[Book Review] The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth

 

 

edition price bookseller updated
The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth Paperback
published by Cambridge University Press (2000)

0521585600 • 9780521585606
Paperback, 332 pages
Published October 5th 2000 by Cambridge University Press

To me, this book is quite an achievement and enjoyable to read.

But beginners (and non-professionals) may need some professional guidance to grapple with its advanced content.

For, on the one hand, it assumes basic acquaintanceship with Barth’s work per se and some formal training in the field of systematic theology.
And on the other, the contributors, though all sympathetic to Barth, hold some different perspectives in their approaches.

Painting with a broad stroke, there are four major voices in this book: postliberal, radical orthodox, neo-reformed, and the German tradition.

Personally, I am happy to see that Webster (the most influential Barth scholar in UK) drawing together these Barth interpreters from diverging school of thoughts. But you probably won’t be able to tell and slide through their differences and synthesize their views.)

I recommend ch.1, 10, 14, 15, 18 of this book for beginners that have not completed any single volume of CD themselves. They are accessible and written in good styles.

As for ch.2-9, 11-3, which each takes an aspect of Barth doctrine of theological prolegomena, revelation, Scripture, Trinity, Election, Creation, Christology, Soteriology, Pneumatology, liturgy, and ethics, you will need to be able to contrast Barth against the backdrop of the traditional (evangelical) and liberal understanding of these topics in order to appreciate what Barth is doing. The contributors here do not necessarily help you do this. This is not a problem to me, and some chapters really helped me to set Barth’s CD in order.
But it should be said that the section in this companion is not for any novice who wants to read Barth as their first and primary tutor about how to talk about God systematically.

Apparently, the most seminal and controversial piece in this companion is ch.6 ‘Grace and Being’ by Bruce McCormack, which sparkled a fierce debate over a decade since its publication (on the theological ontology of God’s immanence, aseity, and election).
His chapter is not only important but also very inspirational to read, especially for what is now known as ‘actualistic ontology’ in not just theological but philosophical circles as well.

Personally, I found ch.17 ‘Barth, modernity, postmodernity’ by Graham Ward a very wise inclusion in this companion. For up until now, the solution and inspiration Barth offers for overcoming the epistemological and ethical plight in the secular world are underappreciated by theologians unfamiliar with the larger picture of contemporary critical thinking.
And this is one of the reasons why conservative theology has lost its mic to speak publicly while liberal theology has lost its vowels to speak loudly.

Graham Ward is one among those (along with Stanley Hauerwas, Joseph Magina, Paul Dafydd Jones, Steven Long, Nicholas Adams) who are insightful and capable of bringing out the bearings of Barth’s theology unto this world which has never thought they want or need to think about theology.

In my opinion, these two chapters are for the more ‘advanced’, and they are also the most rewarding chapters to read.
All in all, this book is highly recommended.

The Thematic continuity of Karl Barth’s theology with reformed theology and postliberal theology: Dialogue with Benjamin Wu

Source Link:「喜歡巴特的幽默,像墨子那樣熱血!」──歐力仁

歐力仁博士:「嚴格說來,巴特對教會的貢獻不在於提出甚麼新的神學理論(他的神學是延續宗教改革家的),而是在信仰的危機時刻(不論是政治還是文化造成的),能挺身以實際行動和神學著作為基督做見證。」

*以下的對話是與 Dr. Benjamin Wu 在 Anting Yi 的 facebook 上展開,因為 facebook 會將留言洗掉,故選擇在網誌上將對話保存。

「卡爾巴特神學與改革宗神學和後自由神學的主題延續性-由歐力仁博士一段話開始談起」

  Chiou Mu-tien 我個人沒辦法完全同意這種區分法,後者不用說沒人能有意見,但前項說法的可商榷之處太多。巴特跟17-19世紀幾位改革家的關係一直很微妙。我只說一點,今日較保守的改革宗神學不承認這種延續關係,把巴特打入新正統和存在主義神學。而主流長老會神學和新改革宗則傾向認可其延續性。後自由神學則會大方地說巴特的確是提供了一個新神學基點(theological prolegomenon),但和協合神學傳統(Union Theological Seminary)的那種新正統絕對要嚴正區分。光是這樣就有三套說法了,這是巴特會引人爭議之處。

Hier, à 03:04 · J’aime · 2 personnes

Chiou Mu-tien 抱歉在吳博士發言之前就跳進來拋磚。歐力仁老師的文章我看過多篇。但我必須婉轉地說,在中文的發表環境下,有時一些論述會因為缺乏嚴謹的同業互評而不是那麼精確。 〈「敘事神學」的堅持與悖謬〉是我讀來可能反應這個問題較為嚴重的一篇,但其他則也不乏可讀性高的開眼之作。

Hier, à 03:09 · J’aime · 3 personnes

Karl Barth
Image via Wikipedia

Benjamin Wu 用歐老師文中所提的先秦諸子來說,我的天性比較接近韓非子的冷眼旁觀,不是太熱血的 …

Hier, à 10:14 · J’aime · 1 personne

Benjamin Wu 至於巴特的神學定位,確實不同神學陣營有不同立場。除邱兄所提的三套說法外,另有一些人嘗試重現巴特神學中承襲自自由主義的那些元素,認為所謂新正統派與自由主義神學完全割裂的說法是言過其實。(與保守改革宗的譴責口吻不同,這些人歡迎一位雖批判但仍承襲自由主義神學的巴特。)

Hier, à 10:22 · J’aime

Benjamin Wu 歐師之「他的神學是延續宗教改革家的」,自然是他對自身立場的表述。我目前比較認為巴特是改革宗的(Reformed)多於「宗教改革的」(Reformational)。

Hier, à 10:26 · J’aime

Benjamin Wu 至於「新的神學理論」與「挺身作見證」之間的張力,若將場景定位在(與神學界相對的)「教會」,則巴特的貢獻可能更多還是偏向後者;當然,對巴特而言,即使是這種為基督作見證的行動,仍然有其堅實的神學理據:即對耶穌基督是成為肉身之道的堅持。

Hier, à 10:30 · J’aime

Benjamin Wu 但對神學界(或至少巴特學界)而言,巴特確實帶來嶄新的神學理論,最出名的其中一個正是他在CD II/2對加爾文雙重預定論的重新詮釋。即使有人指出巴特誤解了加爾文,這仍無損他的揀選論的嶄新性,更別說這所引發的對如何理解上帝本體的相關爭議至今仍方興未艾。當然,即使是這類看來很玄的理論,在巴特神學中仍帶出倫理學的意義和行動。

Hier, à 10:37 · J’aime

Chiou Mu-tien 的確,即使1915-1968的巴特是明明地與自由派系統決裂,但後期的批判學者以肯定之姿在這個時期的巴特中尋找自由神學的殘影,仍然也是一項可觀的學術勞動。所以這是第四種理解。但我認為比起新正統之中對巴特的承認歡迎,自由神學中的這種做法相對更為穿鑿、遙遠,且難以成為主流論述(新正統和古典自由神學是光譜相近、關連重大,但必須被區分的兩種觀念系統)。可以說我的老師在也提過這一說法的存在之後,認為我們一本持這種信念的書都不需要讀。:p

Hier, à 12:02 · J’aime

Chiou Mu-tien相對於CD I.1派和IV.1派,以CD II.2派的角度而言(如Bruce McCormack的巴特研究學派),用electing God 來重新貫通 doctrine of election的做法絕對是新的神學系統。我認為這邊用 actualism 來破立 Calvin essentialism 的勢頭太明顯,而且也改換了三一論本體及互存關係的關連樣貌(這確實是後自由及天主教巴特研究的主戰場,而對依照von Balthasar 1931類比轉向進路的天主教一派,差異的存在更不用說,我不知道仍想拉攏巴特和加爾文的人能如何回應)。就我所知,近年普林斯頓神學,對於系統神學中如何解答 electing God 導出的救恩論被存在主義化、內在及經世三一(viz., the Theo-logical relation between the immanent Trinity and economic Trinity)和揀選本體序(ontological order after electing God)仍然是分歧重大的。

Hier, à 12:16 · J’aime

Chiou Mu-tien 而那些能撇開這些高層級的神哲學問題,而能從而導出新倫理學意境的,多半願意犧牲或改換巴特系統中一些以極度難解的部份。所以我說這是新巴特主義(neo-Bartianism),而這是如杜克大學、多倫多大學,或耶魯大學的後自由學人所願意做的。普林斯頓在Hunsinger 底下應該也有一些人。

Hier, à 12:21 · J’aime

Chiou Mu-tien

Barth vs. Calvin on election 我一些貼出過的對話可見於此http://wp.me/pOOVy-cK 另外與其說 「耶穌基督作為成肉身之道」是巴特的主要堅持,我認為不論 CD I.1派和CD II.2派都會將之改換為一個歷史和神學角度更精準的說法: « Let God be God » 才是他最大的、最終的堅持。 神人之間的無限距離、道的三重性、永恆揀選中的神,都來自這個不可妥協的堅持。 而幾乎所有對巴特歷史臧否的評價也都由此而來。 Van Til 和其他保守派要由此指控巴特是「唯信主義」 fideism 和「非基礎主義」non-foundationalism 因此也不是沒有道理。至於那些說他的神學是「基督一元論」Christomonism的人我能理解為什麼他們會這樣讀,巴特的「基督中心論」Christocentrism給人這樣的傾向,但兩套概念是不能代換的,而對我來說兩者間的界線巴特有完整地守住。後自由早就已理開了這個結。

最後我認為除了人接受啟示的場域(locale)之外,耶穌基督復活的問題(和升天前40天的存有、知識、倫理向度的理解),都是傳統巴特系統當前遭遇的重大困難。也就是在這些點上我把自己定義為新巴特,因為對於諸如把 NT Wright等人的耶穌歷史復活和基督論方案融入以尋求更大更廣的系統支點我決的是必要的。而我必須說,光是在這點上從巴特→後自由就已經分成了好幾個戰線。

Benjamin Wu ‎1. 確實將巴特打扮為自由主義者的做法太過牽強,拋棄了關於巴特立場幾乎所有的內證和外證。「這立場的書一本都不用讀」的建議確實有智慧。畢竟讀書多身體疲倦 …

Il y a 2 heures · J’aime

Benjamin Wu ‎2. 我承認比起其他立場,我更接近McCormack的CD II/2立場(我的老師Paul Nimmo也是)。我論文中原先打算迴避三一和揀選的關係問題,後來發現不能不表態。我老師說:So you don’t want to follow McCormack all the way,我說對(或no);他也可以接受,沒強迫我接受他的看法。類似狀況也發生在口試裡,來自Aberdeen的外審D. Wood(師承John Webster)也叫我表態。可見這是無可迴避的問題,討論委實方興未艾。

Il y a 2 heures · J’aime

Benjamin Wu ‎3. 後自由的東西我接觸不多,無力談論。但我從Nimmo那邊看到的一件事是:正是立足在actualistic ontology之上,(他詮釋的)巴特開創出倫理學的視域。本體論的神哲學問題雖然高遠,甚至有脫離現實的嫌疑(在我口試中Wood引Webster,說McCormack主張的the internalization of humanity in Jesus Christ根本是神話),但也許不必將之視為與倫理學必然脫節。

  

Benjamin Wu ‎4. 邱兄該文,我在趕論文期間拜讀過,一如既往,我十分佩服(且常常疑惑你為什麼不是在讀博)。至於巴特神學最終堅持究竟為何,終究是人言言殊各家爭鳴。「Let God be God」是巴特1915/16年間神學轉向(從人學到神學)的關鍵主張,初試啼聲於羅馬書釋義,自然也是CD中不變的堅持。但從整個CD的走向來看,在繼續回答「這位神究竟是誰」的過程中,基督論式的轉向(其實始於哥廷根教義學),以及基督中心的轉向(始於CD II/2)〔前述per McCormack〕,毋寧是一寧靜革命〔per myself〕:寧靜,因較之前述人學向神學轉向,較不激進或明顯;革命,因重要性並未更低。持此立場,我才嘗試將巴特神學立場以「耶穌基督為成為肉身之道」之一言蔽之(疏漏自然難免);因正是耶穌基督啟示出那位作上帝的上帝是誰,或說前者賦予了後者內容。就這點來看,我似乎又比較接近CD IV/1, 2派。

Chiou Mu-tien 能讀到這些和自己這麼近似的想法和結論,太過癮了!Webster 是新改革宗,和 Vanhoozer是好友,他上次來我們這時我也去聽他。然後McCormack 正是後自由派的,他自己表明接受過。 所以這邊並不是在談不同的東西。我沒有很喜歡McCormack不是學術上的原因,是性格上的,他把自己梳理的 (1) electing God 和 (2) 用 « dialectic Barth » 來破 von Balthasar 1931 巴特類比轉向的詮釋典範,視為兩項自己無上的成就、以及有時在批評對手時不夠graceful,我覺得已經違背了後自由的敘事倫理精神。但在神學系統,他是postliberal不會有什麼疑問。

Il y a environ une heure · J’aime

Chiou Mu-tien 所以 Webster 和 McCormack之爭,反而是反映了我所說的、同樣建基 於巴特的neo-reformed 和 postliberal 兩派之間的高級爭議,主要是 neo-reformed 在型態邏輯上(modal logic)仍想保留某種修改過後的 calvinistic essentialism,而postliberal 早就全面看到 actualistic ontology才是出路了。 撇開這點,這兩組人幾乎在所有對外的立場上都可以合作,而且光譜極為接近。

Il y a environ une heure · J’aime

Chiou Mu-tien 至於postliberal /neo-bartian actualistic ontology 能帶出的神學倫理和教會論,屬於我最有熱情的一塊。所以我不是說會脫節,正好相反。 我對這一塊的熱情和熟悉使我知道,把後自由倫理願景 建立在 一些傳統巴特本體論的鋼索上 (主要是福音派打的,而且我覺得 Henri Bloche那一棒超重的),是一定會失去福音派基本盤的。 所以我覺得後自由 Hauerwas 和 K. Tanner 體系下做的 neo-Barthian 比較穩,而且整個福音派所提出的基要神學堅持也都會保存下來。

而 McCormack 和 Hunsinger 、K.Hart 主要是後自由的內戰(由普林斯頓內戰所引發), 我目前比較支持後面這邊,但我不敢說自己對這議題已經熟悉到可以做出近期內不會更改的定論。

Il y a 58 minutes · J’aime

Chiou Mu-tien

在這個意義下,Paul Nimmo 肯定也就是後自由了。而吳兄1) 在博士論文中不願對這個三一和揀選的議題表態,和2) 仍在 II/2 和 IV/1派之間遊走,也正正說明了你3) 還在 Neo-reformed 和 postliberal 之間猶疑,想的是要兩邊通吃啊!
吳兄其實是想著要兼併門派,一統江湖的。而小弟我比較認命認份地已經先選了一邊(畢竟還不夠資格論「博」)。然而,待吳兄能兼併而善天下之方案和號令一出,我一定是攜家帶眷、帶槍投靠的~ :p

Cornelius Van Til
Image via Wikipedia

而因為“Let God be God” 所認識的神,曾是一位自由到可以脫離聖經文字見證的神,使得其基督論也不得不被嗅出某種存在主義或新正統非實在論的味道。按照Vanhoozer的說法,前期的巴特無法擺脫這點,而且the American reception of Barth與巴特KD的發展本身有落差。KD中期時才是CD的早期,Romerbrief 1919和CD早期的上述問題(我雖稱「問題」,但如果把一戰德國和危機神學的歷史處境讀回去,就會知道那是和古典自由神學切割和神學轉型的必要之惡、神學上的「用力過猛」),因此在西敏這邊被Van Til、還有Christian Century上就被Carl Henry這個體系批個不停。直到1962巴特登陸芝加哥大學時才有機會向美國人當面澄清一些誤解。Vanhoozer上課時播給我們幾個人聽了巴特1962這段演說的錄音,聽他用他那非常緩慢、不流暢的英文解釋上帝、言說、與聖經啟示。那次演說過後,在美國神學界反響極

大,即使在神學上堅定反對他的對手也不得不肯定巴特這個人的神學人風範。Van Til即是一人。附帶一提,那時另一位德國新正統健將田立克人也已經在芝大了。

至於隨著KD的發展,詮釋循環的軌跡其實是不斷出現,von Balthasar 說這是類比轉向 analogia entis的功勞,McCormack說不,這是不斷「正反合辯證」的功勞。或是吳博士說的「寧靜革命」才是對的。

我們知道巴特偉大在於他是個敢不斷自我推翻的人,從他Romerbrief 1921/2第二版把第一版大改寫,以及他1931論安瑟倫時的那種詭譎,都讓人感佩他真的是個可以忠於啟示而不保留自我、萬丈高樓平地起的戰神。IV.1之後的神學成熟度倍現(作為neo-reformed 的Vanhoozer當然是向著這派的,他當時帶著我們讀),讀到這裡的人不可能還能昧著良心說巴特是一個新正統或存在主義神學家。但是在福音派推出的Engaging with Barth(2009)中,如Van Til當時那樣質疑Barthian Christocentrism 會被塌陷為 Christomonism 的鬼影依然再現。而儘管我不能認同這種批判,但這也說明了其實 “Let God be God” 的終極堅持在巴特身上一直都沒有改變過,而因此批判錯解他、或推崇他倍至的兩方人至今也都仍然存在。

巴特之所以會像新正統,是因為他和田立克、尼布爾、布特曼都不願意把自由神學和浪漫主義當白癡、像當年基要主義者那樣丟出一個total depravity、corrupted rationality、biblical inerrancy打發對方為不信派之後就自己關起門堆沙。巴特處理士萊馬赫時是如此謹慎,他真正地發現自由神學是一回事(如同田立克),而自己所處的是一個危機的時代,需要的不是意識型態鬥牛犬般意氣之爭,而是“let God be God”,真正地讓自己降服於啟示。

*對neo-reformed Webster 和postliberal McCormack那邊再補一段,“modal logic”

是型態邏輯,打錯字,不是形式邏輯(formal logic)。

**至於為什麼 Webster和Gibson及Henri Blocher都是福音派,卻一邊採取建設巴特、一邊採取批判巴特的立場呢?因為前者是新改革宗、後者是舊改革宗。而對於想尋找發展新巴特方向的後自由,這三方人都是要密切互相對話而不可迴避的。

***當我說傳統巴特本體論如一道鋼索,這是專指在創建postliberal ethics + Barthian actualistic ontology獨有的問題。反過來說,如果[硬是]把傳統巴特本體論讀回 Calvinistic essentialism 的reformed脈絡中,就不會有這些內部問題。因為加爾文系統在自己內部是吃得開的。但這樣那些嶄新的倫理願景和道德神學視界也就不會被開啟。後自由跨越過了一個自然神(Deism)的自由時代,而且揚言要迎擊現代和後現代問題意識隱含的神死(death of God theology)、弱神(weak God theology)、萬有神在(panentheism),取道巴蜀(巴特)通陳倉,這是一種不入虎穴,焉得虎子的纏鬥精神,也讓被感召的我覺得這才是真正地延續了巴特那激進的見證者精神。

所以就我所能看到的,Vanhoozer, Plantinga, Webster, Wolterstorff 這些新改革宗大師系統所能開創的教會論和天國倫理,就不免活力和色彩遜色於Bonhoeffer、Yoder、McIntyre、Hauerwas、Hays、Thiselton、Sam Wells。那是因為在前者的系統中,Barthian actualism 的爆發力不被允許完全釋放,教會神學的公共性和大公性也展不開。

那麼長老會/(新)改革宗神學底氣再稍等而次之的結論就會是,如歐立仁老師想要「嚴格來說」的,巴特對教會的貢獻變成僅是在於巴特這個人物「歷史表現意義」上的(historically expressive),而非其人其作品的神學「劃時代歷史性意義」上的(expressively historic)。

但讓我說,我認為巴特寧願承認自己的系統不是盡善盡美的,也不願其神學旨趣被馴化為前自由的宗教改革立場(巴特本人其實十分排斥用“system”這個字指稱自己的教義神學)。所以我會將歐老師的說法倒過來:「巴特真正延續宗教改革家的部份,不是他的神學理論(viz., Reformed theology);而是他挺身以實際行動和神學著作為基督做見證的改教精神和胸懷(viz. Reformational spirit )。」而後自由想要延續巴特的,也不是巴特字字句句的神學理論,而是「不斷歸正」(semper reformanda )的使徒信仰(apostolic faith)和激進門徒身份(radical discipleship)。

*對話並沒有到此結束,但公開的部份只有這麼多。

 

 

[文摘] Review of Book Review: America’s Four Gods: What We Say about God—and What That Says about Us

Source: http://ht.ly/3a2VV

The Divine Divide The gods of America, and the difference they make. A review of ‘America’s Four Gods.’

Review by Matthew Lee Anderson | posted 11/15/2010 09:58AM

America’s Four Gods: What We Say about God—and What That Says about Us
by Paul Froese
Oxford University Press, October 2010
280 pp., $22.99

More than a century ago, Friedrich Nietzsche, the depressive and depressing German philosopher, pronounced the death of God, but most Americans have yet to hear the message. The four horsemen of the New Atheist apocalypse—Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel C. Dennett—have done their best to carry on the movement that Nietzsche heralded, but their achievement has been largely monetary. Some 90 percent of Americans are still content to believe in God.

Or gods, rather. According to Baylor University professors Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, the real war in American society is not between atheists and theists, but between people who have differing conceptions of the divine. In 1991, James Davison Hunter introduced the concept of the culture wars, which he said were grounded in different conceptions of moral authority. In America’s Four Gods: What We Say about God—and What That Says about Us (Oxford University Press), Froese and Bader take the sociological examination one step further. Views of « moral authority » are notoriously difficult to study empirically. Few people, after all, are equipped to explain the differences between moral relativism and moral absolutism. So Froese and Bader examine our conception of God to determine whether and how our theological ideas matter for politics and culture.

The American religious landscape is admittedly as varied and complex as the geographical landscape. This makes any taxonomy of religious beliefs necessarily artificial, as the authors note. So they start with what American religious believers have in common: namely, the notion that God is loving. This is something some 85 percent of Americans affirm.

Beneath that superficial similarity, though, is a range of conceptions about God’s character. Those conceptions dramatically alter our understanding of the shape his love takes in our world. Froese and Bader examine two questions whose answers, they contend, determine more about a person’s cultural and political worldview than any other sociological factor. First, to what extent does God interact with the world? Second, to what extent does God judge the world? As the authors put it, « The answers to these questions predict the substance of our worldviews much better than the color of our skin, the size of our bank account, the political party we belong to, or whether we wear a white Stetson or faded Birkenstocks. »

Respondents’ answers lead the authors to identify four conceptions of God among the American religious public: (1) the authoritative God, who both judges and is closely engaged in the world; (2) the benevolent God, who is « engaged but nonjudgmental »; (3) the critical God, who happens to be judgmental but disengaged; and (4) the distant God, who is neither engaged nor judgmental, and could care less about how humans muck about.

The rubric is helpful. It moves beyond the binary culture-war characterizations of « Left and Right, » « progressive and conservative, » and so on. Our over-dependence on such characterizations became clear when black evangelicals in California voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, as expected, but also voted to ban homosexual marriages. The outcome reminded everyone that the culture wars aren’t always fought along partisan lines.

  • Comment: This implies that Black evangelicals are in the category 1…

Consider evangelicals’ views on science and its relationship to the Bible. In what is probably the strongest section of the book, Froese and Bader point out that the basic question for Christians is not whether the Bible and science are ultimately reconciled, but how. For the most part, only atheists think an intrinsic conflict exists between science and religion. Everyone else is working to make sure their worldview fits with science. This includes the dissenters from Darwinian orthodoxy. They want to teach competing accounts of human origins in science classes, the authors claim, to show a firm commitment to remaining properly scientific.

Significant Differences

Despite Christians’ nearly unanimous endorsement of the scientific enterprise, significant differences remain. Some argue about whose research should be trusted, others over what role science should play in society. Not surprisingly, those who believe God is highly engaged in the world—an authoritarian or benevolent God—often think he manipulates circumstances and the physical order in small and big ways. As we might expect, they registered significantly more skepticism about whether humans evolved from primates than those who believe God is critical or distant—that is, disengaged from the world.

  • Comment: 近神論者(immanent theist)傾向支持創造論。認為多用信心的眼睛看世界而非科學。然而我覺得要把兩者變成零和局面也是一個應該被詰問挑戰的前設。Better to make sure that you are not too preoccupied with the methodology of taxonomy so as to forsake our Christian motto « faith seeks understanding » that many practicing believers still hold fast and true. In plain words, for many of them, faith and empirical evidence are interdependent or at least can be mutually enlightening rather than contenders in a zero sum game. So the matter in question is not that ‘we are ever too dependent upon science’, but rather ‘if we have sufficiently connected theologically our material principles with the empirical evidence available to us’.
  • Comment: To elaborate this point further means that a proviso to the aforementioned proposal must be supplemented: that when we talked about empirical evidence, we are only talking about those conducted by proper science, as opposed to the kind of science that operates itself within a pagan framework of scientism, which is counter-faith and should be rejected. (And whether « proper science is possible » or « all kinds of science are pagan in nature except for True Christian Science » will be a classical foundationalism vs. non-foundationalism debate. The debate is beyond our primary concern here.) The authors have adopted a foundational-ist worldview here and throughout, and I agreed.

The skepticism doesn’t stop at specific claims. Believers in a benevolent or authoritarian God were far more likely to think that we rely far too much on science and not enough on faith. Additionally, twice as many believers in a distant or critical God were willing to affirm that science would eventually provide solutions to most of society’s problems. The evidence, the authors conclude, suggests that « the evolutionism-creationism debate is premised not on religious faith but on differences of opinion about the role of God in the world. »

The distinctions between how our competing views of God matter are less clear elsewhere. Still, interesting gems emerge. For instance, Americans in lower economic classes tend to view God as judgmental and angry. At the same time, believers in such a God tend to favor religious solutions to economic problems. For example, black communities like Greater Exodus Baptist Church in Philadelphia—where an authoritarian conception of God seems to dominate—want to use grants from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for the church’s social work. Those with less judgmental views of God favor more strictly secular solutions to economic problems.

Bader and Froese suggest that the number of Americans who believe in a distant God will grow. This corresponds with an overall decrease in religious affiliation in America. At the same time, they see evangelicalism—with its emphasis on God’s close, personal engagement with individuals—as the central bulwark against this trend. 中流砥柱、力挽狂瀾之手

In one chapter, Froese and Bader describe a conservative Protestant evangelical church where the pastor was surprised to discover that his congregants were happy to describe God as a « cosmic force, » and yet had vastly different perspectives on whether God has a gender. The story highlights the merits of their taxonomy. On one hand, people might subscribe to similar doctrinal claims yet hold starkly different views of God. Or people might disagree about a particular doctrine, like election, yet conceive of God as intimately involved in their decisions and as one who judges them closely for their sin. Some beliefs might give them a common ethos, even where their doctrinal beliefs diverge.

The authors’ work demonstrates the limitations of their taxonomy. It reminds us that the full counsel of Scripture needs to shape our conceptions. The God who is merciful is also just, and the Spirit who dwells in our hearts sometimes remains silent. Most of all, America’s Four Gods is a stark reminder to Christians of the ongoing need for clear and persuasive teaching on the meaning and limitations of divine action, and the nature of God’s judgment on sin. In that sense, the authors’ focus on the two most important questions provides a helpful map for pastors who want to see significant life and worldview change in their congregations.

Froese and Bader have given both sociologists and the church empirical proof not only that God matters for public life, but how God matters.

  • Comment: I found that this sentence unconsciously assumes that our theology one-sidedly exercises influences upon our worldviews and fails to consider adequately the possibility of vice-versa, namely, many of our theological propensities are informed (or trapped) by our socio-economic-cultural-political-linguistic experiences (beside the setting of ecclesial indoctrination) .

Their account sometimes raises more questions than it answers. And occasionally it seems to depend on particular cultural readings rather than statistical analysis. Still, it is an intricate and precise portrait of the rich texture of our American religious life.

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