Ulster Presbyterians

March 27, 2013

First Presbyterian Church - New Bern, NC

The BBC has produced a documentary on Ulster Presbyterians, which is available (for now) on YouTube:

An Independent People (the playlist is on the right)

It is three episodes, an hour each. I am in the middle of watching it now, and so far it is very good. It is accurate (though lacking in some nuances) and rather respectful, which is not to be taken for granted! And the production is well-done. You should email the link to any Presbyterians, especially Scots or Scotch-Irish, that you know. I wish that I could claim descent, but I am from Welsh ancestry — which is still Celtic and, therefore, superior to the English!

Here is the first episode:

To increase the video quality, click on the “sprocket” logo in the bottom right corner.


Image: First Presbyterian Church in New Bern, North Carolina. The Scotch-Irish brought Presbyterianism to much of the Carolinas, though New Bern was settled originally (as the name indicates) by German-speaking Swiss.

Barth and philosophy

March 9, 2013


Here are a couple book notices worthy of your attention:

Kenneth Oakes, Karl Barth on Theology and Philosophy (Oxford University Press, December 2012)

Ken is a graduate of Aberdeen, where I had the privilege of hanging out with him, absorbing his enormous intellect and gracious spirit. I’m excited to read this. Here is the publisher’s synopsis:

Karl Barth is often assumed to have been hostile to philosophy, wilfully ignorant of it, or too indebted to its conclusions for his own theological good. These truisms of twentieth-century theology are challenged in this original and comprehensive account of Barth’s understanding of the relationship between theology and philosophy.

Drawing upon a range of material from Barth’s earliest writings (1909) up until interviews and roundtable discussions that took place shortly before his death (1968), Kenneth Oakes offers a developmental account of Barth’s thoughts on philosophy and theology. Beginning with the nineteenth-century intellectual background to Barth’s earliest theology, Oakes presents the young and ‘liberal’ Barth’s understanding of the relationship between theology and philosophy and then tracks this understanding throughout the rest of Barth’s career. While Barth never finally settled on a single, fixed account of theology and philosophy, there was still a great deal of continuity regarding this topic in Barth’s oeuvre. Looking through the lens of theology and philosophy Barth’s continual indebtedness to nineteenth-century modern theology is clearly seen, as well as his attempts and struggles to move beyond it.

In addition to locating Barth’s account of theology and philosophy historically, this study also gives attention to the specific doctrines and theological presuppositions that inform Barth’s different portrayals of the relationship between theology and philosophy. Oakes asks how and why Barth used material from the doctrines under consideration-such as revelation, theological ethics, Christology- to talk about theology and philosophy. Barth is shown to have been concerned not only with the integrity and independence of theological discourse but also with the idea that theology should not lose its necessary and salutary interactions with philosophy. Finally, Oakes also considers the reception of Barth’s thought in some of the luminary figures of twentieth-century philosophy, and identifies the three main impressions philosophers have had of Barth’s life and work.


D. Paul La Montagne, Barth and Rationality: Critical Realism in Theology (Cascade Books, June 2012)

Here is another exploration of Barth’s relationship with philosophy and, especially, the “hard” sciences. Here is the publisher’s description:

This work brings the critically realistic interpretation of Barth’s dialectical theology into conversation with the modern dialogue between science and theology. Philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics and logic, and considerations of the problem of rationality raised in the science and theology dialogue are brought to bear upon Barth’s theology in an attempt to explicate the rationality of his dialectical method. Its deep and abiding radical nature and character are lifted up, emphasized, and explored. The results of this study are then used to answer some long-standing criticisms of Barth. What emerges are an understanding of how Barth uses philosophy and why he declines to do philosophy. La Montagne opens the way for Barth scholars to enter into the dialogue between theology and science.

As is often the case with Wipf & Stock books, it is cheaper to buy it directly from the publisher.

Schleiermacher series

March 9, 2013


Chris Donato has completed a fine little series on Friedrich Schleiermacher:

1. More Than a Feeling

2. More Than a Feeling: Gefühl

3. More Than a Feeling: The Hypostatic Union

4. More Than a Feeling: Restatement

5. More Than a Feeling: Response

6. More Than a Feeling: The Death of God?

I have yet to read every post, but it looks like a great introduction to Schleiermacher, with whom every responsible theologian is required to be familiar.