About Providence, Divine Action and the Church

In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Karl Barth on Gadgets

I haven’t read any of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics for a while, so I thought I’d flip open one of its volumes and see what’s inside – and I found this insightfully prescient gem of a quotation, originally published in 1951:

For there are few things which the modern man who bears the mark of modern European and American culture and civilisation, [. . .], needs to impress upon his mind more fully than that in order to remain alive before God and for himself he must find a place for rest, no matter what the cost. The strange thing is that in spite of all the astonishing possibilities of intensification, multiplication and acceleration which he has been able to create for himself in the constantly mounting development of his technical mastery of work, he has not so far caused or allowed himself to be induced to relax, to find relief and liberation, to be released from tension, to find intelligent diversion and therefore to find the way to true work. On the contrary, all these new possibilities have thus far had only the result of setting an increasing pace by the accelerating tempo of his machines and gadgets, so that he is driven and chased and harried as it were by them. He has let himself be set by them in a mounting fever for work, and while this fever may later prove to be a channel to new and better health, there is also the possibility—and there are more pointers in this direction—that the patient will one day die of it. There is also the possibility that it is a symptom of the approaching and gigantic ruin of at least a stage of civilisation. There is also the possibility that it cannot continue very much longer. We can scarcely maintain that what modern man has so far achieved in this increasing fever is either gratifying or hopeful.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, translation editors G W Bromiley and T F Torrance, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1957–1975, III/4, pp. 555–56

This leaves me with two thoughts. First, I wonder what Barth would have thought of today’s Microsoft-, Android- and Apple-driven world. And, secondly, why on earth did Barth never write a post-apocalyptic novel?

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