Last week I wrote a couple of blog entries: Reframing the story we’ve received and A bit more on reframing the story we’ve received.
As is typical, once I began thinking about this lots of bits and pieces I’ve interacted with have come at it in some way.
Here’s a quote from the first chapter of Karl Barth’s Dogmatics in Outline.
Dogmatics is the science in which the Church, in accordance with the state of its knowledge at different times, takes account of the content of its proclamation critically, that is, by the standard of Holy Scripture and under the guidance of its Confessions. 
And then this,
Dogmatics will always be able to fulfil its task only in accordance with the state of the Church at different times. It is because the Church is concious of its limitations that it owes a reckoning and a responsibility to the good it has to administer and to cherish, and to the good One who has entrusted this good to it. It will never be able to do this perfectly; Christian dogmatics will always be a thinking, an invitation and an exposition which are relative and liable to error. Even dogmatics with the best of its knowledge and conscience can do no more than question after the better, and never forget that we are succeeded by other, later men; and he who is faithful in this task will hope that those other, later men may think and say better and more profoundly what we were endeavouring to think and to say. With quiet sobriety and sober quietness, we shall do our work in this way. 
Dogmatics here refers to systematic theology – the bridge, for Barth, between exegesis and practical theology. The place in which we think,
What as Christians do we really have to say? 
The place were the details of belief are considered and worked out for practical action in light of what the Scriptures and Confessions have to say.
There are a couple of things which I find striking.
- This is a task that we must always be carrying out.
- This is a task that is always provisional! We can never think we know what we believe in full; or that those before us knew [insert whatever] in full.
This process is categorically an open one. It is never closed, it is never finished. Our ever-expanding knowledge requires that the Christian story be put under evermore frequent reflection so we may consider afresh just what it is we have to say.
Sometimes I think Christians in my own tradition, at times, fear this reality. We prefer a closed book, a closed story; a story that tells us what to think, how to think and when to think it.
But this is not what we have. We have a story that declares ‘Jesus is Lord’ from beginning to end, from first to last – but that story does not include any details for how that looks and works out today or tomorrow. And that is the task we face – what does it look like for us as “later men”, who will be followed by other “later men”, to “question after the better” today? What does it look like for us to take stock and account of our proclamation, given the state of our knowledge now, at this time, alongside and under the purview of Scripture and the Confessions?
I think it is clear – what we have to say will probably not have been said before. If we are brave something novel and fantastic will raise its head. Something that re-envisions what ‘Jesus is Lord’ means. Something that re-conceives what the Bible is and says; and all of this ever-facing the prospect of revision by “later men” attempting to do the same as us.
 Dogmatics in Outline, 1