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The Word of Christ and the World of Culture: Sacred and Secular Through the Theology of Karl Barth [Paperback]

By Paul Louis Metzger (Author)
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Item description for The Word of Christ and the World of Culture: Sacred and Secular Through the Theology of Karl Barth by Paul Louis Metzger...

The theological revolution that Karl Barth inspired was by no means a dismissive reaction to modern culture but, rather, was a dynamic and carefully nuanced encounter with the concerns of his day. This excellent new work by Paul Lewis Metzger provides an exposition and extension of Barth's engagement of culture in view of his doctrine of the Word.

Metzger demonstrates that Barth endeavored to relate Christ to culture in inseparable terms while maintaining a distinction between them. Working from an intimate knowledge of all of Barth's writings, Metzger shows how Barth's doctrine of the Word provides a sound basis on which to build a theological model of culture that guards against the two extremes of either the divinization or the secularization of culture, while at the same time nurturing a healthy appreciation for the secular domain.

The first part of the book analyzes Barth's formative theological period, which is characterized by his engagement with culture and what is termed "Culture Protestantism." The second part of the book focuses on how Barth's answer -- a dialectical model of the Word -- enabled him to offer a constructive synthesis of Christ and culture. The final section of the book traces the way Barth was able to frame culture within his theological model and yet continue to champion the secular domain.

"The Word of Christ and the World of Culture is a superb volume that will benefit anyone studying Barth, modern theology, or the relation of Christianity and culture.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wipf & Stock Publishers
Pages   252
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.04" Width: 6.14" Height: 0.75"
Weight:   1.05 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 1, 2005
Publisher   Wipf & Stock Publishers
ISBN  1597524077  
ISBN13  9781597524070  

Availability  0 units.

More About Paul Louis Metzger

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Paul Louis Metzger is Associate Professor of Christian Theology and Theology of Culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary and author of The Word of Christ and the World of Culture: Sacred and Secular through the Theology of Karl Barth (Eerdmans, 2003).

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > Religious Studies > Christianity
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Philosophy
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Protestant

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Word of Christ and the World of Culture: Sacred and Secular Through the Theology of Karl Barth?

Crossing the Classroom Chasm  Jan 2, 2006
Metzger writes for the academy in this study of Karl Barth's thought on the relation of the sacred and the secular. But an unintended audience for his work are those outside academia who seek to enter the most current theological conversation regarding culture. A must for pastors and teachers who want to prepare with "one finger in the Bible and the other in the newspaper."
A Reappraisal of Karl Barth's Theology of Culture  Feb 18, 2005
Paul Louis Metzger is Associate Professor of Christian Theology and the Theology of Culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is also the Director of the Institute for the Theology of Culture, "New Wine, New Wineskins," at Multnomah and editor of the new journal, Cultural Encounters. In his recent publication, The Word of Christ and the World of Culture: Sacred and Secular through the Theology of Karl Barth (2003), Metzger seeks to overcome the common perception that Karl Barth was theologically disinterested in culture. By mustering together his many theological writings about culture and the details of his practical engagement with cultural questions, Metzger demonstrates that Barth's theology-both in theory and in practice-was always culturally-engaged.

Metzger contends that Karl Barth's mature theology of culture emerged in the Goettingen Dogmatics, where Barth drew upon the christological categories of anhypostatsis and enhypostasis to produce a more adequate conception of the relation between the sacred and the secular than the dialectic of time and eternity of Romans II had permitted. According to Metzger, Barth sought a middle way between the fusion of the sacred and the secular and the separation of the sacred and the secular. "The problem with the medieval synthesis was that it did not make space for the radical difference between the sacred and the secular spheres. The problem with the Enlightenment project, on the other hand, was that by dismissing or at least privatizing the institution of religion, the secular created a vacuum it was unable to fill" (120). Metzger agrees with George Hunsinger's interpretive use of the `Chalcedonian pattern,' which he thinks also provides a key to understanding how Barth conceived of the relation between the secular and the sacred (cf. 189; 194; 233).

Metzger argues that Barth's search for a middle way likewise characterized his politics, which rejected both theocratic and secularized models. He contends that whereas Barth correctly identified the theocratic tendencies of the National Socialist state, he failed to recognize that a perverse theology also undergirded the apparently `secular' communist states. "Whatever the atheistic state is," writes Metzger, "it is not godless. It may not be pseudo-Christian, but it is not secular either" (193).

Metzger makes a crucial distinction between "secularity" and "secularism." Barth endorsed the concept of secularity, which he identified with the humanization of culture. However, he rejected secularization, which Metzger defines as "the alienation of humanity and human culture from God" (70). Barth was thus opposed both to the divinization and to the secularization of culture. "Barth's doctrine of the Word enables him to give a critical yet constructive response to culture whereby space is also made for the secular other in relation to the sacred. That is to say, the dedivinization and desecularization of culture leads to its humanization, that is, the affirmation of the secular" (230). Barth's emphasis was primarily on the synthesis between the secular and sacred according to Metzger, not the diastasis between them. "...The point of diastasis is to break up faulty syntheses so that a more wholesome synthesis may be established, one that has in fact already been established with the world through the Word of Christ" (87). Such synthesis is based on the unity of the divine and human in Jesus Christ. For Barth, he writes, "that diastasis is only truly divine diastasis when viewed from the standpoint of the synthesis God provides for mediating the world to God in the incarnation of Jesus Christ" (225).

Metzger puts forward interesting parallels between Barth's theological appreciation of the secularity of culture and his appreciation for the secularity of science. "Barth's doctrine of creation gives room to science to engage in scientific enquiry apart from theological constraints" (212f.). He is also among the few (along with Colin Gunton) who do not fault Barth for failing to carry out an extensive engagement with questions of natural science in Church Dogmatics III (119).

There is a certain tension between creation and reconciliation in Barth's theology according to Metzger (107f.). "The tension in Barth's thought is due to the absence of consideration being given to the Word's ministry in creation in distinction from reconciliation and redemption" (109f.). He discovers an analogous tension in Barth's doctrine of revelation, where the 'divine content' tends to `overshadow'-though not `overwhelm'-its 'secular form' (cf. 151f.). Metzger seeks tentatively at points to correct that imbalance, by contrasting Barth with Irenaeus, for example (110ff). But can this tendency be corrected without the secular `overshadowing' the `sacred' in turn? In other words, can a level balance be struck between 'secular form' and 'divine content' in our fallen world? If the cultural were to rid itself of misguided theological pretensions, would it thereby become truly secular and, as such, a fitting counterpart to the `sacred'? But is not the goal of culture-redemption-always hidden to culture? A secularity that resists `secularism' cannot suffice if the goal of the secular remains hidden in God. A degree of instability will thus always characterize the concepts of secularity and secular culture-a point which Metzger also acknowledges toward the conclusion of his work. "...There is a sense in which there must always exist a point of tension between creation and redemption, between what is and what will someday be, given the presence of evil in the creation" (219).

Such critical questions to Metzger should not obscure his achievement. Metzger's study of Karl Barth's theology of culture takes its rightful place at the forefront of a growing body of literature that challenges and overturns common North American prejudices about the theology of Karl Barth. In the light of Paul Louis Metzger's study, North American theologians may come retrospectively to regard Karl Barth-and not Paul Tillich-as the preeminent theologian of culture in the twentieth century.
Balances centuries of tradition and faith with modern change  Jun 21, 2003
The World Of Christ And the World Of Culture: Sacred And Secular Through The Theology Of Karl Barth by Paul Louis Metzger (Assistant Professor of Christian Theology and Theology of Culture, Multnomah Biblical Seminary, Portland, Oregon) is a close and illuminating study of Karl Barth's revolutionary theological ideals. From exploring the sacred in the creative word to "theological politics" to the demise of corpus christianum, The World of Christ and the World of Culture balances centuries of tradition and faith with modern changes in human way of life looking for a road that unifies faith in God with adaptations to the onward march of Time. The World Of Christ And The World Of Culture is a most welcome addition to Christian Theological Studies reading lists and library collections.
Towards a Theology of Culture  May 7, 2003
Amazing! This book shows how Orthodox Christology can provide a framework for engagement of the sacred and secular spheres which is both constructive and critical. Metzger shows how Barth's understanding of the relation of Christ's divine and human natures establishes the basis for a theology of culture.

Barth's paradigm, it is argued, provides a framework in which culture is allowed to truly be itself as secular, in distinct though inseparable relation to Christ. In Barth's day, his paradigm spoke against both the divinization of culture witnessed in Nazi Germany, and the secularization of culture in Soviet socialism, yet remained constructive calling for the humanization of culture to be truly secular in its proper sphere. Barth's appreciation of Mozart is shown not to be an anomaly in his theology as a whole, but rather the product of his Christological paradigm.

Today, the implications of this paradigm loom large for what Gunton refers to in the foreword as the often "distorted religious culture" of America and the West attempting to come to terms with Islam and the global world. I myself have often wrestled with the schizophrenic waffling between divinization and secularization of culture so evident here in America. This book has helped me set a framework in which Christology speaks both critically and constructively to both church and culture.

Metzger shows how Barth's paradigm establishes the framework for a theology of culture crucially relevant to our modern day, in which Christology calls culture to truly be itself. I highly recommend this book to anyone wishing to see Christology taken 'off the shelf' and into the world-at-large.


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