Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Sunday, October 08, 2006

My Problem with Karl Barth

I've been asked what my problem with Karl Barth is, so I thought it would answer this through a few posts on my blog.

I confess at the outset that I am not a Barth expert, and that I once tried to read one of my uncle’s volumes of Church Dogmatics and gave up in disgust. I found Barth unreadable due to his mystical pretension to profundity. He strikes me as one of those modern scholars that try to impress you through convoluted and mystical statements, like Rowan Williams and other Neo-Gnostics. Take this for example (please note his statement that Christ's incarnation is atonement and accomplishes reconciliation)...

“It is in the particular fact and the particular way that Jesus Christ is very God, very man, and very God-man that He works, and He works in the fact and only in the fact that He is this One and not another. His being as this One is His history, and His history is His being.”

Church Dogmatics IV/I, p. 128

“[T]he being of Jesus Christ, the unity of being of the living God and this living man, takes place in the event of the concrete existence of this man. It is a being, but a being in history. The gracious God is in this history, so is reconciled man, so both are in their unity. And what takes place in this history, and therefore in the being of Jesus Christ as such, is atonement. Jesus Christ is not what He is – very God, very man, very God-man – in order as such to mean and do and accomplish something else which is atonement. But His being as God and man and God-man consists in the completed act of the reconciliation of man with God.”

Church Dogmatics IV/I, pp. 126,127

Okay, so he’s slightly more intelligible than Rowan Williams!

I also confess that my knowledge of Barth is from secondary sources rather than primary ones, but I trust my sources
(esp. when they quote Barth), unless they are contradicted by quotes from Barth. I’m not going to purchase all 14 volumes of his Church Dogmatics and his other writings (notably his commentary on Romans) and read it, when there are better things to do! The sources are primarily 20th century Reformed systematic theologies (Berkhof, Boice, Culver, Grudem and Reymond).

One of the great problems with Barth is that he often makes seemingly orthodox statements that contradict his anti-orthodox statements, but I suppose this should not be surprising in one who delights in the mysticism and irrationalism of ‘Christian’ existentialism, and the contradictions and ‘paradoxes’ of dialectical theology.

James Montgomery Boice makes this telling statement in his Foundations of the Christian Faith (p. 673) about the destructive influence of Barth:

“One analyst of the secularizing movement in today’s theology is John Macquarrie (variously classified as a secular or process theologian). In his study of the intellectual history of many secular theologians, God and Secularity, he describes many of these men as ‘disillusioned Barthians.’ Since Karl Barth denied that the Bible was the Word of God, calling it only man’s witness to the Word of God, and since Barth stressed the transcendence or hiddenness of God, those who followed him wondered if anything could honestly be termed a revelation. And if not, or if one could not be certain of such a revelation, then the secular world with its vacillating but audible words was the only place to which one could turn for direction.”

Read the rest...


Blogger Timothy said...

Well, you have to present him with many kudos for the intelligence of his intelligence is superbly ringing in the upper mind of the readers who read him... :)

Those that I know who have read Barth, have done so to seem smart. I never much cared for him myself, when there are guys like Berkhof and Boice, who get straight to the point and punt the mysticism. Why bother with all that?

It has always been my goal to be plainly Reformed... almost vanilla in it's manifestation, that is, if being Reformed can be vanilla. In other words, I'm not looking for something new. The moment you attach anything new to the gospel, well then, you have the birth of another heresy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 10:02:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't like to barf...

but seriously...i don't...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006 7:00:00 am  

Post a Comment

<< Home