Minimalizing Sin: An Observation

Nothing minimalizes the seriousness of sin quite like calling a sinful act a ‘mistake’. A ‘mistake’ is typing dog when you meant to type doggie.

A sin, on the other hand, is a life destroying family ruining relationship shattering concious act of rebellion.

Sins and mistakes are as easily confused as BMW’s and paper airplanes.

Vying for Truth: Theology and the Natural Sciences From the 17th Century to the Present

A subject of some contemporary interest is addressed in a new work from our friends at V&R (and obtainable in America from ISD – till October 15th at a discount if you use  code 273-14).

978-3-525-54028-2The emancipation of the natural sciences from religion was a gradual affair during the last four centuries. Initially many of the leading scientists were churchmen indicating a symbiosis between faith and reason. Due to the increasing specialization in the sciences this close connection came to an end often leading to antagonism and mutual suspicion. This book traces this historical development with its twists and turns in both Europe and North America. It depicts the major players in this story and outlines their specific contributions. The main focus is on the 19th and 20th centuries with figures such as Darwin and Hodge, but also Beecher and Abbott in the 19thcentury. In the 20th century the narrative starts with Karl Barth and moves all the way to Hawking and Tipler. Special attention is given to representatives from North America, Great Britain, and Germany. In conclusion important issues are presented in the present-day dialogue between theology and the natural sciences. The issue of design and fine-tuning is picked up, and advances in brain research. Finally technological issues are assessed and the status of medicine as a helpmate for life is discussed. An informative and thought-provoking book.

Not only does the book sound fascinating, it lives up to expectations to be fascinating.  A glance at the TOC reveals a structure of nine chapters moving from the dawn of the age of science through the 19th century and its various attacks via materialism and evolutionary theory on theological notions and the reaction of theology to that attack.  British empiricism features as the chief interest of chapter three while chapter four investigates North America’s problems with Darwin.

Chapter five is the highlight and here Schwarz demonstrates his acuity most excellently in his exposition of the contributions of persons like Barth, Heim, Torrance, and de Chardin.  Chapter six is in expose of Ian Barbour and in chapter seven the voices of various and sundry modern scientists is proffered.   Chapter eight returns to the theologians most engaged in the science and theology discussion (Pannenberg and Moltmann).

The final chapter, the ninth, summarizes the significance of the dialogue between science and theology, specifically in  the question of creation ‘care’ (my term), brain science, and our shaping of the world as the activity of responsible beings.

The chief issue of the volume is simple- on the surface, and it is this:

… it makes sense … to evaluate the relationship between theology … and the natural sciences to detect how far our trust in these is justified and how they actually relate to each other (p 8).

Few topics are as widely discussed or in need of addressing as that one.  With the seemingly never ending debates about creationism, intelligent design, evolution, etc. as well as claims that science can answer ultimate questions our era is awash in more uncertainty than ever before in recorded history.  Blind faith in religion has been replaced by blind faith in science.  But many are opening their eyes and observing that the emperor of science-ism has no clothes after all and that, in spite of its denials, science has become a de facto religion and its most rabid devotees just as fundamentalistic as any Islamic jihadist.

Schwarz’s volume is a curative to all such extremisms.  Carefully, clearly, concisely, cogently, phase by phase and age by age he describes and discusses the core issues of the most pressing theological subject of our era.  What the great Christological debates were to the early church, the relationship of science to faith is to ours.  Schwarz proves himself to be the finest guide to yet attempt the construction of a map through the perilous land called ‘science and theology’ or ‘theology and science’.

Anyone even remotely interested in or concerned with this subject owe it to their intellectual development to read Schwarz.  Especially those who exalt science to a religion.   It has not always been worshiped as it is in some circles today and eventually it, like theology before it, will be superseded in the affections of the massa perditionis by something far less impressive and far less important.

A Final Observation on the Digital Karl Barth Library

The collection’s usefulness has already been described and the marvelous comprehensiveness featured.  Searching is simple and readers and users are more than fortunate to have access in this format to things known and unknown.

My final observation in this series of observations is to note that the collection also includes gems of Barth’s from sources hardly easily accessible.

Did you know, for example, that Barth offered advice to those who are older on how to relate to those who are younger?  He did indeed, writing


1. Realize that younger people of both sexes, whether relatives or close in other ways, have a right to go their own ways according to their own (and not your) principles, ideas, and desires, to gain their own experiences, and to find happiness in their own (and not your) fashion.
2. Do not force upon them, then, your own example or wisdom or inclinations or favors.
3. Do not bind them in any way to yourself or put them under any obligation.
4. Do not be surprised or annoyed or upset if you necessarily find that they have no time, or little time, for you, that no matter how well-intentioned you may be toward them, or sure of your cause, you sometimes inconvenience and bore them, and they casually ignore you and your counsel.
5. When they act in this way, remember penitently that in your own youth you, too, perhaps (or probably) acted in the same way toward the older authorities of the time.
6. Be grateful for every proof of genuine notice and serious confidence they show you, but do not expect or demand such proofs.
7. Never in any circumstances give them up, but even as you let them go their own way, go with them in a relaxed and cheerful manner, trusting that God will do what is best for them, and always supporting and praying for them.*
Readers of this resource have at hand, then, all of Barth (and a good bit of all of Barth in English).  The one hesitancy I have in recommending it (and I do recommend it) is the fact that the Alexander Street website does not clearly state the cost of access anywhere on its website and instead, when asked, simply asks potential purchasers to contact them individually.
One can surmise, I suppose rightly (because I still do not know what the fees for individuals and organizations are) that access is quite expensive.  It will be up to individuals and Librarians to determine if the cost to benefit ratio is something they can live with.
For myself, I would simply prefer to know ‘up front’ what something will cost.  Accordingly, I am not in a position to say with complete candor ‘you should purchase access’.  Without knowing the bottom line, I simply can’t make such a recommendation.
Perhaps, though, if enough people are interested Alexander Street will lower their access prices enough so that they feel free to sport it on their page.


*A Late Friendship: The Letters of Karl Barth and Carl Zuckermayer, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (1982).

The Prophets of Baal and their Props

The prophets of Baal are big fans of props and shows and drama.  It allows them to distract their audience from the lies they tell and focus on the show they put on.  Their sleight of hand, however, ultimately leads only to destruction- for their audience, and for themselves.*

The prophets of Yahweh, on the other hand, need no props.  They are simply declarers of the Word.  They need no distractions or entertainments because the Word is all they need.  It is all they have.

When, therefore, you see a prophet with his props the chances are pretty good that that prophet is a prophet of Baal.  Were he not, he could rely on the Word alone and avoid the entertainments altogether.

* Cf 2 Chronicles 18

The Heavy Handed Ham Fisted Dictatorial Doings of General Theological Seminary

What is happening to theological schools these days???????????  Have they all gone stark raving mad and taken it upon themselves to loath and treat contemptibly the very people who do the real work of educating students?

gtsJust two days ago I posted this.

Oh Canada…

This is pretty sad news for the Anglican Church of Canada

The Anglican Church of Canada, having spent many decades trying to persuade us that man’s yearning for transcendence can be satisfied by installing a solar panel and buying a Prius, is continuing to transform itself into a social services agency by converting its buildings into apartments. The latest effort hails from Winnipeg where St. Matthew’s is, so we are told, excited by the fact that it worships in a small corner of the former church building. This must be what revival means in the ACoC.

Read the rest.  It’s juicy with snark and disdain.  Someone doesn’t like the transformation of the Church into a – well whatever the Canadians have turned it into.

But this is what happens when the Church of Christ begins living only to pander to the uncommitted- operating with the false and idiotic assumption that if you give people what they want (instead of what they need), they will magically become disciples.

It needs to be shouted from the rooftops of all the world- God doesn’t exist for you!  You exist for God!!  Or as Calvin puts it more eloquently,

… our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone (…imo ne id quidem ipsum quod sumus, aliud esse quam in uno Deo subsistentiam).

Temptation Defined

Temptation, then, in general, is any thing, state, way, or condition that, upon any account whatever, hath a force or efficacy to seduce, to draw the mind and heart of a man from its obedience, which God requires of him, into any sin, in any degree of it whatever.

In particular, that is a temptation to any man which causes or occasions him to sin, or in any thing to go off from his duty, either by bringing evil into his heart, or drawing out that evil that is in his heart, or any other way diverting him from communion with God, and that constant, equal, universal obedience, in matter and manner, that is required of him. — John Owen