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Karl Barth

Karl Barth

The Swiss Protestant theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968), a giant in the history of Christian thought, initiated what became the dominant movement in Protestant theology up to the present day.

Karl Barth was born on May 10, 1886, in Basel, the eldest son of a Swiss Reformed minister. Raised in an atmosphere of evangelical piety and theological learning, Karl decided at the age of 16 to become a theologian. Between 1904 and 1908 he was educated at the universities of Bern, Berlin, Tübingen, and Marburg and studied under the leading Protestant religious scholars of the day. In 1908 Barth was ordained to the Swiss Reformed ministry. He then served as pastor of congregations in Geneva (1909-1911) and in the village of Safenwil (1911-1921). In 1913 Barth married Nelly Hoffman, and they had three sons and a daughter.

Early Theology (1919-1931)

Thoroughly educated in the liberal Protestant approaches to Christianity, early in his career Barth came to be troubled by liberalism's easy marriage between Christianity and overconfident modernity. The uncritical support of World War I by leading German intellectuals, including some of Barth's teachers, however, irrevocably exposed for him the bankruptcy of liberalism's religious anthropocentricity.

Faced with the task of preaching each week, Barth turned with fresh eyes to the Bible and discovered there what he was to call a "strange new world." In 1919 his explosive Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans catapulted the unknown pastor into international theological prominence. Strongly influenced by the recently discovered 19th-century religious thinker Kierkegaard, Romans stressed the "infinite qualitative difference" between God and man. According to the Bible's own testimony, said Barth, revelation is entirely the gracious self-disclosure of the utterly transcendent and otherwise hidden God in the person of Jesus Christ. This revelation is the crisis or judgment of all human activities, including religion. In this work Barth strongly opposed liberal theology's blurring of the divine-human distinction and the subordination of Christian faith and ethics to the passing standard of each historical period.

Romans brought Barth an invitation to become professor of reformed theology at the University of Göttingen in Germany, where he remained from 1921 to 1925. This post was followed by professorships at the universities of Münster (1925-1930) and Bonn (1930-1935). During this period Barth's understanding of the nature and method of Christian theological reflection developed into the mature position of his monumental Church Dogmatics. The first volume of the work appeared in 1932, and at Barth's death in 1968 it had grown to 13 volumes and was the most comprehensive exposition of theology since St. Thomas Aquinas's Summa theologica. Leading up to this main work were writings such as the sermons and lectures included in The Word of God and the Word of Man (1924) and Theology and Church (1928); and Anselm: Fides quaerens intellectum (1931), a study of the great 11th-century theologian whose method of "faith seeking understanding" had a decisive influence on the direction of Barth's developed theology.

In these early years the theological movement which Barth had begun, variously called "theology of the Word, " "theology of crisis, " "dialectical theology, " "Neo-Reformation theology, " and "neo-orthodoxy, " attracted in varying degrees men who, with him, became the leading Protestant theologians of this century. Among them were Emil Brunner, Rudolf Bultmann, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Paul Tillich, and Friedrich Gogarten.

Later Theology (1931-1968)

At Bonn, Barth assumed leadership of those Protestants in Germany who opposed the rising National Socialist or Nazi party. After Hitler came to power, Barth served as the chief drafter of the anti-Nazi Confessing Church's Barmen Declaration (1934), a confession of faith vigorously repudiating Nazi ideology on the basis of the gospel. The following year Barth was expelled from Germany. He returned to his native Basel and was a professor of theology at the university there until his retirement in 1962.

Barth's numerous writings after 1931, besides the successive volumes of Church Dogmatics, include Credo (1935), which comments on the Apostles' Creed; The Knowledge of God and the Service of God (1938), which is a good example of Barth's important recovery of the vital theological insights of the Protestant Reformation; Dogmatics in Outline (1947), which summarizes his theology; Against the Stream (1954), which includes some controversial essays on the cold war, describing communism in theological terms as far different from Nazism; and Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (1963), which contains the lectures he gave in the United States during his only visit, in 1962.

A lecture Barth delivered in 1956 entitled "The Humanity of God" (published in The Humanity of God [1960]) best describes the development which took place in his theology. He had begun, he said, with the "otherness" of God as the biblical theme which most needed attention; but the direction of his theological was toward a deepening concentration on Jesus Christ as the full revelation of God and therefore the sole object of theological thinking. In this light Barth had come to see more and more fully that the central theme of Scripture is the "togetherness" of the sovereign God and creaturely man in Christ—God's "humanity" in the Incarnation.

Barth's theological "revolution" was a dynamic, nonfundamentalistic recovery of the biblical message as the proclamation of the unique self-disclosure of God to man in Jesus Christ. He believed that Christian theology ought always to derive its entire thinking on God, man, sin, ethics, and society from what can actually be seen in Jesus as witnessed by the Old and New Testaments rather than from sources independent of this revelation. His voluminous writings explore the inexhaustibly fruitful implications of his total Christ-centeredness.

Thomas Oden said of him: "Barth looked like a casting agency's idea of a German professor, with his shock of wavy gray hair, high forehead and cheekbones, craggy eyebrows. His owlish eyes peered occasionally over his horn-rimmed glasses, which often sat at the tip of his nose. He was known for his geniality, modesty, patience and sympathy, and above all a pixyish sense of humor." Barth's chief avocation was a passionate love of Mozart's music. He died on Dec. 9, 1968.

Further Reading

Numerous studies of Barth's life and thought are available. Among the best in English are Thomas F. Torrance, Karl Barth: An Introduction to His Early Theology, 1910-1931 (1962); George Casalis, Portrait of Karl Barth (trans. 1963); Herbert Hartwell, The Theology of Karl Barth: An Introduction (1964); and Thomas C. Oden, The Promise of Barth: The Ethics of Freedom (1969).

Additional Sources

Busch, Eberhard, Karl Barth: his life from letters and autobiographical texts, London: S.C.M. Press, 1976. □

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Barth, Karl

Karl Barth (bärt), 1886–1968, Swiss Protestant theologian, one of the leading thinkers of 20th-century Protestantism. He helped to found the Confessing Church and his thinking formed the theological framework for the Barmen Declaration. He taught in Germany, where he early opposed the Nazi regime. In 1935 when he refused to take the oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler, he was retired from his position at the Univ. of Bonn and deported to Switzerland. There he continued to expound his views, known as dialectical theology or theology of the word. Barth's primary object was to lead theology back to the principles of the Reformation (called neo-orthodoxy). For Barth, modern theology with its assent to science, immanent philosophy, and general culture and with its stress on feeling, was marked by indifference to the word of God and to the revelation of God in Jesus, which he thought should be the central concern of theology. In the confrontation between humanity and God, which was Barth's fundamental concern, the word of God and God's revelation in Jesus are the only means God has for Self-revelation; Barth argued that people must listen in an attitude of awe, trust, and obedience. This theological position is also related to those of Emil Brunner, Friedrich Gogarten, and Rudolf Bultmann, although Barth's position is the stricter. Barth's writings include The Epistle to the Romans (tr. 1933), The Word of God and the Word of Man (tr. 1928), Credo (tr. 1936), and Church Dogmatics (Vol. I-IV, tr. 1936–62).

See T. F. Torrance, Karl Barth (1966); R. E. Willis, The Ethics of Karl Barth (1971); E. Busch, Karl Barth (1976); G. W. Bromiley, An Introduction to the Theology of Karl Barth (1981).

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Barth, Karl

Barth, Karl (1886–1968). Christian theologian, of dominating importance in 20th cent. Beginning his career at the end of the long 19th-cent. ascendancy of liberal and reductionist theology in Germany (e.g. Feuerbach, Schleiermacher, and Strauss), epitomized for Barth in the figure of Harnack, Barth entered his first and massive protest against this in his Der Römerbrief (1919). This introduced what came to be known as ‘dialectical theology’, or ‘the theology of crisis’ (Gk., krisis, ‘judgement’). God cannot be found by humans as the conclusion of an argument, or as the experience at the end of a religious or mystical quest. God, rather, speaks his Word through the words of ‘the strange new world of the Bible’. Although he published many works, his major commitment was to the many-volumed Church Dogmatics. The first volume appeared in 1932; 13 volumes later, it was unfinished at his death. He increasingly stressed the human vocation to co-operate with the initiatives of God in creation, and saw a place for human wisdom and knowledge as a prolegomenon to the acknowledgement of the sovereignty of God.

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Barth, Karl

Barth, Karl (1886–1968) Swiss theologian. Barth was a leading thinker of 20th-century Protestantism, and tried to lead theology back to principles of the Reformation. He emphasized the revelation of God through Jesus Christ. His school has been called dialectical theology or theology of the word. In 1935 he was suspended from his position at the University of Bonn for his anti-Nazi stance, and he returned to Switzerland. His works include Epistle to the Romans (1919).

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Barth, Karl

BARTH, KARL

Preeminent proponent of neo-orthodox or dialectical theology; b. Basel, Switzerland, May 10, 1886; d. Basel, Dec. 10, 1968. The son of Swiss Reformed minister and New Testament scholar Fritz Barth, Karl was reared in Berne. In 1913 he married Nelly Hoffmann, with whom he had five children. From 1904 to 1909 Barth studied theology at the universities of Berne, Berlin, Tübingen, and Marburg. At first he adhered to the liberal Protestant theology of teachers such as Adolph von Harnack and Wilhelm Herrmann. He began his ministerial career in 1909 as a vicar in Geneva, then in 1911 was appointed pastor of the Swiss Reformed Church in Safenwil, Canton of Aargau. Barth's pastoral experience soon led him to question the adequacy of liberal theology and its confidence in the ultimate perfectibility of man. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 and the use of technology for inhumane purposes led Barth to further question the optimism of liberal theology. The decisive break occurred when he learned that many of his former teachers in Germany supported the war policies of Kaiser Wilhelm II. To assess his heritage and find a theological path, Barth turned to an intensive study of the Bible and in 1919 published The Epistle to the Romans. This powerful commentary, especially the completely rewritten second edition of 1922, launched a fresh theological movement dedicated to the recovery of a theology of the Word of God. Barth emphasized the sinfulness of humanity, God's absolute transcendence, and the human inability to know God apart from revelation.

Called to a professorship in 1921, Barth taught systematic theology at the universities of Göttingen (192125), Münster (192530), Bonn (193035), and Basel (193562). His illustrious career included theological leadership of the Confessing Church against Nazi influence in the German Protestant Church, chief authorship of the Barmen Declaration of 1934, expulsion from Germany by the Nazi government in 1935, delivery of the Gifford Lectures in 193738, participation in the Amsterdam Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1948, an American tour in 1962, and a visit to the Vatican in 1966. A legacy of more than 600 writings is crowned by his monumental Church Dogmatics (193267), a Christ-centered theological summa that investigates the meaning of God and human redemption in the light of the Gospels.

Doctrine. Throughout the Church Dogmatics there is reflection on the implications of a Christocentric theological system. Barth's theological system, for which the name "coherent Christology" is quite apt, stands on the principle that a theological understanding of any subject is totally dependent on the penetration of that subject's relation to Christ. In general, that system begins with the dialectical Word of God which enters history vertically and contradicts human efforts to know God through religion or philosophy. Here, Barth singles out the analogy of being as a faithless attempt by sinful humanity at self-justification, i.e., through the analogy of being humanity seeks to establish continuity between a human word and a divine word.

In later volumes of the Church Dogmatics Barth's thought moved beyond dialectics and examined the consequences of the reconciliation between God and humanity that is accomplished in Jesus Christ. Barth moved increasingly toward a Christological doctrine of analogy that is grounded in the unity of two natures brought about by the incarnation of Jesus Christ. More fundamental than the human opposition to God in sin is the basic reality that in the incarnation of Jesus Christ creation itself has been assumed by God and justified. The human nature of Jesus Christ, as the humanity of God, becomes the basis for an analogy or continuity between God and creation that goes beyond any contradiction between the two; such is the analogy of faith. In the end, Barth speaks of human words and human lights shining forth from the one Word of God in Jesus Christ that dwells among us.

The unfolding of Barth's Christ-centered theological project can be seen, at least germinally, in the outline of the Church Dogmatics :

The Doctrine of the Word of God. In volume one, Barth works out a theory of the Word as divine activity present and revealed solely in Jesus Christ, to whom the Scriptures and the Church bear witness. It is also the occasion of his emphasizing the absolute gratuity of the Word's descent, to the degree that any attempt on man's part to prepare for or initiate this event (Ereignis ) is impossible.

The Doctrine of God. In volume two, Barth takes up the problem of man's knowledge of God, affirming that God is known only in Jesus Christ. Barth consistently preserves divine initiative in the revelation in Jesus Christ, and thus denies the native power of reason to know even God's existence. Under this heading, Barth also discusses the language used in speaking of God, the mystery of predestination, i.e., Jesus Christ as the sole object of God's free election, and the nature of God's command over men.

The Doctrine of Creation. In volume three, Barth develops an understanding of Jesus Christ as the divine word through whom all of creation is maintained and controlled. As such, creation is transformed by God's work in the incarnation and redemption. God's reconciliation with creation is not to be seen as the completion of creation, but as an entirely new work of God, revelation transforms creationand humanityfrom without, even as God's grace works within creation.

The Doctrine of Reconciliation. In volume four, Barth treats the subject that he believes to be at the core of dogmatics and of the preaching of the Church. In it he discusses the covenant between God and man, grace and sin, and the atonement made by Jesus Christ. Barth also elaborates on the subjective appropriation of our redemption in Jesus Christ (justification) that is effected by the grace of God working in the world. Finally, Barth takes up the law of God, in so far as it punishes sin and restores us, with a view toward our eternal destiny with God.

Barth's reaction against liberalism must be judged as beneficial to Protestantism as a whole. His attempt to reinstate and systematically defend the transcendence of God as a theological principle is altogether praiseworthy; for it puts man in his true position in relation to God, that of utter receptivity.

When, however, Barth's entire system is viewed in light of Catholic tradition, some sharp divergences appear. Most evidentbut perhaps only symptomatic of a more radical difficultyis the compromise of the consistency of creation, especially of rational creatures. To give Jesus Christ the primacy in all things is quite valid. St. Paul does this. Barth, however, seems to so overstate this primacy as to make unnecessary and even impossible a true encounter between God and humanity at the level of nature. Scrutiny of his work evokes constantly the question of the reality of human receptivity to God's word.

Barth's effort to rehabilitate Protestant dogmatics, his partial success together with his evident exaggerations, points to a root difficulty in his thought. The exaltation of God's transcendent majesty by Calvin and of God's perfect freedom in the distribution of grace by Luther are fully comprehended only when complemented by the majesty of God's work in creation itself, as well as in the universality of grace. This balance Barth does not seem to have achieved in his Church Dogmatics.

Bibliography: Works. Church Dogmatics, tr. g. t. thomson (New York 1955); Dogmatics in Outline, tr. g. t. thomson (New York 1949); Evangelical Theology: An Introduction, tr. g. foley (New York, 1963). Complete list to 1955 in Antwort: Karl Barth zum 70 Geburtstag (Zurich 1956) 945960. Continued list of complete works from 1956 in Parrhesia: Karl Barth zum 80. Geburtstag (Zürich 1966) 709723. k. barth, How I Changed My Mind, intro. and epilogue j. d. godsey (Richmond, Va. 1966). g. casalis, Portrait of Karl Barth intro. and tr. r. mca. brown (Garden City, N.Y. 1963). t. h. l. parker, Karl Barth (Grand Rapids, Mich. 1970). Commentary. g. w. bromiley, Introduction to the Theology of Karl Barth (Grand Rapids, Mich. 1979). h. u. von balthasar, The Theology of Karl Barth, tr. e. t. oakes (San Francisco 1992). h. kung, Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection (New York 1964).

[j. godsey/

m. b. schepers/

j. burnett]

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Barth, Karl

BARTH, KARL

BARTH, KARL (18861968), Swiss Reformed theologian, described by Pope Pius XII as the greatest theologian since Thomas Aquinas, and certainly the most influential of the twentieth century. Barth stands as a prophetic voice in the tradition of Athanasius, Augustine, and Calvin, calling the Christian church back to the Bible and to its foundation in Jesus Christ. This message sounded forth powerfully in his first book, Romans (especially in the largely rewritten second edition of 1921), which drew widespread attention. Barth later said that in writing this book he was like a man in a dark church tower who accidentally trips, catches hold of the bell rope to steady himself, and alarms the whole countryside. As a result, he was called to university chairs in Göttingen (1921), in Münster (1925), and in Bonn (1930). From this latter post he was dismissed in 1935 because of his refusal to take an oath of loyalty to Hitler and because of his leading role in the Kirchenkampf, the struggle against the Nazi attempt to control the German Evangelical church. He returned to his native Switzerland to a professorship in Basel, where he taught for the rest of his long life until his death in 1968, drawing students from all over the world to his classrooms and publishing his lectures in his massive Church Dogmatics.

Barth was born in Basel on May 10, 1886, the son of Fritz Barth, a professor of church history and New Testament in Bern. In Bern Barth received his earliest education, and there, on the eve of his confirmation, he "boldly resolved to become a theologian" out of an early eagerness to understand his faith and see its relevance for the twentieth century. He commenced his university studies in Bern, where, while receiving a solid grounding in Reformed theology, he began to study the theoretical and practical philosophy of Immanual Kant, whose "Copernican revolution" in the theory of knowledge and ethics awakened Barth to an acute awareness of the question of our knowledge and service of God. At the same time he developed his early and lifelong interest in the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, whose analysis of religious experience and desire to commend religion to its "cultured despisers" had dominated German theology since his death in 1834. Like Schleiermacher, Barth was later to interpret Christian dogmatics as the function of the Christian church, scrutinizing scientifically the content of the Christian faith, but unlike Schleiermacher he saw, not religious experience in general, but the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, attested in holy scripture, as the criterion of truth.

Barth expressed a desire to study at Marburg with Wilhelm Herrmann (18461922), the leading Kantian theologian in Europe, but under his father's influence he went first to Berlin to spend a semester under Adolf von Harnack, the most outstanding church historian and liberal theologian of the day, before returning to complete a third year in Bern. In 1907 he enrolled in Tübingen to study under the conservative New Testament theologian Adolf Schlatter, before spending a final year in Marburg. Herrmann defined faith in terms of "inner experience" which has its "ground" in the "inner life of Jesus" and is awakened in man's conscience by the influence of Jesus, the so-called Jesus of history of the nineteenth-century liberal quest. Although influenced by Herrmann, Barth came to feel that his conception conflicted with the New Testament and Reformed understanding of the Christ of faith and with the church's creeds, and that it was more the product of modern individualistic bourgeois liberal idealism and Kantian philosophy than of sound New Testament scholarship. He also felt that the very nature and possibility of a scientific approach to Christian theology was being called into question by the philosophical and historical presuppositions of the "culture-Protestantism" of the day, wherein theology and relativizing historicism, religion, and culture were fused, obscuring the gospel through "reverence before history" and reducing Christian theology to a branch of the general philosophy of religion.

These questions assumed acute importance for Barth once he was ordained to the pastoral ministry and sought to take seriously the exposition of the Bible and the preaching of the gospel, while also taking full account of critical biblical scholarship. It was during his time as a pastor in Safenwil, Switzerland (19111921), that his theological position underwent a drastic change. On the one hand, when World War I broke out, he was deeply disturbed by the "Manifesto of the Intellectuals," "the black day" he called it, when ninety-three scholars and artists, including his own teachers Harnack and Herrmann, supported the war policy of Kaiser Wilhelm II, which seemed to him to call into question his colleagues' understanding of the Bible, history, and dogmatics. Was this where the synthesis of (German) culture and religion was leading the Christian church? On the other hand, in his industrial parish, he became acutely aware of the issues of social justice, poor wages, factory legislation, and trade union affairs. In 1915 he became a member of the Social Democratic party, but unlike his Christian Socialist friends, he refused to identify socialism with the kingdom of God.

Throughout his life Barth endeavored to interpret the gospel and examine the church's message in the context of society, the state, war, revolution, totalitarianism, and democracy, over against the pretensions of man to solve the problems of his own destiny, without the judgment of the message of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Toward the end of his life he could write, "I decided for theology, because I felt a need to find a better basis for my social action." The fundamental question was how to relate what the Word of God in the Bible says about the sovereignty and transcendence of God, grace, the coming of the Kingdom, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection of the dead with human problems. Barth voiced his concern over the bankruptcy of much contemporary religion and theology in his commentary on Romans (Der Römerbrief, 1919), where the influence of Kierkegaard, Dostoevskii, Franz Overbeck, Johann Christian Blumhardt, and Christoph Blumhardt in their attacks on institutionalized Christianity is evident. In this book, which was described by a Roman Catholic theologian as "a bombshell in the playground of the theologians," Barth seeks to summon the church back to the living God of the Bible, before whom are exposed the pretensions of human religion or piety, the proud sinful attempts to assert oneself without God. Salvation is God's gift, and the Kingdom must break in "vertically from above," summoning humankind to radical response and decision, that God's righteous purposes might be fulfilled in the world.

Barth used Paul's letter to the Romans for a critique of philosophical idealism, romanticism, and religious socialism. If his concern was that the church should listen to the divine word of judgment on our political and intellectual towers of Babel, his concern throughout his life was also to assert "that there is joy with God and that the Kingdom on earth begins with joy." Together with his lifelong friend Eduard Thurneysen (18881974), he discovered in the Bible "a strange new world, the world of God," which is the kingdom of God, established by God and not man. Like Luther, he was gripped by the Pauline message of the righteousness of God, which calls into question all human righteousness.

Only by listening to the Word of God and recognizing God's prior righteousness can we regain a proper foundation for culture, morality, state, and church. Theologically this means we must ground Christian dogmatics in the Word of God and seek to interpret God out of God, as he reveals himself in Christ in the scriptures, and not subsume him under our prior generic concepts, categories, and ideologies. The task of theology is to allow revelation to shine in its own light. The inner meaning of the resurrection of Christ, who as creator and redeemer is lord over all, is not just a word of hope for the future, but the action of God in vindicating his righteous purposes in history and giving us a pledge of the triumph of God's righteousness in the world. Far from belittling the need for social action, the resurrection, as God's act in establishing the Kingdom, should be for us a summons to participate in this event and engage in social action with a passion for God's righteousness. There must be no divorce between justification and justice.

There were distinctive stages in Barth's theological development, in each of which he wrestled with the polarities of God and man. Nineteenth-century liberal thought too readily presupposed an inward continuity between the divine and the "highest" and "best" in human culture, positing that knowledge of God is given in the depths of the human spirit in human self-understanding and inward religious experience. Barth rejected this view early in his ministry, saying that we do not talk about God by "talking about man in a loud voice." At first, like Herrmann, he identified conscience with the voice of God, but increasingly he argued that the voice of God is heard only in scripture, in encounter with Christ, the living Word. During the period of the so-called dialectical theology or theology of crisis, stemming from the second edition of Barth's Romans, and under the influence of Kierkegaard's critique of Hegel, Barth stressed "the infinite qualitative difference between God and man." God meets us in the moment of crisis and decision, creating his own point of contact and summoning us to radical obedience. As he wrote in his preface, "If I have a system, it is limited to a recognition of what Kierkegaard called the 'infinite qualitative distinction' between time and eternity and to my regarding this as possessing negative as well as positive significance: 'God is in heaven, and thou art on earth'" (Barth, 1933, p. 10).

The chasm between God and man can be bridged by God alone, and not by man. The Word of the cross means that God says no to our human sin and pride and pretensions, while in grace God says yes to his own good creatures in a word of forgiveness. If in this early period Barth, like the early Luther, stressed God's "no" (i.e., God's righteousness as God), his later message, like that of the later Luther, became more powerfully a "yes": God's righteousness as a triumph of grace through the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ. In the manner of the great medieval theologians, Barth saw that there are elements of negation and affirmation in all human knowledge of God, leading him to see an analogy of "relation," but not of "being," between God and man grounded in grace.

In 1927 Barth began writing Christian Dogmatics, intending to expound all the main Christian doctrines, by grounding all he had to say on God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ. The first volume was entitled Christian Doctrine in Outline, Volume I: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Prolegomena to Christian Dogmatics. In it he argues that possibility of Christian knowledge of God is grounded on the actuality of the revelation in Jesus, as he makes himself known to faith by the Holy Spirit. Such a revelation is trinitarian in character, having a triadic pattern. God makes himself known as Father in Jesus Christ the Son, and to us by the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity thus unfolds from the fact that "God reveals himself as the Lord." As such, this doctrine is the starting point and grammar for all Christian knowledge of God, and not merely an appendix, as in Schleiermacher.

Within this self-revelation of the triune God we can distinguish three forms of the one Word of God: the eternal Word incarnate in Jesus Christ, the written Word in the witness of the Bible to that primary Word, and the Word of God as proclaimed in the church. The task of Christian dogmatics is to be faithful to this Word, and therefore to examine the content of the church's preaching by tracing it back to its source in God, by the standard of holy scripture, and under the guidance of its creeds and confessions.

The reviewers of this first volume criticized Barth for so casting the gospel into the language of an immediate timeless encounter with God that he was in danger of dehistoricizing the gospel and transposing theology into a new philosophical mold. Barth took this criticism seriously, having himself seen this development of dialectical theology in Rudolf Bultmann, and gave himself to examining the question of method in theology by a careful study of Anselm's Proslogion. In 1931 he published his results in Fide quaerens intellectum (Faith seeking understanding). From Anselm he had learned that the Word of God has its own rational content in God. The polarity of God and man must be interpreted, not so much in the language of an existential encounter between God and man in the crisis of faith, but primarily in terms of the given unity of God and man in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Lord, in whom God has comenot simply in a man, but as a manin a once and for all reconciling act in which we are called to participate through the Holy Spirit.

Barth's approach in the future was to build all theology on the reality of the Word of God in Jesus Christ. This led him to turn from his Christian Dogmatics to a new work entitled Church Dogmatics, which he began in 1932 and which occupied him for the rest of his life (resulting in thirteen part-volumes). In Church Dogmatics he argues that all we know and say about God and about humankind is controlled by our knowledge of Jesus Christ as "true God and true man." From this dogmatic starting point, Barth expounds the four intersecting areas of Christian doctrine: the doctrine of the Word of God (vol. 1), of God (vol. 2), of creation (vol. 3), and of reconciliation (vol. 4). (A fifth volume, dealing with redemption [eschatology], remained unwritten at the time of his death.) Each of these doctrines is expounded in a trinitarian framework in terms of a double movement, a God-manward movement and a man-Godward movement in Jesus Christ, revealing a bipolarity in every doctrine. Fundamental to his whole theology is the axiom by which the ancient church expounded the doctrine of an "ontological Trinity," that what God is toward us in Jesus Christ, he is "eternally and antecedently in himself." By looking at Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit, we know the heart of the eternal Father. In Jesus Christ we see the inner meaning of creation as well as of redemption, for Christ is the one by whom and for whom all things were created, and in redemption we see brought to fulfillment God's filial purposes for the whole human race. Consequently, our anthropology as well as our theology must be built on this christological foundation, not on any "natural theology," on any independent concept of "orders of creation," or on any purely empirical concept of man.

Barth was concerned to unpack the implications of this Christ-centered perspective in every area of life. It proved highly significant in his outspoken opposition to Hitler, to the persecution of the Jews, and to the so-called German Christians who sought to justify National Socialism and its racist policies by an appeal to the natural orders of creation. Barth felt that this was a betrayal of the Christian understanding of grace by its appeal to sources of revelation other than that given to us in Jesus Christ. God's election of Israel for a vicarious role among the nations finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the Jew in whom God has broken down the barriers between the Jews and all other ethnic groups (the gentiles). Christ as Lord is head over church and state, and to him alone we owe supreme loyalty in both spheres. The state must be interpreted not just in terms of the orders of creation and preservation (as he had earlier thought), but in terms of the orders of redemption. This found explicit formulation in the Barmen Declaration of 1934, largely written by Barth. For this stand he was deprived of his university chair in Bonn, but his theological insights and interpretation of the political scene gained him enormous prestige. Barth saw himself standing in the tradition of the ancient fathers of the church like Irenaeus and Athanasius, and of the Protestant reformers like Luther and Calvin, engaging in lifelong dialogue with liberal Protestantism on the left and Roman Catholicism on the right, both of which he felt weakened the emphasis of the Bible that God accepts us by grace alone in Jesus Christ.

Bibliography

The best and most authoritative biography is Eberhard Busch's Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts (London, 1976). On the early period of the so-called dialectical theology, the most influential work was Barth's The Epistle to the Romans, translated by Sir Edwyn C. Hoskyns (Oxford, 1933). The significance of this work is discussed in Thomas F. Torrance's Karl Barth: An Introduction to His Early Theology, 19101931 (London, 1962). Barth's Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century, translated by Brian Cozens and John Bowden (Valley Forge, 1973), is invaluable for understanding his European theological background. The book that marked his transition to the later period of the Church Dogmatics is his Anselm: Fides Quaerens Intellectum; Anselm's Proof of the Existence of God, translated by I. W. Robertson (Richmond, 1960). In the Gifford Lectures given in Aberdeen, Barth expounded the 1560 Scots Confession in The Knowledge of God and the Service of God, translated by J. L. M. Haire and Ian Henderson (London, 1938). His massive exposition of Christian doctrine is set out in Church Dogmatics, 4 vols., edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Thomas F. Torrance (Edinburgh, 19561969). Very readable is Barth's short Evangelical Theology, translated by Grover Foley (New York, 1963).

James B. Torrance (1987)

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