As in a Mirror: John Calvin and Karl Barth on Knowing God : A Diptych

As in a Mirror: John Calvin and Karl Barth on Knowing God : A Diptych

As in a Mirror: John Calvin and Karl Barth on Knowing God : A Diptych

As in a Mirror: John Calvin and Karl Barth on Knowing God : A Diptych

Synopsis

What does it really mean, to know God? What are the grounds for knowing God, what feeds that knowledge, and what is really known? In his search for answers to these questions, in two panels the author paints for us a clear picture of what Calvin and Barth had to say about knowing God: Calvin against the background of pre-modern culture, Barth in response to a post-Kantian culture inclined to agnosticism. Between them, like a hinge between the two panels, we find the philosophy of Kant. The two epochal theological figures are placed next to each other, but without this being at the expense of the power of either. The study does not stop with detached historical analysis, but nourishes the author's own reflection toward a systematic design.

Excerpt

'What is the primary goal of human life? That we know God'. This opening sentence of the Geneva Catechism does not represent merely an age-old vision of human life, but also refers to the mystery that to this very day is interwoven with Christian belief and is the foundation for all Christian theology: living has something to do with knowing God. in our time the answer may appear in other forms, with more emphasis on being human and humanity, but it has remained like a hidden magnet under various theological themes. It is however precisely this answer that has become a problem for present generations, under the influence of a culture that is embarrassed about or even rejects belief in God. What does it really mean to know God? Can we indeed know God? Where does such knowledge have its foundations, what nourishes it, and what is it that is ultimately known? and if there is something like knowledge of God, what does it have to do with being human, with life, with our actions? These are substantive theological questions which belong to the field of reflection on Christian dogma.

The direction that this study will go in reflecting on these questions is that of theological history, or historical theology. Theological history (or historical theology) will be used to treat questions in the field of Christian dogmatics. in the light of advancing differentiation between systematic and historical disciplines, this is anything but an obvious choice. On the basis of the experience that such an approach very easily fails to do justice to at least one of the two—or even both—elements, proceeding this way can ever generate suspicion. At the same time it must be said that dogmatic reflection is impossible without involving its own

co 6, 9 10: 'Quelle est la principale Fin de la vie humaine?' L'enfant: 'C'est de
cognoistre Dieu'. the Latin version has a somewhat expanded answer: 'ut Deum, a
quo conditi sunt homines, ipsi noverint.' Cf. also the Instruction et confession de Foy (1537),
os 1, 378.

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