Bloesch: Christian Foundations I
The last couple of weeks have been good for me, as far as reading goes. I typically have a list of 12-14 books that I’m reading simultaneously, and I have the worst habit of starting new ones with no regard for when I’ll be able to finish them. Well, as I mentioned before I finished both The Truth War and The Dark River on vacation last week, and since I got home I’ve finished Donald Bloesch’s A Theology of Word & Spirit. I’ve mentioned a couple of insights before, here.
I loved the approach to the intersection of theological and philosophical ideals:
One of the salient needs in academic theology today is to combat the ideal of an undogmatic theology, a theology free from the constraint of biblical or confessional norms. Currently the emphasis is not on the truth of the gospel but on the wonder of the gospel or on the experience of the gospel. It is not the normativeness of the Christian faith but the edification of the human psyche or the broadening of the human imagination that commands our attention. ((Donald G. Bloesch, A Theology of Word & Spirit, p. 16))
In light of Doug Pagitt’s recent comments about yoga on CNN: “The Jesus agenda is a whole life, is a complete life, is a healed life. So when people use it to relieve stress, to be healthy in their relationships, to feel good in their body, that’s a really good thing.” ((John MacArthur, Doug Pagitt, and Yoga, sfpulpit.com)) The concern is feeling better. John MacArthur points out that when people do this they’re turning inward for a “complete”, “healed life”, rather than to Christ.
Bloesch includes a section in the introduction called “Reclaiming Dogma”. It’s an incredibly enlightening explanation of dogma (for someone who hasn’t taken any dogmatics courses). He defines dogma as “a propositional truth that is grounded in and inseparable from God’s self-revelation in Christ…” ((Bloesch, p. 19)) This is much different from the way the term “dogma” or “dogmatic” are typically used. I’ve never heard it defined, but the context clues I’ve gotten have implied “adherence to a rigid system of rules that are without ‘legitimate’ basis.” I use the scare-quotes around legitimate, because it really depends on who is using the word. Kind of like how no matter how many times you tell someone why you made a mistake they’ll say, “That’s just an excuse!” Even if you nearly backed over your dog which, frightened by it’s near-death experience, tripped the mailman, who fell into an open manhole onto an alligator.
I’m not even going to try to give a detailed review, because I started reading in January, and, it’s just a lot to cover. What’s important is that Bloesch seems to support what he calls a “theology of confrontation.” This is one in which theology confronts the morals, values, and presuppositions of secular culture.
A theology of confrontation is primarily kerygmatic [to preach the gospel], not apologetic [to make a persuasive case for Christ]: its first concern is to make the claims of the gospel without any desire to bring them into accordance witht he preconceived wisdom of the culture. It is a theology of crisis rather than process. It sees humanity as the question and the gospel as the answer. But humanity can see itself as the question only in light of the answer, which is given in revelation. ((Bloesch, p. 262))
In the last five or six pages this book becomes eerily prophetic. Though it was published in 1992, it describes perfectly some of the developments of the last 6 or 8 years.
The real battle lines in the future will be between those who espouse a revisionist theology bent on updating theology and bringing it into greater harmony with contemporary experience, and those who uphold a confessional theology that witnesses to the claims of the gospel as presented in Scripture and church tradition. ((Bloesch, p. 267))
Bloesch has an affinity for Barth and Kirkegaard, and a particular dislike for liberal theology. But mostly what he cares about is the Gospel, and the witness of the church.