Bromiley on Barth

I appreciated these words G.W. Bromiley (Creative Minds in Contemporary Theology, ed. by Hughes, Eerdmans, 1966, pp. 58-9) on assessing Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. After enumerating a number of the strengths and a number of the weaknesses in Barth’s theology, Bromiley concludes:

“It is possible, however, to bring out certain more general features of Barth’s Dogmatics which are commendable and exemplary even though they may be applied here in a bad cause. There is, for instance, his steadfast refusal to allow an intellectual or academic abstraction of theology and his determination to relate it strongly and positively to the whole task of Christian ministry. There is also his acceptance in principle of the bondage of the theologian to the divine Word and his condemnation of free speculation. Again, there is his high sense of the joyousness and beauty of theology in accordance with the ultimate joyousness and beauty of its theme. Finally, there are the deeply spiritual qualities of reverence and humility and wonder which give to many pages, and ultimately to the whole work, a devotional power and evangelical fervor that we often seek in vain in more orthodox but more abstruse and barren compositions. Here is a dogmatics which seeks its starting-point in faith, which depends for its strength on prayer, which consciously orientates itself to the Lord, and which finds its true climaxes in praise. Reverence is, of course, no substitute for truth; yet the truth is not honored without reverence. Hence these are qualities in Barth’s theology which we cannot fail to respect, which we may seek to emulate even in our criticisms and which we should covet earnestly for all theological endeavor.”

2 Comments

  1. That’s a great quote, Gav. I read an essay about Barth by Bruce McCormack in a book called Evangelicals and Scripture which was really, really helpful. Have you read it? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on it.

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  2. Gavin Ortlund

    Thanks Eric! I have not read that, but I will check it out. I have read a good chunk of McCormack’s bigger book on Barth, which was awesome.

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