Barth on confessionality: prelude

(erratum: yesterday I seem to have forgotten about Munster. Many of the Bonn references actually should be Munster, because he was there from '25-'30. GD finishes up there in '25 and Barth publishes the abortive CD, as prolegomenon, in '27. KD is Bonn.)

As Lutherans, we're very inclined to place the Concord and the Bible next to one another and confuse which of them is the norma normans and which the norma normata. When we call ourselves catholic, it is the fact that we start from the Ecumenical Creeds that founds that claim. We confess the faith of the church, and are therefore of the church. The Augustana is grounded in this as a socio-political reality of the Holy Roman Empire. "Don't shoot! We're one of the good guys!" Or, more accurately, "Quit shooting at us, we're as catholic as they are."

Barth, teaching in Gottingen, is stuck resurrecting what it means to be Reformed out of a Union church that never stopped being Lutheran. Which is to say, by way of oversimplification, that Lutheran confessionalism remained solid against the "Calvinists," while the Reformed were willing to grant place to the Lutheran position. Culturally speaking, while it may not have been so gnesio as to please the Old Lutherans, Gottingen is as German Lutheran a faculty as can be found. Heck of a place to be the new Reformed professor, and it makes you wonder how the sponsoring US Presbyterians settled on Gottingen.

Anyhow, in Gottingen Barth gets to teach Reformed theology. So along with specific courses on Calvin and Zwingli, he teaches a course called "The Theology of the Reformed Confessions," or something appropriately similar. And here Barth busts assumptions about what it means to have a confession. And what it means for the Lutherans looks an awful lot like having a fourth Creed. The Augustana as a public ecumenical statement holds far more universal force than any particular Reformed confession or statement ever did. It certainly was local and limited at one point, but this is really where Lutheran and Protestant Orthodoxy start to diverge in the 17th c.


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