Four Reasons Evangelicals Should Still Read Karl Barth

During my first year of seminary I discovered Karl Barth. He was grappling with theological challenges that were new to me, he was operating within a theological tradition that was largely foreign to me (names like Ritschl, von Harnack, etc. meant nothing to me at that time), and there was an aura about his approach to theology that felt reverent and profound. I became intensely interested. Many an afternoon of 2006 and 2007 was spent struggling through Romans and Church Dogmatics—and then onto the secondary literature, especially Bruce McCormack. With enough distance from that episode now to have some critical…

Barth on Atonement

Our second reading in my atonement seminar was paragraph 59 of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, which deals with his doctrine of atonement. Each week all seven of us do the reading, and then one of responds to it with an assessment paper, which is read and discussed in class along with the reading. This week was my turn, so I logged in a lot of hour struggling with Barth and trying to respond to him sympathetically and critically, in light of his concerns and intended meaning. The focus of my response paper dealt with Barth’s understanding of the nature of…

Barth and Evangelicals

The theologian I’ve been engaging in 2011 is Karl Barth, and I’ve been chipping away at the Study Edition of Church Dogmatics off and on over the year. I’ve also finished his book on Anselm, which in places I found to be obscure to the point of raising questions of honesty. I’ve not been as bogged down by a book since I had to slough through Hegel’s Science of Logic for a college class. Without claiming to speak to Barth’s motives or intentions, I can’t help but detect the presence of a certain elusive cleverness, a sort of theological hipness which does not…

Barth on Anselm (3): Sola Ratione

I’m about half-way through Barth’s Anselm book.  Barth is the theologian I am reading in 2011.  Next year it will be Augustine.  I’ve chosen Barth because I learn from engaging with him, though where he differs from evangelical theology, I side with evangelical theology.  For me, the great value of engaging with Barth has been precisely because he is different from evangelical theology.  Its an enlarging experience to try to understand why he makes the moves he does, what are the values that drive him in different directions from evangelical theology.  Sort of like an American baseball player studying the Japanese…

Becoming a Theologian

A background project I’m chipping away at during 2011 is volume 1 of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics.  For Christmas I got the 2010 paperback study edition, which is definitely worth getting over the first edition for the translation of all the Greek and Latin quotes.  The smaller font sections, where Barth interacts with other theologians, are some of the most interesting parts.  Thus far, his favorite sparring partners seem to be Luther, Calvin, and Melanchthon, with Augustine and Aquinas also making regular appearances, Schleiermacher and Tillich as the occasional whipping boys, and occasional references to all kinds of others I’ve…

Barth on Anselm (2)

Some reasons why Barth’s Anselm book interests me as a book to focus on this year: 1) Barth sees Anselm as an especially important and relevant theologian.  He calls him “one of those phenomena which simply must be known and respected” (8) and says, “I find more of value and significance in this theologian than in others” (7).  Given Barth’s broad acquaintance with historical theology, I think its worth investigating what it was that made Anselm particularly stand out to him. 2) Barth represents a break from traditional interpretation of Anselm (both liberal Protestant and Roman Catholic).  He says that…

Barth on Anselm (1)

Since graduating seminary I’ve been doing some personal study projects to keep learning.  My initial triad was Christ’s resurrection (systematic theology), Hebrews (Bible), and Anselm (historical theology).  I started a new triad during the summer of 2010, focusing on Habakkuk (Bible), justification (systematic theology), and then classic texts of pre-reformation church history (historical theology).  Now that I’ve finished Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy, my final pre-reformation text, I’m considering that second triad done. Through my pre-reformation study, I got some good exposure to some of the theologians I wanted to become familiar with, like the Cappadocians, Boethius, Gregory the Great,…