Challenge: Sum up Every Aspect of Theology & Church History
Karl Barth arguably was the greatest theologian of the twentieth century. His twelve-volume Church Dogmatics, alone, consists of over ten thousand pages of systematic theology. Toward the end of his life, Barth made a tour of the United States, where he had the opportunity to speak at several of our nation’s top universities. During a question and answer time following one of his lectures, a student posed, what seemed an impossible question to answer.
“Dr. Barth, you have written extensively on every aspect of theology and church history. I’m wondering if you could sum it all up in a short sentence or two.” The room fell silent. Dr. Barth just stood there for a moment, carefully considering how to respond. Some of the professors and students who were there clearly began to feel awkward that such a trifling question would be asked of such a brilliant scholar.
Finally, Karl Barth turned toward the student and succinctly replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”
God’s Word and Calvinism vs. Arminianism
It has been my earnest endeavor ever since I have preached the Word, never to keep back a single doctrine that I believe to be taught of God. It is time that we had done with the old and rusty systems that have so long curbed the freeness of religious speech.
The Arminian trembles to go an inch beyond Arminius or Wesley, and many a Calvinist refers to John Gill or John Calvin as an ultimate authority. It is time that the systems were broken up, and that there was sufficient grace in all our hearts to believe everything taught in God’s Word, whether it was taught by either of these men or not.
If God teaches it, it is enough. If it is not in the Word, away with it! Away with it! But if it be in the Word, agreeable or disagreeable, systematic or disorderly, I believe it.
Charles Spurgeon, in a sermon delivered at Exeter Hall, London.
I was walking in San Francisco along the Golden Gate Bridge when I saw a man about to jump off. I tried to dissuade him from committing suicide and told him simply that God loved him. A tear came to his eye. I then asked him, “Are you a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu, or what?”
He said, “I’m a Christian.”
I said, “Me, too, small world. . .Protestant or Catholic?”
He said, “Protestant.”
I said, “Me, too, what denomination?”
He said, “Baptist.”
I said, “Me, too, Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Baptist.”
I said, “Well, ME TOO, Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
I said, “Well, that’s amazing! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist or Northern Conservative Reformed Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist.”
I said, “Remarkable! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Eastern Region?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
I said, “A miracle! Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
I said, “DIE HERETIC!’ and pushed him over the rail.
This-Sidedness and Other-Sidedness
In his excellent little book, A Testament of Devotion, written almost a hundred years ago, Thomas Kelly describes the tension that all ministries must live in; the focus on this world or the world-to-come. Each are essential for the whole gospel to be preached and lived:
German theology of a century ago emphasized a useful distinction between This-sidedness and Other-sidedness, or Here and Yonder. The church used to be chiefly concerned with Yonder, it was oriented toward the world beyond, and was little concerned with this world and its sorrows and hungers.
Because the sincere workingman, who suffered under economic privations, called out for bread, for wholewheat-flour bread, the church of that day replied, “You’re worldly-minded, you’re crass, you’re materialistic, you’re oriented toward the Here. You ought to seek the heavenly, the eternal, the Yonder.”
But the workingman wasn’t materialistic, he was hungry; and Marxian socialism promised him just the temporal bread he needed, whereas the church had rebuked him for not hungering for the eternal Bread.
All this is now changed. We are in an era of This-sidedness, with a passionate anxiety about economics and political organization. And the church itself has largely gone “this-sided,” and large areas of the Society of Friends (the Quakers) seem to be predominantly concerned with this world, with time, and with the temporal order. And the test of the worthwhileness of any experience of Eternity has become: “Does it change things in time? If so, let us keep it, if not, let us discard it.”
Still Looking for inspiration?
Consider checking out our quotes page on Doctrine. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!