Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
December 11th, 2015 by Joel Watts

Barth on the failure of hope

hope Lately, as I lose faith, I gain hope — if that makes sense. Oftentimes, I see people confusing faith with fact. It is not. Our Christian hope cannot be proved in accordance with modern notions of fact, nor should it be — because then it moves into another realm. And frankly, heresy begins when we bring order to the Mystery.

When Jesus told the disciples that he was going to prepare a place for them (and us), they could not see it. They could not prove it. And they would never be able to. Yet, they hoped. They had hope in Christ that this place would be theirs.

The analogy of the hopes that we can have fail at the decisive point in exactly the same way as the analogies of our ideas of lordship, creation and reconciliation. It cannot be carried through as an analogy of God. If there is real hope, hope which has content and substance, a confident, joyful, active looking to the future, then this future is the future of God the Redeemer.1

In our season of distress, let hope and not fear grow among you. Hope most end in God.

  1.  Karl Barth, (Geoffrey William Bromiley and Thomas F. Torrance, translators), Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of God, Part 1 (vol. 2; London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), 78.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

14 Responses to “Barth on the failure of hope”
  1. Joel,

    If you’re only holding onto faith (belief without evidence, it means) just for hope in everlasting life, I feel for you. THIS life is enough for many people – LIVE IT!! And cheers! 🙂

  2. Know More Than I Should says

    Confusing faith with fact in matters that can be reasonably proven tends to cause significant difficulties for faith. The Catholic Church is still trying to live with the Galileo debacle. Likewise, the specter of Darwin keeps coming back to haunt fundamentalist churches.

    • Galileo had nothing to do with science, but everything to do with politics.

      • Know More Than I Should says

        A most curious observation since Galileo is recognized as the father of modern science. Among other contributions, his refinement of the telescope allowed Galileo to discover those little dots that he correctly concluded were moons circling Jupiter. Galileo also discovered Saturn’s rings and the moon’s three dimensional surface.

        • it’s not really a curious observation. Rome’s opposition to the G man was based on politics.

          • Know More Than I Should says

            To accept Rome’s opposition to Galileo was purely political is to assume theology is politics. While I wholeheartedly agree that religion is predicated on power politics, and while Galileo dabbled in philosophy, Galileo was primarily a scientist.

            Even today, the Catholic Church is still trying to explain its original opposition to Galileo from a SCIENTIFIC perspective!

            According to http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-galileo-controversy:

            “[Galileo’s] problem [with the Church] arose when he stopped proposing it [heliocentrism] as a scientific theory and began proclaiming it as truth, though there was no conclusive proof of it at the time.”

            Please further note that this is much the same opposition that Young Earth-types still rely on these days in their opposition to evolution. They claim evolution:

            is merely a theory. By doing so, of course, they are trying to equate faith with science. Or, as I observed in my original reply, “[c]onfusing faith with fact.”
            cannot be proven. While true, the claim neglects to point out science NEVER claims to prove anything. It merely follows the evidence trial leading to the next discovery.

            For what it’s worth, there is still “no conclusive proof” that heliocentrism is true. In fact, it is possible for someone to argue that the earth is still the center of the Milky Way and universe behind and not be proven to be wrong. While you may come off looking like an idiot for doing so, you cannot be proven wrong!

            The preceding explains why, in my original reply, I further chose to use the phrase ” can be reasonably proven” rather than stating anything more substantive.

            Tragically for the faith, much of Christianity is still stuck with an Early Iron Age theology trapped in 16th century thinking. Meanwhile, the rest of the world moves on as biblical evidence becomes increasingly irrelevant.

          • Know More Than I Should says

            Because this forum’s formatting does not accept asterisks as bullets, the preceding reply is somewhat confusing. Therefore, the following is merely an effort to clarify the preceding.

            To accept Rome’s opposition to Galileo was purely political is to assume theology is politics. While I wholeheartedly agree that religion is predicated on power politics, and while Galileo dabbled in philosophy, Galileo was primarily a scientist.

            Even today, the Catholic Church is still trying to explain its original opposition to Galileo from a SCIENTIFIC perspective!

            According to http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-galileo-controversy:

            “[Galileo’s] problem [with the Church] arose when he stopped proposing it [heliocentrism] as a scientific theory and began proclaiming it as truth, though there was no conclusive proof of it at the time.”

            Please further note that this is much the same opposition that Young Earth-types still rely on these days in their opposition to evolution. They claim evolution:

            is merely a theory. By doing so, of course, they are trying to equate faith with science. Or, as I observed in my original reply, “[c]onfusing faith with fact.”
            cannot be proven. While true, the claim neglects to point out science NEVER claims to prove anything. It merely follows the evidence trial leading to the next discovery.

            For what it’s worth, there is still “no conclusive proof” that heliocentrism is true. In fact, it is possible for someone to argue that the earth is still the center of the Milky Way and universe behind and not be proven to be wrong. While you may come off looking like an idiot for doing so, you cannot be proven wrong!

            The preceding explains why, in my original reply, I further chose to use the phrase ” can be reasonably proven” rather than stating anything more substantive.

            Tragically for the faith, much of Christianity is still stuck with an Early Iron Age theology trapped in 16th century thinking. Meanwhile, the rest of the world moves on as biblical evidence becomes increasingly irrelevant.

          • Know More Than I Should says

            Okay, let’s try this again.

            Because this forum’s formatting does not accept asterisks as bullets, the preceding reply is somewhat confusing. Therefore, the following is merely an effort to clarify the preceding.

            To accept Rome’s opposition to Galileo was purely political is to assume theology is politics. While I wholeheartedly agree that religion is predicated on power politics, and while Galileo dabbled in philosophy, Galileo was primarily a scientist.

            Even today, the Catholic Church is still trying to explain its original opposition to Galileo from a SCIENTIFIC perspective!

            According to http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-galileo-controversy:

            “[Galileo’s] problem [with the Church] arose when he stopped proposing it [heliocentrism] as a scientific theory and began proclaiming it as truth, though there was no conclusive proof of it at the time.”

            Please further note that this is much the same opposition that Young Earth-types still rely on these days in their opposition to evolution. They claim evolution:

            < is merely a theory. By doing so, of course, they are trying to equate faith with science. Or, as I observed in my original reply, “[c]onfusing faith with fact.”

            < cannot be proven. While true, the claim neglects to point out science NEVER claims to prove anything. It merely follows the evidence trial leading to the next discovery.

            For what it’s worth, there is still “no conclusive proof” that heliocentrism is true. In fact, it is possible for someone to argue that the earth is still the center of the Milky Way and universe behind and not be proven to be wrong. While you may come off looking like an idiot for doing so, you cannot be proven wrong!

            The preceding explains why, in my original reply, I further chose to use the phrase ” can be reasonably proven” rather than stating anything more substantive.

            Tragically for the faith, much of Christianity is still stuck with an Early Iron Age theology trapped in 16th century thinking. Meanwhile, the rest of the world moves on as biblical evidence becomes increasingly irrelevant.

          • wait…. you don’t think heliocentrism is fact?

            Further, let’s dispense with the silliness you continue to proclaim of iron age and the such. While you would like this to be true, it is not and betrays a certain bias against any discourse with integrity.

            Second, Galileo was not the first to challenge longstanding scientific consensus, but stood with others — including Catholics — and was moving to challenge such things. Gman’s problem is that he did so in a time of reaction against the destruction of a Catholic Europe.

            http://www.arm.ac.uk/publicevents/galileo/galileo.html

            Finally, YEers have no idea what “theory” actually means, so let’s not compare the 17th century with the 21st and supposed that Rome would have sided with Ken Ham.

          • Know More Than I Should says

            Everything has an origin. That Christianity originated in the Iron Age, and the tenets of Judaism probably originated in the Bronzed Age help explain some of the thinking contained therein. Hence, the historical context is relevant to any discussion concern them.

            I did not say that I did not believe in heliocentrism. Rather I pointed out that it cannot be proven with absolute certainty. If you think you can, given when relatively little the human race knows about the size of the universe, please feel free to do so.

            Neither am I sure that the 17th century Catholic Church understood scientific theory any more than do Young Earthers. Functional definitions of scientific laws and scientific theories are, and were, most probably beyond the comprehension of both. After all, science was in its infancy at the time of Galileo and is largely discounted by Young Earthers.

            Galileo did indeed become a proverbial thorn in the side of the Catholic Church at a time or ecclesiastical and political turmoil. Yet, as the public events website points out, “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief Systems of the World” was placed on the Church’s list of forbidden texts “for nearly 200 years.”

            Clearly, the Vatican was worried about something contained therein. That something, as the Catholic Galileo-controversy website points out was something scientific rather than political.

            Meanwhile, the Bertolt Brecht’s The Life of Galileo is an artistic interpretation of historic events created long after the fact. At best, it might be classified as a docudrama.

          • Know More Than I Should says

            Who knew Kunbarrasaurus would embarrass us? 🙂

          • Since Jen Ham was mentioned, I have to add:

            http://cnn.it/1jTpU6d

            Not because it is relevant, but because it has to be the best name ever for a dinosaur.

          • “Kunbarrasaurus”…
            Perhaps an Italian word first used in a conversation between the Pope and Galileo. Only question, which one used the word?

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