Archive for the ‘Karl Barth’ Category


In association with the Theologischer Verlag Zürich (TVZ) and Princeton Theological Seminary, Alexander Street Press is pleased to announce The Digital Karl Barth Library. This online collection will support a new generation of research into the works of one of the twentieth century’s most influential theologians.


The collection features the entire corpus of Barth’s Gesamtausgabe. Published under the TVZ imprint, this definitive edition of Barth’s works in German currently comprises 42 volumes of theological writings, lectures, letters, sermons, and interviews. As additional print volumes of the Gesamtausgabe become available, they will be added to Alexander Street’s The Digital Karl Barth Library. Also included is Barth’s magnum opus, the fourteen-volume Kirchliche Dogmatik, both in the original language and with the definitive English translation. Translations of numerous other important works by Barth are also included.

The combination of comprehensive German-language content and scholarly English translations of major works—all available in a coherent, easy-to-access online collection—make The Digital Karl Barth Library an unparalleled resource for students and scholars studying the life and thought of this modern-day “church father.”


Every document in The Digital Karl Barth Library is hand keyed and features metadata tagging specifically designed to meet the research needs of scholars. The same dedication to scholarly research has guided the development of Alexander Street’s search and presentation platform, which enables users to perform highly sophisticated searches and to view, organize, and analyze results with extraordinary speed and precision. For example, researchers can return comprehensive, accurate results in seconds for the following kinds of queries:

Find all references to suffering and tribulation in Barth’s sermons.
In Barth’s exegetical writings, identify words that occur most frequently in close proximity with the keyword λογος (logos).
Locate instances where Barth mentions Hitler in his letters.
Searching all Barth’s works, find all citations of Romans, chapter one.


The Digital Karl Barth Library is available on the Web, either by annual subscription or through a one-time purchase of perpetual rights. For pricing, trial requests, and other information, contact sales@alexanderstreet.com or download the PDF brochure for more information.

Read Full Post »

If only Barth had finished his Church Dogmatics we would actually have this developing pneumatology.

συνεσταύρωμαι: living the crucified life

From Frank Macchia’s FB page:

A cautious but affirming response to Pentecostalism:

Barth“One could never have enough of Pentecost. This has to do with the Holy Spirit. For this reason, a little Pentecostalism — also again as salt of the earth (cf. Matt. 5:13)– cannot hurt any of us… It is quite necessary that someone draw attention to the fact that we all need the Holy Spirit. When one does that, and then something from Pentecost becomes visible again, how can we say something against it? There is nothing that can be said against it.”

– Karl Barth

(Busch, ed., Gasamtausgabe, Gesprache 1964-68, 430-32)

Someone responded:

A Barthian scholar and friend noted to me that Barth always left room for the surprising work of God, but did so only ‘out of the corner of his eye.’ Maybe that’s what he meant by ‘a little Pentecostalism.’

To which Macchia replied:


View original post 173 more words

Read Full Post »

A welcome volume on the development of Bonhoeffer’s theology and ethics with an eye toward the interrelations with Karl Barth. This will add to the glaring lacuna of Barth and Bonhoeffer’s dialectical relationship.

For Christ and His Kingdom

Michael P. DeJonge, Bonhoeffer’s Theological Formation: Berlin, Barth, & Protestant Theology. Oxford UP, 2012. vii–158 pp.

Oxford UP | Amazon9780199639786

There is clearly  no shortage of writings on Bonhoeffer and his thinking. Another volume of the 16-volume Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works was just released a few weeks ago. In 2012 Bonhoeffer was the focus of the Wheaton Theology Conference (video can be found here; published essays can be found here), and a basic search on Amazon reveals a growing number of monographs, collection of essays, a new forthcoming reader and even a new biography. In contrast, books on the relationship between Bonhoeffer and Barth have been limited. One of the few is Pangritz’s Karl Barth in der Theologie Deitrich Bonhoeffers: eine notwendige Klarstellung (ALektor Verlag, 1989), later translated into English in an expanded and revised edition as Karl Barth in the Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Eerdmans, 2000).

View original post 1,318 more words

Read Full Post »

The God of the GospelScott R. Swain, The God of the Gospel: Robert Jenson’s Trinitarian Theology (Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013). Paperback, pp.258.*

This volume belongs to a wider series (Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology) intended to “foster interaction within the broader evangelical community and advance discussion in the wider academy around emerging, current, groundbreaking, or controversial topics.”

This particular volume is related (though distinct) to its author’s (Scott Swain) PhD dissertation from TEDS in 2002. Swain has made a helpful contribution to the study of the inner trinitarian life by careful engagement with the work of the under-appreciated theologian Robert Jenson. In order to frame the work of Jenson, Swain begins with a critical discussion of work of Karl Barth (and Barth’s context) as providing the initial conversation for Jenson’s own project. Swain’s guiding question is stated as follows: “[T]rinitarian theology after Barth demands that a consistently evangelical doctrine of God wrestle with the implications of divine election and divine incarnation for the being of God’ (32). Thus, how do we know God as God? In what manner is the economic trinity (in election and incarnation) revelatory of the inner being of the trinity?

In Barth (as in Jenson), Jesus Christ is both object and subject of God’s election. For Jenson, the “grammar” of God is historicized in the event of Jesus Christ and it could not be otherwise. What is considered innate to God’s inner being can only be known in the revelation the man Jesus Christ who was both endowed with God’s Spirit as God’s Son. In the electing and election of Jesus, God is revealed wholly: Father, Son, and Spirit. This means a historicized boundedness for the knowledge of God and more than simply the knowledge of God, but also the very being of God. What is revealed is what is reality with God’s own being. The act of God reveals the being of God, but not as if this can be known from the beginning, but only with anticipation of the consummation. This is the essential premise of Jenson’s project and thus what Swain lays out in the context of the OT, NT, and dogmatic story (each of which form a chapter with the last being separated into the trinitarian structure of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”). He closes the framing of Jenson’s work with a brief but specific discussion of the current leading Barthian scholar Bruce McCormack’s work in relation to developing the theological reflection of Karl Barth on this topic. This at least allows for an alternate voice attempting to follow and answer the question of BarthThroughout his project, Swain attempts to carefully articulate the proposals of Barth, Jenson and McCormack all the while offering his own brief comments toward the direction he believes the conversation should go.

The key features to note in the theology of Jenson (which Swain elicits well) is the narrative approach to understanding and confessing God as God. Any abstractions are (at the least attempted to be) put aside and a careful reading of the story of God with and on behalf of Israel (specifically the Exodus story as paradigmatic) and as true Israel (specifically the story of Jesus). This narrative trinitarian approach is helpful in recognizing the storied nature of God’s self-revelation, but for Swain it fails to address the true ontic relationship of God’s self and instead only appeals to the economic trinitarian (pro nobis) relations, but not fully to the in se of God’s being. For Jenson, the Gospel’s God is God in God’s true inner being…what one finds in Jesus as the Son of the Father and the baptizer in the Spirit is who God truly is and none other. Swain argues against this reading of the Scriptures because of the difficulty suggested by the potentially contingent nature of God’s inward being if it is dependent upon creation, redemption, and re-creation. This is certainly a dilemma that needs addressing, and Jenson has attempted to do so in his later writings (which Swain notes throughout).



1. The Question stated

2. The State of the Question

Part One: Robert Jenson on the Gospel’s God

3. The Way of God’s Identity According to the Old Testament

4. The Way of God’s Identity According to the New Testament

5. The Triune Identity

Part Two: Toward a Catholic and Evangelical Account of the Gospel’s God

6. ‘A Father to You’: God’s Fatherly Self-Determination in the Covenant of Grace

7. Immanuel: The Son of God’s Self-Identification with Humanity in the Incarnation

8. ‘Deluged with Love’: The Spirit and the Consummation of Trinitarian Fellowship

9. Grace and Being: Bruce McCormack on the Gospel’s God


10. Concluding Reflections on the Question

A few reflections:

Swain’s work offers a helpful contribution to the doctrine of God and an overdue appraisal of Jenson’s theological contributions to theology proper and dogmatics specifically. Swain is to be commended for this work. Trying to appropriate the narrative theological work of Jenson contributes to a more well-rounded appraisal of the revelation of God given in the Scriptures testifying to this God in Christ Jesus. It is hoped that more theologians and Biblical scholars will similarly take such care in reading Scripture to discern the contours of God’s being and move away from philosophical speculations which have tended to obscure the God of the Gospel for some God of creative philosophical imaginations.

The style of writing is definitively for trinitarian scholars and few others. It is doubtful that this volume would prove helpful to students unless they are either very well-versed in trinitarian dogmatics (and its concomitant language) or have ready access to a theological dictionary. The use of untranslated Latin terms throughout the project does not lend itself readily to a wider readership. It is certainly understandable that such terms were not translated (as this would just add further to the bulk of the book), but some sort of footnoted translation would have been helpful as well as perhaps some glossary of terms.

There were a number of errata which should have been corrected: footnote 47 double cited on page 27, double “that” p.61.


*I received a copy of this book to review from IVP Academic (for which I am grateful), but I was not financially compensated in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based on my observations while reading this volume.

Read Full Post »

English: Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics in his ...

“The length of this document defends it well against the risk of being read.” – Winston Churchill

I think this likely could have been Barth’s daily mantra as he wrote his (unfinished fourteen part) Church Dogmatics. Or perhaps Churchill was familiar with Barth’s work. 🙂

If one writes enough, then there is a basic idea that very few (if any) will ever actually read all that was written and thus have little to accurately accuse one of (beyond obscure verbosity). Because, quite simply, just when the reader thinks they are grasping what has been said, there remains another compendium of explanations that so bury the ideas of the author that to dig through such mountains of material is to be lost in the mines or buried alive for delving too deeply. (Or so it seems in reading Barth).

So I guess I’m just going to stick with occasional mining for gems in the depths of Mount CD and convincing myself I have some understanding of what he has to say. And all the while I’ll stake my claim to having regularly panned the rivers of his “Evangelical Theology: An Introduction,” “Dogmatics in Outline,” and “God Here and Now” to give me a false sense of understanding his work. 🙂

Read Full Post »

According to theologian Roger Olson, yes, he was. Or, rather, his doctrine of election logically leads to universalism.

Roger Olson just published an essay on his blog on this question (“Was Karl Barth a Universalist? Another Look at an Old Question“), after a year or so digging into Church Dogmatics. He says “I do not claim that this article contains anything previously undiscovered or unheard of. However, I do not know of anything in print that covers precisely the same ground (e.g., including Barth’s views regarding free will).”

Olson states that Barth was quite coy on the subject (and denied being a universalist), but that

I will argue here that Barth’s doctrine of God’s gracious election necessarily, logically requires a peculiar kind ofuniversalism. To say the things Barth said about it and then deny universalism was, or would be, a logical contradiction—something that makes any system of thought incoherent and thereby nonsensical. But I will also argue that Barth did not explicitly deny universalism. What he denied was the necessity of universal salvation—that God must save everyone.

For the nearly uninitiated, such as myself, Olson provides a great overview of Barth’s doctrine of election. I won’t even attempt an overview of Olson’s overview, I’ll leave you to read his essay. (Which is really the point of this post, to direct you there. The rest of what follows here is filler. 🙂 )

Quite frankly, I’m not in a position to comment about Barth’s views on election. I will, however, highlight some material that stood out for me and some thoughts arising from it.

1. Barth’s doctrine of election begins and ends with Christ, which Olson sees leading inevitably to universalism. I’d like to see him connect the scriptural dots, as it were, on his view, so I guess there’s another reason for me to get into Dogmatics. Having said that, it does make a great deal of sense to begin and end with Christ, and the way Barth goes about it (as explained by Olson) makes a great deal of sense viz-a-viz universal salvation. And, if I may get a little subjective here, it’s quite theologically and spiritually moving. There are, of course, some tensions or paradoxes that neither Barth nor Olson clear out of the way, but on this subject in particular I think paradox is almost a given, no matter what position one takes.

2. Barth argues that Christ is the Elect (in whom all humanity is elected), even in the double predestinarian sense of being also the one who is rejected (or takes on that death and rejection on our behalf). That sentence doesn’t quite do Barth (or Olson) justice. Let me quote Olson (who, incidentally, needs to learn about blockquotes to make a clearer distinction between his own words and Barth’s) in a couple of places I was particularly struck:

What singles [Jesus] out from the rest of the elect, and yet also, and for the first time, unites Him with them, is the fact that as elected man He is also the electing God, electing them in His own humanity. In that He (as God) wills Himself (as man), He also wills them. And so they are elect “in Him,” in and with His own election. (Emphasis mine.)

and (definitely quoting Barth):

“The rejection which all men incurred, the wrath of God under which all men lie, the death which all men must die, God in his love for men transfers from all eternity to Him in whom He loves and elects them, and whom He elects at their head and in their place.” (p. 123) [in CD II/2]

This understanding gives Jesus’ teaching that “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” a whole new (or deeper) meaning: greater love has no one than God in Christ who took on damnation on behalf of his friends. (Perhaps a bit strong, but that’s where this seems to lead.)

3. Barth understood the term “salvation” on two levels:

One is what happened for all people in Jesus Christ, in his election and reprobation, in his incarnation and atoning death, and in his resurrection. It is finished—for everyone. The other is coming to know it and live in the new being of it—which is what makes one a Christian. But, for Barth, being “saved” in the first sense, objectively reconciled, forgiven, justified, is a “done deal” for all people in Jesus Christ whereas being “saved” in the second sense—something to be sought and found—corresponds to actualizing salvation in knowing, living and witnessing.

Perhaps not two understandings of salvation, rather one understanding of salvation with a subcategory of those who are aware of the salvation which is theirs (that is, Christians). Thus we have the saved (everyone?) and we have Christians as a subcategory of the saved.

This leads to this:

Barth argued that a person who fully understands his or her unworthiness for election cannot look upon anyone as rejected by God:

The believer cannot possibly confront the unbeliever with the suspicion that the latter is perhaps rejected. For he knows who has borne the merited and inevitable rejection of the godless, his own above all. How can he possibly regard others as perhaps rejected merely because he thinks he knows their unbelief and therefore their godlessness? If he does what becomes of his own faith? What of his own election? (p. 327)

Quite a wonderful insight, if you ask me, a grounded reason for not having an “us and them” view of the world.

4. I think this is also a good response to the common evangelical concern with universalism, namely, the Great Commission, the call to witness, to make disciples, to preach the Gospel. Does not the idea of universalism make the Great Commission, the notion of proclamation, of the call to make disciples sort of a moot point? If all people are saved anyway, why bother with proclamation?

The Great Commission is not nullified by a universalist doctrine. In fact, one can still speak of “converts” when holding a universalist position, but in the context of converts to the truth of the world, namely, that Jesus has saved and is saving. I see echoes here in Bonhoeffer in Ethics, at least as far as I can recall: you are saved, embrace that reality! This, it seems to me, is equally good reason to proclaim the gospel as the traditional urgency about hell and damnation, etc. The message is effectively the same. The difference is that the threat of hell is essentially erased in the Barthian (as explained by Olson) position. But why is the threat of hell a necessary part of proclamation of the Gospel (note I say the threat of hell, not hell itself, in which existence Barth appears to have believed)? It need not be (and some argue that the hell piece is not ultimately part of the Gospel proper, such as McKnight in The King Jesus Gospel).

5. Finally, I found it odd throughout this essay to hear of Barth scholars insisting on denying universalism in his thought. The impression I get is that they’ve rejected universalism already and then insisted that Barth couldn’t possibly be a universalist, because universalism is “heresy”. It seems to me they (and we) should take Barth on his own words, whether or not universalism is “heresy”, to see if what he says has the ring of truth to it. In the end, the feeling I get (again, from Olson’s representation of things) is that Barth scholars are looking for even the tiniest hint of non-universalism in Barth simply because they’re of the opinion that universalism is bad, not because Barth is clearly not a universalist. They’re trying to “save” Barth from something he doesn’t need saving from. He thought what he thought.

Those are some of my thoughts. Olson’s essay is a long (but enjoyable) one, with lots of material from Dogmatics covered, and there is much more worth commenting and reflecting on that I’ve already forgotten! (A shortcoming of reading online [no underlining] and me not taking notes as I read the article on my iPhone.)

Go, read the essay. Tell me what you think.

Read Full Post »

Snoopy TheologySo says Marc Vandersluys (who should be blogging this here, but instead I’m reblogging a snippet with a link 😉 ).

For many, “theology” is a field of the academic world, out of the mental reach of the average person, and not really all that valuable in day-to-day life. It’s certainly true that much of what is known as theology is often written in nearly impenetrable prose. In this respect it really is “the science of God”, because people who “do” theology for a living (I’ll call them “vocational theologians”) have created specialized terminology in order to make dialogue between vocational theologians a little simpler: they could string a bunch of verbs and adjectives together when talking about God or some concept relating to God, or they could come up with a single word that encapsulates all of them. The one-word option makes communication much less cumbersome and less confusing within the field, just like the latin names of plants and animals may be a more efficient form of communication for botanists and entomologists (or for me to say “entomologist” instead of “guy or girl who studies bugs”). But to the rest of us, this also makes theology seem like the exclusive field of vocational theologians.

But here’s the thing: theology is simply “thinking about God” or “words about God”. Theology is what we do when we try to come to grips with who God is or understand what God is doing in the world, when we ask “Who is God?” or “What is God like?”. And we all do this. All of us. Even you. When you say, “Jesus loves you,” you are doing theology; when you say “God is love,” you are doing theology; when you confess that “Jesus is Lord,” you are doing theology. Even if you say “There is no God” or “God doesn’t care about the world anymore,” you are in some sense doing theology….

Marc has quite a bit more which he shares (and you should read the rest), not least of which is why we should take care to think through doing the theology we all are doing anyways. He even manages to work in a discussion of Barth’s Church Dogmatics (which I joined him in mob-pressured purchasing…okay…so I may have been more the pressure-er rather than pressure-ee ©).  Great post Marc! Keep ’em coming!

And, yes, I did just “copyright” the terms “pressure-er” and “pressure-ee”…just protecting my personal intellectual property…or as I prefer to call it my “persintelperty” ©. Look at me…I’m a creative  etymologist. 🙂

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: