. Like I say ladies. I am disappoint in this particular blog. A lot of these Neo-Calvinist deserve criticism. But not for quoting Barth in a scholarly way. To do so is not an endorsement. They quote St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Does that mean they endorse Roman Catholicism? They quote C.S. Lewis does that mean they endorse all the weird things he believed? No it doesn’t.

  117. Lowlandseer wrote:

    I don’t follow your logic Nick.

    That’s most likely because my comment was rubbish, which in turn was because it was written over an hour, and three separate visits to the Mac, after each of which my left hand failed to inform my right concerning what it had been typing, and vice versa.

    I believe scripture is necessary, and – insofar as we don’t need any more scripture – complete, but not sufficient.

    In an issue of Christianity magazine about a year ago, there was a brief one-off feature on the gift of tongues and whether or not we should expect (or, indeed, allow) it today. John Macarthur argued against it, and the whole of his argument as presented there was that the gift of tongues would detract from the sufficiency of scripture. While I realise the english phrase “the sufficiency of scripture” covers a great many possible meanings, most of the uses of it I’ve come across are some variation on Macarthur’s theme: the closure of the canon by around whenever exactly it was closed, expelled other God-given resources from the church, shackled the Holy Spirit himself like a genie in a bottle, and rendered obsolete the foundational church offices as described in scripture (whilst curiously creating a new one, preacher, and magnifying it above everything else…).

    In that sense, Philip himself didn’t believe in the sufficiency of scripture, since he accompanied his preaching with a great many signs and healings – as, of course, did Jesus himself. Philip had encountered the Ethiopian official in the first place because of a specific and (as the saying goes) extra-biblical piece of knowledge given to him by the Holy Spirit. But once he met the Ethiopian, who was not sick or demon-possessed, but was searching for understanding about scripture, it made perfect sense for Philip to set it in context for him by explaining how it had been fulfilled in the person of Jesus.

    My problem with “the sufficiency of scripture” is twofold, then. Firstly, it is typically founded on a false antithesis: if you don’t worship scripture, you’re despising it and dismissing it completely. This is entirely untrue, of course. And secondly, it is founded on a logical contradiction: if we need to preach on and explain it, then it isn’t really sufficient in any non-trivial sense.

  118. okrapod wrote:

    IMO there is no need to reject every word out of either man’s mouth, and there is no need to genuflect at the mere mention of either name.

    I think that’s the issue here. These men get put on pedestals. We’re “encouraged” to read them and emulate them. They get more quote time in sermons than Jesus does. It’s like a formula: read these 27 reformed protestant books and you will know everything there is to know about how to lead a Good Christian Life and run a Bible Believing Church, and then God will be pleased with you.

    Pharisees, the lot of them. Someone, it may even have been a post on here, pointed out how these neo-cal guys like to share their opinions which they rip off from each other, and they like to quote from books they’ve read, but Jesus hardly ever gets a mention. The Holy Spirit doesn’t get a look in other than a vague mention of “conviction”. It’s like they’re holding a banquet in Jesus’ honour, but He’s not allowed to sit at the top table or make a speech or talk to any of the guests.

  119. @ Ken:
    Difference of opinion.

    The relational part of a theologian’s life matters. Word and Deed.

    Politicians have side chicks, and they pass bills. Executives, too, and they strike deals. However, theologians? Seems a click off – their moral compass. Just enough to sink the craft.

  120. @ Daisy:
    I was sharing information, which I thought was insightful. It did not originate with me. Because this was such a long-term relationship between Karl and Charlotte, I do believe something pretty serious was going on between them. Maybe someday someone will spill the beans about the extent of their relationship.

  121. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    I’m a stuck record on the notion that anyone who preaches, demonstrates by that very action that (s)he doesn’t believe in the sufficiency of scripture. If you’ll pardon my spelling out the obvious: if Scripture is sufficient, why on all earth would it need to be supported by my (or anyone’s) pronouncements on it? For that matter, what on earth could possess me to think I could add any value to what was already perfect? I have, on occasion, praught the sermon on a Sunday.

    Because it is not about scripture, and it is not about the speaker; it about the listener. Just like why should I have to talk about how to simplify fractions or how to find bass F on the keyboard if I am ‘teaching’ somebody who can already read/ knows the multiplication tables/ and is comfortable with the idea of symbols as a way of communication? Why can’t she just sit down with the instructional material and figure it all out by herself?

    Because the spoken word is far more facile and diverse and far easier to make fit the circumstances in just a lot of ways. Because I have been down the road and know some pitfalls that are better avoided. Because I can speak to the student, not just recite the information. Because I both care about and enjoy the information and that caring and enjoying comes through in tone of voice and body language which are not part of merely decoding the words and symbols on paper. Because with the spoken word I can control the time and the emphasis and both slow things down and also keep things moving along such that neither extreme of slowing to a standstill or racing through and missing the important parts will happen.

    And because ‘sharing’ of the gospel is not just sharing of the information but also a kind of sharing of the self, and that is better done with flesh and blood than with paper and ink.

    And not least of all because RE tells me that research shows that all? humans are hard wired to speak but that many of us are just not hard wired to read and cannot in fact every be taught to read, while others can be taught somewhat to read but they never ‘get it’ like those who just naturally intuit how to read That is the ‘education talk’ as transmitted to me from RE after some required CE on the subject which she attended. That said, the gospel is for all, not just for those who ‘intuit’ (education lingo) how to read.

    For that matter, why have lectures at university? Why should the doctor explain his conclusions; can’t people just read the handout?

  122. @ Ken:
    Just wondering whether you have seen some of the posts over at The Gospel Coalition regarding Karl Barth. If you search his name, page after page of articles come up – no doubt a number of them are not affirming.

    Trevin Wax definitely holds Barth in high regard, listing him as one of the top five theologians of all times.

    https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2014/05/27/christianitys-5-most-important-theologians/

    https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2008/08/22/top-5-christian-theologians-karl-barth/

    Here are a couple of the many links over at TGC:

    https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2016/02/22/what-should-evangelicals-make-of-karl-barth/

    https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2013/12/29/karl-barths-prayer-for-the-new-year/

  123. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    if we need to preach on and explain it, then it isn’t really sufficient in any non-trivial sense.

    Scripture is certainly not a roadmap of any kind. I’ve always thought it should be interpreted in the context of its time. These days I lean toward scripture being a mixture of history, philosophy and mythology.

    Pertaining to tongues. I’ve heard people talking in tongues. I find it eerie myself but on a practical level, I think it odd that the master of the universe can’t articulate in the vernacular language.

    For that matter, I think it odd that it’s been stated that if God intervened in everything then it would compromise free will, however (I’ve heard it claimed), he’ll heal cancers in suburban housewives, raise the dead and heal broken bones …. in India, and (according to an itinerant pastor at my wife’s church) heal a damaged shoulder to bring a young man to the Lord. Doesn’t make sense.

    So I’m not surprised at Barth’s situation. Taking the post and info at face value, it’s possible he didn’t have a problem with polygamy (or polyamory) – in the old testament, God had no issues with it and Jesus didn’t say you couldn’t… and since he was the “husband” and theologian….well – it didn’t matter what his wife thought.

    It really highlights that a lot of religion is really just “make it up to fit my worldview”.

    “I’m the king” = divine right to rule – Hey, it’s not me – if God didn’t want me to be the king then why am I the king?

    “I’m rich” – hey if God didn’t want me to be rich then why am I rich = prosperity gospel

    “I’m poor” – God doesn’t want me to be poor, I should take from the rich = social gospel

    and so on an so forth.

    Makes me think of the Simpsons episode where Homer wants to eat a cookie that he shouldn’t

    “Lord, can I eat this cookie? Your silence means yes”

  124. @ okrapod:

    Well, exactly. Scripture is not sufficient, it never claims to be sufficient, and God never gave it to us to be so. We need the Holy Spirit himself, we need the manifestations and gifts of the Holy Spirit, we need one another – both one another’s company, and one another’s experience / wisdom / ideas / insights.

    If anything, I think we need more preaching… just not from the same few preachers. Paul observed to the believers in Corinth that, when they assembled, everyone had something to contribute. Perhaps part of the Barth lesson is that we shouldn’t be sitting back watching one man write 38-volume treatises when so many “ordinary” believers have so much more to teach us.

  125. @ Deb:
    From the Justin Taylor article:
    Quoted from D.A. Carson.
    “Barth says many things that shows him affirming the truthfulness of Scripture, the reliability of Scripture, the authority of Scripture and if you take those things at face value, without reference to anything else that he says, then it is easy to imagine that he is essentially an evangelical in the history and tradition of the whole mainstream of the church. But he really isn’t. Part of it is because when he talks about inspiration and the truthfulness of Scripture, he wants to integrate both how God gave the Scripture, as Scripture, and how that Scripture is received by human beings, which requires the Spirit’s work in us to illumine us. He puts all those things together in one package and refuses to separate them.”

    Can you say in a scholarly way that someone is one of the top theologians of the 20th century and then turn around and say he is not Evangelical? Yes, yes you can. As a scholar. As he said in the article there was much of what Barth wrote that was worth reading (I take as a scholar). Did he endorse Barth’s understanding of scripture? No Carson does not. As a Scholar D.A. Carson (D.A. Carson teaches at Trinity Theological Divinity) almost surely has to deal with him. Does that mean he endorses Barth? No it does not. Carson says he is not Evangelical and he defines what he means by Evangelical.

  126. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Perhaps part of the Barth lesson is that we shouldn’t be sitting back watching one man write 38-volume treatises when so many “ordinary” believers have so much more to teach us.

    No one person is that smart. On any number of subjects there are very well educated and reasonable people with a range of differing ideas and opinions.

  127. Ken wrote:

    It has always been my experience that the only ones to quote Karl Barth were always critically and only those with scholarly backgrounds.

    …or those who quote him, some positively and some negatively, who want to pretend that they have the same deep theological understanding as someone with a scholarly background.

    (from my experience, having overheard a few discussions amongst the “elite” in our former church — and none of this “first shall be last and last shall be first” business, either)

  128. Beakerj wrote:

    She could have ended up destitute & with her children still being in that situation…who are you expecting would have taken them all in & sided with her against her husband, exactly? I’m sorry but I think this is a profoundly mistaken comment that judges all the wrong people.

    Your view is important as it reinforces the understanding that there are often consequences to taking a stand. I do question if it is a mistake to categorize a person as largely powerless because they are placed in an inferior position. While we should not judge someone in such a situation, history is replete with examples of those who bucked the odds and shamed those with power. At the same time history likely hides a very much greater number of people who bucked the system and were destroyed.

    While withholding judgement of those who remain in oppressive relationships I can’t help but admire those who take the risk to set aside their safety and security and make a change based on their hope for something better.

  129. I have a close working relationship to my boss. I am exceedingly aware of the temptation to emotionally exploit him (I’m single, he is married) and have, as a result, intense accountability in this area. (I think physical affairs often follow emotional affairs)

    I seek to cultivate my relationship with his wife as a guard against being too close to him, and try to serve their family as much as possible (I babysit so they can go on date nights, etc). Again, intense accountability in this so as to not even get close to sin.

    But – and this is the rub – we DO work exceedingly well together. I’m his right hand woman, and he trusts my professional and personal opinion. Everyone at work knows this, and my wise counsel has encouraged me to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, but to instead continue to stay honest with them, honest with the Lord, honest with myself as we serve together.

    Even WITH the awareness of temptation, I can and am often in a room alone with him (with a window, of course). If he and I cannot simply be in a room together safely then there’s a failure in both our accountability systems and our hearts that has already happened. The Mike Pence rule is just absurd.

    All that to say – I do think that this relationship with Karl & Charlotte is unwise. For sure. But that it HAS to be sexual is sad to me. There are 2 co-workers I have (he, 53, married, she, 42ish, not) that are very close. They are each other’s go-to at work. But she is welcomed into his family with his wife and is given such beautiful community there – I’m sure years down the road someone will post about how it *must* have been sexual.

    Can we simply critique the relationship as we know it existed and perhaps not presume something that may or may not have been a part of it? Just my 2 cents!

  130. Thersites wrote:

    No one person is that smart.

    Bah.

    I’m that clever, but none of you whiners and malcontents here would listen to me. That’s because you’re all rubbish.

    Up Yours,

    Roger Bombast

  131. dee wrote:

    I’ve love the irony if the Reformed camp were secretly devotee’s of Charlotte’s theological smarts and unorthodox lifestyle and didn’t know it because she was Karl’s ghostwriter.

    Perhaps they should throw out “his” works. Whoa, to think they’ve been schooled by a woman!! But I have a hunch they’d say he gave her permission/his blessings, so that makes it legitimate material to read.

  132. @ Jack:

    Well put Jack. It delineates in no small measure why I’m a none and a done.
    Done with Jesus of Nazareth? Oh goodness no! Just the nonsense that’s grown up around him over the centuries.

  133. Roger Bombast wrote:

    Bah.

    I’m that clever

    If I can adapt Richard Fineman’s comment on Quantum Mechanics, if you think you understand it, you don’t understand it.

  134. @ In GA:
    Thank you for your comment. How fantastic that you have a great working relationship with your boss and his wife. I mean that sincerely.

    Your situation differs from the one described in this post because you are not co-habitating with your boss and his wife.

    Also, wouldn’t it be weird to think that at the end of your life you might be entombed with your boss and his wife? Just something to think about…

  135. @ In GA:” The Mike Pence rule is just absurd.”….It obviously would be absurd in YOUR situation. However, I think it’s a bit shortsighted on your part to say it’s absurd in all cases. Some people feel they need that sort of boundary. If it works for them then I see nothing wrong with it.

  136. In GA wrote:

    Can we simply critique the relationship as we know it existed and perhaps not presume something that may or may not have been a part of it? Just my 2 cents!

    Not really. He presumed to teach/ preach/ make his living by theology, which put him in a somewhat though only slightly somewhat different position, since the scripture advises us to shun the appearance of evil. That would be ‘appearance’. He apparently did not give a rat’s %%% about appearance. So, IMO, he thumbed his nose at scripture, while at the same time profiting by the promulgation of his ideas about theology. There is an attitude there which seems to indicate that he placed himself above/ beyond/ untouched by something in scripture which he determined did not apply to him.

    Not only that, he publicly shamed his wife by his actions.

    So what did his life say? Did he say that if you are smart enough then God makes exceptions for you because somehow God is so honored that you voted for Him in the election? Or perhaps that God is lucky to have him as a theologian, or even perhaps that God suffers from burn out and just does not care all that much any more about the details? Or did he say with some of his theology and with his life that he himself just did not take it all that seriously other than making a name for himself in academia?

    Well, he was not living up to what scripture specifically and usual and common Christian culture both seem to require of a Christian. Even, however, if he was not a believer it is still possible that there is something of value to be teased out of what he had to say. It is quite appropriate to value somebody as a thinker while all the while disagreeing with what he thought and not respecting how he lived.

    Whatever in detail Jesus mean by discussing the dimensions of the gate and the width of the path, none the less He did discuss it, and however one concludes about what He meant it is safe to say that He was discussing limitations of access and process. Living a life style which says ‘not I-nobody is going to limit me if I want to do something’ misses part of the basis of discipleship. If God is indeed God,then that takes precedence. No amount of vocabulary rich meandering about in philosophical variations on some theme takes the place of personal self discipline when and if the latter is required.

  137. As a layman, if I were to even try to get away with what Barth did, or what any of today’s celebrity “pastors” do, I would be run out of the church in a heartbeat. Somehow they are excluded from the same scrutiny. Enough already! How much data does the church need to send rise up and send these charlatans packing?

  138. @ Nick Bulbeck:
    I think we are saying the same thing but in slightly different ways. I rely on the Bible for my information about God and everything he has done and is doing in Jesus to redeem us. To tell others about this Good News is to repeat or read aloud what is written there. To do this “successfully” (probably an inappropriate word to use) you have to rely on the Holy Spirit to help you, guide you even. And I think that is what the Reformers meant by the sufficiency of Scripture. They said that we should believe it, not because any man or church tells us to, but because it is the word of God. Even if we are convinced by its internal glory and perfection, that is not enough. The work of the Holy Spirit bears witness by and with the word in our hearts. (That’s my poor summary of the Westminster Confession of Faith).

    So I agree with you about Scripture in itself. I agree with you on the need for the Holy Spirit in our lives. I agree with you that it doesn’t depend on any man telling it’s good and right, but only as the Holy Spirit opens it up to us.
    All the best.

  139. refugee wrote:

    Ken wrote:
    It has always been my experience that the only ones to quote Karl Barth were always critically and only those with scholarly backgrounds.
    …or those who quote him, some positively and some negatively, who want to pretend that they have the same deep theological understanding as someone with a scholarly background.
    (from my experience, having overheard a few discussions amongst the “elite” in our former church — and none of this “first shall be last and last shall be first” business, either)

    For the record, I’ve only just started reading Barth and I frequently lose the will to get to the end of one of his long, incomprehensible sentences. But I’ve found that the fog sometimes clears after a glass of Chardonnay on a Friday evening. Oh look, it’s nearly wine o’ clock!

  140. refugee wrote:

    Hahahahahahaha! It struck me very funny to read “pronounced ‘Bart’” in the OP.

    I can still hear those pretentious people (the ones who worked their way to the top, took over the church, and systematically imposed a culture of legalism there) at the old church, very seriously and weightily discussing reformed theology, and pronouncing it “barth” (to rhyme with “hearth”).

    I don’t know why, but in terms of irony, it fits somehow.

    My only real exposure to Barth was at church and it was clear that knowing how to pronounce is a clear dividing line.

  141. Who we ultimately want to read from is writings by the Holy Spirit. Now of course the Holy Spirit will not write directly. He write through people who are connected to him.

    So when we pick books to read, it is very important to find a author who’s life has shown that he is indeed connected with the Holy Spirit. This of course doesn’t mean that he lived a sinless life. But it does mean that he hates sin and he always repent when he does sin. This mean he delight and rejoice in God’s love and his righteousness. And that he aims to love God and also love his neighbours as himself.

    So if someone isn’t connected to the Holy Spirit, does this make everything he write useless? I will argue that yes they are all useless. This would be like a non-believer reading the bible and then writing on what he thinks about the bible. This non-believer might write the correct things. But the Holy Spirit is not in the writing. Hence there is no power of conviction there. So what is the point? It is not man who convicts, but God who convicts.

    For example Karl Barth wrote that a marriage is between one man and one women. And cheating is adultery. Is this correct? Of course it is correct. But Karl Barth himself cheated against his wife, not just once but continuously. So the Holy Spirit is not in Karl Barth. A person cannot possibly love God when he hates any of his neighbours. So then what is the point of reading any of his work? The Holy Spirit is not in them. Because certainly the Holy Spirit didn’t write it. These are just opinions of a sinful man, or worst yet the opinions of Satan.

    Furthermore it is DANGEROUS to read the works of someone who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. While these works might look good on the surface, somethings are often very off inside. Because this person is guided by his own flawed logic and selfish sinful desires, since the Holy Spirit isn’t there. So instead of being divine inspired, his work is Satanic inspired. The writings of Satan might look good, but will ultimately lead to falsehood.

    You are better off reading the bible for the 1000th time, then reading the opinions of a sinful man and Satan.

  142. Lowlandseer wrote:

    For the record, I’ve only just started reading Barth and I frequently lose the will to get to the end of one of his long, incomprehensible sentences. But I’ve found that the fog sometimes clears after a glass of Chardonnay on a Friday evening. Oh look, it’s nearly wine o’ clock!

    I had the same reaction to Clark. At one point, there was quite a division between the “Clark-heads” and the “Van Tilians” at the former church…

    I tried to read Clark, in order to understand what the controversy was about, but found him to obscure much more than clarify issues. His writings were great sleep inducers on insomnia-affected nights, too.

  143. Lowlandseer wrote:

    For the record, I’ve only just started reading Barth and I frequently lose the will to get to the end of one of his long, incomprehensible sentences. But I’ve found that the fog sometimes clears after a glass of Chardonnay on a Friday evening. Oh look, it’s nearly wine o’ clock!

    I’ve never read Barth – I only know about him because a friend used to refer to him a way back in my Glasgow days. Frankly, I appreciate your heroic efforts in condensing hundreds of words with a Gunning Fox Index of 20+ into a concise paragraph of plain english for us all @ upthread.

    Slàinte mhath..!

  144. Beakerj wrote:

    Finegold wrote:
    Because she remained under the same roof with those two, she enabled the relationship to continue. The true power was in her hands. Further, her children were raised under this dysfunctional and sinful condition.
    Ouch, quite frankly. How on earth was she the enabler here? How on earth did she have any ‘true power’? That’s frankly nonsensical. You do realise that those children were his property under law back then, as she was? Don’t make the mistake of thinking this was carried on in modern conditions. She could have ended up destitute & with her children still being in that situation…who are you expecting would have taken them all in & sided with her against her husband, exactly? I’m sorry but I think this is a profoundly mistaken comment that judges all the wrong people.

    Amen, Beakerj! I addressed this issue up thread, basically saying the same things as you. What options did Nelly really have? I’m inclined to think very few. Women didn’t have the same kind of agency back then as they do now.

  145. Lowlandseer wrote:

    @ Nick Bulbeck:
    I don’t follow your logic Nick.philip the evangelist did it – “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” Jesus also did it throughout His Ministry.

    The question is: Did Philip believe in the sufficiency of Scripture as the Evangelicals teach it?

  146. Well, I’ve now studied this thread extensively and it’s clear to me what your collective problem is: you’re all looking for the perfect church.

    What I would say is, if you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it – you’ll spoil it.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Arnold Smartarse

  147. dee wrote:

    Jamie Carter wrote:
    But when she was out of the picture, the work was stalled. I’ve love the irony if the Reformed camp were secretly devotee’s of Charlotte’s theological smarts and unorthodox lifestyle and didn’t know it because she was Karl’s ghostwriter.
    Love it!

    Actually, if you peruse the www (world wide web) you will discover some sites that believe something quite like this happened. That Charlotte was responsible for writing quite a bit of Barth’s theological papers, books, etc.

  148. Um, I think Barth is a great theologian because he wrote so much. Didn’t Jesus say that the longer our prayers are, the more likely they are to be answered? Makes sense to me.

    A. Dummarse

  149. Arnold Smartarse wrote:

    Well, I’ve now studied this thread extensively and it’s clear to me what your collective problem is: you’re all looking for the perfect church.
    What I would say is, if you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it – you’ll spoil it.
    Yours Sincerely,
    Arnold Smartarse

    Okay, Arnold. We get your message. We don’t need the broken record anymore. Find a new hobby horse, thank you very much!

  150. @ Darlene:

    It wouldn’t surprise me at all.

    Back at the turn of the 19th century, there was a wee French lassie called Sophie Germain who, although a brilliantly gifted mathematician, had to write (long story short) under a male pseudonym at first because she didn’t think she’d be taken seriously otherwise. (Shades of Joanne Rowling, perhaps…) Some of Germain’s work wasn’t of the best quality, but it’s widely accepted now that if she’d had access to education, and therefore a proper grounding in the mathematics of the day, this would have been very different.

    Her Wiki page is quite interesting if you’ve a spare few minutes.

  151. Darlene wrote:

    The question is: Did Philip believe in the sufficiency of Scripture as the Evangelicals teach it?

    Even more than that, if Philip was zapped supernaturally by God into the situation with the Ethiopian, then the question can be asked whether God believed in the sufficiency of scripture as the evangelicals teach it.

  152. FWIW, I believe in the sufficiency of scripture even less than Nick does, based at least in part on the fact that scripture sometimes introduces ideas without good explanation thus leaving the explanations to be found elsewhere. Romans 1 for example where scripture says that people can understand some things about God by looking at what has been created, but it does not list just what about creation explains what exactly about God. One is left with reference to a generality, and that leaves a gap in understanding which is not spelled out, as far as I see, in scripture.

    Or on a more titillating topic scripture again and again refers to sexual immorality but does not go into elaborate details as to what is/ is not specifically immoral, or not.

    More to the point, christianity is at odds with itself as to how to understand all sorts of statements in scripture. Why? If scripture were sufficient in any sort of way then surely it would have to be sufficiently explanatory for people to understand its sufficiencies, but that does not seem to be the case.

    I think that scripture is sufficient to do what it is intended to do, but it does not seem to be intended to be sufficient.

  153. Arnold Dummarse wrote:

    Um, I think Barth is a great theologian because he wrote so much. Didn’t Jesus say that the longer our prayers are, the more likely they are to be answered? Makes sense to me.
    A. Dummarse

    On a serious note, Arnie, I don’t see where Jesus mentioned any rules about the length of prayers needing to be kept short. He talked about vain repetitions but that hardly could have meant keep it short and sweet when He Himself spent long hours in prayer during the night(s), or so it seems. Somebody has suggested that by qualifying ‘repetitions’ with the word ‘vain’ He might have meant that all repetitions are vain or He might have meant that only some repetitions are vain. Evidently in the Garden He engaged in apparent repetitions. And Paul repeated his request about his problem more than once before he got an answer. Then too the story about the unjust judge seems to clearly teach perseverance in prayer which would of necessity IMO involve at least some repetition.

    I raise this issue with you, Arnie, since you seem to be rather simple, and sometimes simple people understand things that the less simple complicate too much.

  154. okrapod wrote:

    Romans 1 for example where scripture says that people can understand some things about God by looking at what has been created

    This is a very good example of where scripture itself points to extra-biblical revelation – that is, an understanding of God that does not come via scripture.

    Let me be clear – however weird it looks if read as a novel, a text-book, an act of Parliament or a history, I love the bible. (I don’t read it as any of the above things, but as a bible. And, frivolity aside, I’ll never have the definitive, authoritative “interpretation” of any of it, which is why I depend on others who also love it.) Which makes it all the more frustrating when the bible is saddled with a load God never intended it for.

  155. @ okrapod:
    Sometimes you can be too clever for your own good. Try reading Louis Gaussen but you’ll not agree with him either.

  156. Lowlandseer wrote:

    For the record, I’ve only just started reading Barth and I frequently lose the will to get to the end of one of his long, incomprehensible sentences. But I’ve found that the fog sometimes clears after a glass of Chardonnay on a Friday evening. Oh look, it’s nearly wine o’ clock!

    Many years ago I sat under an English Prof. who really knew her brass tacks and how to impart their usage to her charges.
    She taught us:
    “Never spend 3000 words on something for which 300 will do nicely.”

    How can I say this? There really is no nice way to say it.
    I think Barth and the whole lot of them who prattle on endlessly with sophistry over substance about an ethereal subject (theology) are way overrated and riddled with pretension.

  157. Good post and I am enjoying the comments. There are some pretty well-rounded folks weighing in.

    The thing that interests me the older I get, is that some very flawed people have been used by God since the beginning of time. Obviously, there is no excuse for adultery and those who are guilty will give an account. But, I have learned a lot from some people that end up disappointing me. As a teenager, I loved listening to David Hocking on the radio. I learned so much. When he had an affair, I was so discouraged that our pastor called me to see if I was OK!

    Now, what really gets under my skin is when people are still alive, caught in their hypocrisy, and never repent. It makes me sad and angry.

  158. CHIPS wrote:

    Furthermore it is DANGEROUS to read the works of someone who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit.

    Seeing that I don’t know who has ‘the Holy Spirit’ I’ll have to interpret this as ‘it is DANGEROUS to read’. Good luck with your continuing education.

  159. Injun Joe wrote:

    I think Barth and the whole lot of them who prattle on endlessly with sophistry over substance about an ethereal subject (theology) are way overrated and riddled with pretension.

    Agreed!

  160. I haven’t read through all the comments here, but just have to say after reading the article that ANYONE can write theological tomes and sermons. I know this from personal experience. A person’s behavior can be so wacked out and evil and ungodly, yet they can seemingly write volumes of “truth.” Fruit of the Spirit? Nowhere to be found. They can talk, write, read, and ACT fluent Chrisianese but be completely devilish. So tired of intellectual Christianity. SO. TIRED.

  161. Lowlandseer wrote:

    For the record, I’ve only just started reading Barth and I frequently lose the will to get to the end of one of his long, incomprehensible sentences. But I’ve found that the fog sometimes clears after a glass of Chardonnay on a Friday evening. Oh look, it’s nearly wine o’ clock!

    It’s always “wine o’clock” somewhere!

    More seriously, I wonder if the issue with understanding Barth is the translation from German. I don’t know German, but I suspect it’s a problem with (a) technical theological language and (b) language that is more than 50 years old. So the translator has to have more than a passing familiarity with a German that probably 99 percent of Germans don’t speak.

    But I’m wondering if 38 volumes of anything is too much. Just My Personal Opinion.

  162. CHIPS wrote:

    Furthermore it is DANGEROUS to read the works of someone who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. While these works might look good on the surface, somethings are often very off inside. Because this person is guided by his own flawed logic and selfish sinful desires, since the Holy Spirit isn’t there. So instead of being divine inspired, his work is Satanic inspired. The writings of Satan might look good, but will ultimately lead to falsehood.

    You are better off reading the bible for the 1000th time, then reading the opinions of a sinful man and Satan.

    I gotta’ disagree. Who decides what is sacred and what is profane? Does goodness stand on its own with its own merits? (C.S. Lewis argued that it does) Or can it only come from the Bible? Erasmus contended with Lootair (Luther) over this very question when he wrote:

    “Sacred Scripture is of course the basic authority for everything; yet I sometimes
    run across ancient sayings or pagan writings — even the poets — so purely and reverently and admirably expressed that I can’t help believing their author’s hearts were moved by some divine power. And perhaps the spirit of Christ is more widespread than we understand, and the company of the saints includes many not in our calendar.”

    From: “The Godly Feast” written in 1522.

    I’m with Erasmus on this one.

  163. Nick Bulbeck wrote:

    Which makes it all the more frustrating when the bible is saddled with a load God never intended it for.

    You mean like saddled with the load of having to answer for every issue about absolutely everything ad nauseum? Where’s that verse for telling me what I should eat for dinner tonight? Or what kind of car I should drive? Or what about if I should have sugar and cream in my coffee or drink it black? Just today I got involved in a Facebook discussion in which a fella said to me that “we need to have a biblical reason to criminalize the manufacturing, buying and owning of any gun that you arbitrarily decide is too dangerous for one man to own. Can you do that?” Now that’s saddling the bible with a load it was never meant for. Sometimes I think these biblical literalists must wake up in the morning and ask God to show them what color of shirt they should wear and what kind of breakfast they should eat, and if they should brush with Colgate or Crest.

  164. Thersites wrote:

    CHIPS wrote:

    Furthermore it is DANGEROUS to read the works of someone who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit.

    Seeing that I don’t know who has ‘the Holy Spirit’…

    That’s simple:
    ME, NOT THEE!

  165. If von Kirschbaum ghost-wrote for Barth, it should be easy to find this out using computer programs that use word-counting and such to identify, for example, whether Text A and Text B were written by the same person. It used to have to be done by hand, and was used mostly in patristics. Once computers came along, they turned it on Shakespeare (surprise! he wasn’t either Francis Bacon or the 18th earl of Oxford) and whatever else people wanted to feed into the programs. All you’d need would be a substantial pre- or post-Kirschbaum text by Barth–and ideally, a text by von Kirschbaum alone–to compare with classic Barth (who may actually be von Kirschbaum, in whole or in part). If they collaborated in some difficult-to-disentangle way, then this should show up as well.

  166. Lowlandseer wrote:

    Sometimes you can be too clever for your own good. Try reading Louis Gaussen but you’ll not agree with him either.

    I never heard the name, but thanks be to google I now note that he was a Swiss protestant of yore, so it is a forgone conclusion that he probably said some things with which I would agree and some with which I would not agree.

    I am firmly in agreement with the christian tradition I am affiliated with in that we believe prima scriptura (not sola) and also utilize Tradition/ tradition and reason. (Anglo-Catholic) I also agree with Wesley that in addition to Hooker’s three one should add ‘experience’ and I am comfortable with Wesley’s quadrilateral for what contributes to what we legitimately believe.

    My official educational background is mostly in what those of us who practice it like to call science, though the purists who practice research only do no agree that what we do is science. That said, we think like scientists think, and that is a thing of its own. It is, to use some popular christianese lingo-a world view.

    I came extremely close to being a Roman Catholic, and but for thinking that they carry things just way too far in some aspects I probably could have done that successfully.

    So, no, I would not agree with the man you recommended that I read, but having listened to some of the things you have said I do not doubt for one minute that he was probably excellent in his thinking and writing. I think you present your position quite well on a lot of stuff. We are just on different boats on this cruise.

  167. @ Deb:
    It is possible that D.A. Carson (a scholar that is a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is an authority on Barth and possibly a big fan of Barth. I think Carson is the force behind the Gospel Coalition website. Isn’t he? I have only maybe read one book by Carson. I have never heard him speak. Who knows how these scholars get their fame. Is he some kind of special scholar on Barth? I wouldn’t know. There are those in the neo-cal camp that think Carson is terrific. I am just not that familiar with Carson.

  168. Ken wrote:

    t is possible that D.A. Carson (a scholar that is a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is an authority on Barth and possibly a big fan of Barth.

    I get the sense that New-Calvinists are generally not favorably inclined toward Barth. Here is a partial transcript of an interview with DA Carson (co-founder of TGC): https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2016/02/22/what-should-evangelicals-make-of-karl-barth/

  169. FWIW – if anyone is interested in a Reformed theologian who: 1. Does not have the hang-ups of the American Neo-Cal crowd, and; 2. Is not named Abraham (Kuyper – father of the Neo-Calvinist movement in Holland) or Karl (Barth), then I HIGHLY recommend Herman Bavnick, a leading (but relatively unknown these days) Dutch Reformed scholar who was at one time considered one of the greatest Reformed scholars in the world.

    A quote from Theopedia sums him up-

    Bavinck is one of the most balanced and solidly Reformed theologians Holland ever produced.

    http://www.theopedia.com/herman-bavinck

  170. Thersites wrote:

    CHIPS wrote:
    Furthermore it is DANGEROUS to read the works of someone who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit.
    Seeing that I don’t know who has ‘the Holy Spirit’ I’ll have to interpret this as ‘it is DANGEROUS to read’. Good luck with your continuing education.

    The bible is your only source of 100% Holy Spirit filled literature. For all the rest, you should treat everyone with both trust and suspect. This means that you start off with trust. But after hearing a message you must think and consider it carefully. And be sure to observe that person’s life. Do you see their love? Do you see their fruits of the spirit?

    Of course false teachers can hide their secret evil deed very well. Some of their sins takes years before they are exposed. Is it wrong to read the books from someone who’s sin is secretly hidden? Of course not.

    But is it wrong to read the books from an exposed sinner who’s sin is laid out for all the see? Yes it is wrong. At the very least reading them further isn’t wise.

    There are so many other teachers out there. Why would anyone read books from a false teacher who cheated on his wife and isn’t repentant? Ok so this guy was right about Adam and Eve here. And he was right about John the Baptist here. And he was even right and Young Earth vs Old Earth. Ok great. But how did that change his life? Not much since he cheated on his wife. If he can betray and hurt even his own wife, do you really think he care for anything about his church and congregation? And when his writings are driven by his own selfish sinful desires and Satan’s influences, chances are high that they are falsehood.

    Be very careful. Because Satan can write 99% truth and 1% lie. But that 1% lie will totally turn it into falsehood.

    For example all these neo-Calvinists writes about male headship and how wive must submit to husband. This applies even when the husband is abusive or cheats, that the wife must still submit. Then we go look the lives of many of these neo-Calvinist leaders and what do we see? Many of them abuse and cheat, of course! What do we expect? Their writings were driven by their selfish sinful desires in the first place. So they twisted the words of God to fulfill their own desires.

    And when these leaders cheat on their wives, what do we see inside the church? That the church members are often abused by the leadership of course! Once again if these people don’t even love their wives, why would they love their church members? If a leader can ask their wives to give them a spirit filled BJ, what do you think these leaders will ask their church leaders to do for them?

    I have given you my opinion. Feel free to reply.

    Now I will go off topic and warn you to be careful when you use mockery. Mockery is not from the love of God, but from Satan. And while mockery looks like just a small sin, it can grow to other much worst sins. I do not worry for myself because mockery doesn’t hurt me. But instead I worry for the one who does the mockery. Cause our speech and writings come from our heart. Nothing can come out unless it was already inside the heart in the first place. And in our heart it is either the Holy Spirit or Satan.

    Think about it. Before a rapist actually rape someone, how long did you think he imagined and thought about raping someone? Or how long did the Nazi’s imagined and thought about killing the Jews before actually mass murdering them? Many many many times and years. And I bet you that the rapist had mocked and degraded women for years, and the Nazi has mocked and degraded the Jews for years. So when evil thoughts is in our heart and we do not repent and deal with it immediately, the evil will take root and grow and grow. Until one day evil is fully blossomed and expressed outward, causing pain and destruction to the real world. So by the time someone actually expresses these terrible and evil sins outside, that root of evil has already been allowed to grown in their hearts for many many years.

    Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. (Galatians 5:19-21)

    If we made a quick 5 second decision and it turns out to be a sin, we might be able to repent just as quickly. But if we let a sinful root to grow in our heart for years, we feel justified in our sin and we might never repent. Hence stop our sinful hearts right at the start. Do not play and toy with sinful ideas and desires. Do not let it grow.

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