Why Mark? Why Now?

Placher summarizes why Mark is particularly relevant to our time:

(1) Historical: Of all the sources available to us, Mark get us closest to Jesus own lifetime. (2) Political: The great theologian Karl Barth used to say that theology should be done with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. The newspapers these days are full of stories of war and torture in the Middle East and the church debates about whom to ordain and whom to exclude. Indirectly, Mark turns out to have a lot to say about such topics. (3) Literary: Mark is an odd text-abrupt, sometimes clumsy, written in Greek totally without literary polish, yet astonishing in its complexity, its allusiveness, its anticipation of the techniques of “postmodern” literature. Written by an ill-educated author long ago, it has amazing similarities to the work of some of the most sophisticated storytellers of our time. (4) Theological: One of the most important themes in recent theology has been a rebellion against pictures of God as unchanging, unaffected by the vicissitudes of the world in favor of an idea of God as, in Alfred North Whitehead’s beautiful phrase, “the great companion-the fellow-sufferer who understands.” We encounter such a God not only in twentieth and twenty-first-century theologians, but also-more than anywhere else in the New Testament- in the gospel of Mark.

Of the 4 of these I am most interested in his exploration of the theological. But with the abrupt ending to Mark it is worth noting that Placher’s untimely ending interrupted him from providing his final reflections to a book that appears also lacking in final reflections.


What is postliberalism?

I generally don’t cross link posts but I feel like this might be of interest to some of those who don’t read the Barth Blog.

I know I am behind on my post for this week as I was up in Portland taking some Mennonite ordination classes. But in the meantime I would encourage fellow Barthian’s to check out the conversation on Postliberalism over at Halden’s blog. 

One of the more interesting thoughts comes from PhD student David Congdon at Princeton. His comment gives a fair, if not good, description of postliberalism regarding intratextuality and extratextuality and then ends with this point:

I myself think this dichotomy between intratextuality and extratextuality is a huge mistake. As I have defined it in my own work, Christian faith occurs in the (apocalyptic-existential) interstice between intra- and extratextuality.

Best I can tell both Halden and David think Frei and Lindbeck are missing Barth on this exact point. To make this point they use Barth’s idea of revelation over religion.

While I agree with both of them that Barth’s theology of revelation is exactly what is missing in Postliberal readings of Barth, I am not sure that they miss Barth. We aren’t very far into CD yet but as far as I can tell Barth does theology primarily through intratextuality and that he properly understands what all theology must admit: that God can, and does function extratextuality. But as far I can tell Barth does doesn’t do theology through extratextuality. The recognition that Frei and Lindbeck’s the works in question don’t deal with the nature of revelation, but how to do theology means to me that they don’t miss Barth by much, if at all. David and Halden might be right that theology should be done at “the interstice between intra- and extratextuality” I just don’t think Barth is a theologian that models that in how he does theology (although he leaves the door open for it). I do wonder if David Tracy and Paul Tillich might be better models of those who attempt to theology this way but I am not as familiar with their work enough to really make that claim.

That said we still have a long ways to go in CD.


Cabe has written a post on the Barth blog that shows exactly why we would commit to reading 5000 pages over a great period of time. The highlights are some of the Barth quotes but head over there to read the whole thing with Cabe’s excellent thoughts:

In their human identification these special events are obviously subjected to an interplay of light and darkness which can only damage and forbid both the absolute affirmation of the optimist and the absolute negation of the pessimist. The really outstanding events of our life, upon which our faith lives and in which our whole life is revealed to us in faith as life in God, are not those which we can affirm with this human certitude and then have to doubt again. They are not subject to this fluctuation; they can and must be discussed apart from this false dialectic. These really outstanding events of our life are simply identical with our share in the great acts of God in His revelation…However high may rise or however deep may fall the waves of life’s events, as they are perceptible to us from within and below, the real movement of my life, the real events in which it is clear to me that in the whole dimension of my existence I belong to God, both at the flood and ebb, are secured from the other side, by the Word of God Himself.