Monday, April 11, 2011

The Problem of Brunner II

    By now you have noticed, I would at least like to think that you have noticed, I have taken a little bit of a hiatus from posting on this blog about my reading of Brunner. There are two reasons for this, and I think the second reason is the most important. My life has been changing for the better rapidly since I started dating a wonderful woman and this has thrown off my desire to delve deeper into Brunner's thought a little. But this is not the main reason. The main reason is Brunner's work.

   There is a problem of getting burned-out trying to read approximatively fifteen hundred pages by the same author in the span of a little over a month. I have grown tired of Brunner and his thought. Brunner's thought, as I hinted at in an early post, does not stand the test of time. His project is important, and we can learn from it. Yet, like all work, it is historically situated and some of the problems that he is addressing has been addressed by others in better ways. Plus, we have lost the desire to be Existentialists, and have stopped listening to them. Their concerns are no longer our concerns.

   Also, I find Brunner's theology problematic. He is trying to return to a state of "pure Christianity" through the writings of Paul and the first revelations about Jesus Christ. However, this purity has never existed. There never has been a pure, unified vision of Christianity. When we read the Scriptures we see this. Different authors focus on different topics, and offer different doctrine than the others. (For the best example, see the differences between Paul's writings and James' writings.) Brunner wants a return to the Ekklesia as expressed in Saint Paul's writings, but this Ekklesia has never existed, it is a revisionist abstraction. This revisionist abstraction leads Brunner to participate in Speculative Theology, which he is against while still being unaware of his assent.

   Equally untenable, Brunner is trying to get rid of the traditional understandings of how the church operates. Brunner reduces the Holy Spirit to faith, the Eucharist to a personal encounter with Christ, and Baptism to a personal commitment. Strikingly, Brunner does not have an understanding of entering into a Covenantal relationship with God and the rest of humanity. For Brunner, Christianity is reduced down to a purely individual practice, something that is solely internal in us. It is for this reason, I must abandon Brunner and his thought. There are interesting points, but to hold to his thought, we must reject Faith and only participate in our inner subjectivity.

    I am going to continue to blog about what I am reading even after Lent ends. This project has been enriching, and I thank you for thinking with me. The next book I am going to read and start talking through with you is Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday by Alan E. Lewis. I wish that you continue learning and talking with me.


  1. Dan, you need a search function on this blog. I also want to request a post on the importance of vices.

  2. Dan,

    I am very proud of you for stopping Brunner and for dating Christy. As we've talked many times in person, Brunner's project does now seem like a daunting and draining task, especially in the light of things written since Brunner's time.

    I hope Between Cross and Resurrection gives you as much to chew on as it did for me while smoking on a roof top during 110 degree Indian nights. Maybe the divine "self-emptying" and the crushing despair of the disciples during Christ's hiatus into Hell bring you into a fuller understanding (with all your heart, mind, soul, amd strength) of humanities hope for the resurrection.


  3. Sounds like a great book -- I'll come along!

    And I'm very happy for you. :)