Posts Tagged ‘Karl Barth’


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.

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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:


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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).

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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.

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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. 🙂

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A Facebook friend (David Lermy) posted a link to a brief video interview with Tony Jones about his book “A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin” (Minneapolis: The JoPa Group, 2012).

I find Jones’ comments to be largely on-spot as to his critique of several of the models (Penal Substitutionary Atonement [PSA], and Christus Victor) for understanding the “atonement” (mind you, I have NOT read his book…which I likely would disagree with sharply…for whatever that is worth).  He seems to speak to something akin to a moral exemplar model (though again, I haven’t read his book for clarification).

When I get into discussions about the atonement I find myself saying “Yes” to the various ways in which this doctrine has been explained (and also “no”, but that would have to be for another post another day).  I don’t follow Jones’ own proposal (which seems to exclude the others), but I would include it in my “Yes” to the atonement. I can see and appreciate the various models as identifying and speaking to particular aspects of the nature and grounds for the atonement, but find that (as with all “models” and/or illustrations) they fall short at various levels to speak to the complexity and tension of Scripture. And I do like tension. 🙂 As apparently did Karl Barth on this topic (as on so many others), but alas, I also have not read Barth on this topic…so I’ll leave that also for another day.

So I suppose I have little to say in genuine interaction with either Jones or Barth on the atonement, other than to say “Yes” to the varieties of models recognizing they offer a glimpse into the glory of God’s work on our behalf…in, towards, and through us. Or maybe I’m just non-committal, but I would like to think better of myself. 😉

What are your thoughts on the atonement models and, specifically, Tony Jones’ interview?

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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. 🙂

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Barth and Jesus

You’ve heard the adage: “Jesus is the reason for the season” and perhaps are familiar with Andrae Crouch’s “Jesus Is The Answer“…well…here is perhaps Karl Barth’s bumper-sticker theology (could we even say the summation of his 10,000 page unfinished Kirchliche Dogmatik).

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Faith of Jesus Christ

From a brief conversation with a fellow reader and blogger of Karl Barth (Mike Ivaska), I thought I’d post a brief discussion of Barth’s understanding of πίστις in its genitival relation to Χριστοΰ (a phrase which has produced quite a number of articles, blogs [for example, HERE and HERE] and books such as the one pictured to the left).

Barth notes that (perhaps) the most significant use of πίστις (what he refers to in the language of the ancient scholars as the “so-called genetivus mysticus”) is in reference to πίστις Ίησοΰ Χριστοΰ (as found extensively in the thoughts of Paul and John in particular). He argues that this

“denotes the state created by God’s revelation in Christ, the being of Christians, their being εν Χριστω, by which they are put in a position to achieve for their part the knowledge of God or of Christ as the Kyrios, the reality of man in which this achievement is an event.” [CD I.1:228]

This πίστις Χριστοΰ is regarded as “the divine decision made about man. Only then and on this basis does the word slip down, as it were, into the sphere of human actions…” [ibid]. Thus, Barth argues for a reading of πίστις in relation to the Christ, that is Jesus, as belonging first and foremost to the faithfulness of God prior to any “faith” on the part of humankind.

Faith, for Barth, is the act whereby we embrace the πίστις of God through the mediator, Jesus. It is in Jesus that genuine πίστις is submitted to and embraced as the gift of God to us, for us, and in us. Perhaps this is just more of a Barthian Reformed theology coming through, but for me I find this way of conceiving of πίστις in this peculiar construction (πίστις Ίησοΰ Χριστοΰ) enlightening. So I would argue (at least at a theological level) for a double sense overall to πίστις Χριστοΰ even as the individual contextual occurrences in the New Testament might give particular emphasis to one element over the other at any given point. This does not mean such readings are antithetical, but that there is a sense in which one is brought to the fore in order to point to a particular thing at a particular moment. There can be no faith in Christ apart from the faithfulness of Christ.

So what are your thoughts on the πίστις Χριστοΰ debate? Should an objective genitive be read (faith in Christ) or a subjective genitive (the faith/faithfulness of Christ)? Or is there a sense in which both are held in a tension in the manner I’m proposing (perhaps based on a facile reading of Barth on the topic)?

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Karl Barth

Karl Barth (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[The following was an email reply I sent to a friend inquiring about why I read Barth and believe others should, a basic discussion of what sorts of things he wrote on, and where should someone who has never read Barth begin to read]

Basically, I determined to give Barth a read after finding that it seemed EVERYONE cited him, yet in Bible college his work was treated like anathema. 🙂  As I have read fairly widely in his works now, I’ve found great joy in his thoroughly Trinitarian theological reflection that centers in the revelation of Christ Jesus.  I find this missing in most of the theology that I read (though I’ve since discovered others who follow in that similar vein).  To some extent it seems he has basically covered most any topic one might imagine (this may be a stretch, but when you write just ONE of your Dogmatics in something like 10,000 pages you’ve likely covered a LOT of ground… 😉 ).  He has been tremendously influential upon many in wider scholarship and will be read into the foreseeable future…so his writings belong to something far more enduring than many contemporary writers.  I’ve also deeply appreciated the worshipful way he writes theology…it is doxological…and I feel overwhelmed by God as enumerated in Barth’s works…which open Scripture to me afresh.  He can certainly be heady and dry at times, but I have largely found his work to be challenging mentally and spiritually encouraging me to press deeper and love God more fully.  Further, he was noted to have dealt handily with the Liberals of Europe who ruled the universities of his day.  Much of what he writes counters the theology which he was surrounded by.

As to your second question: Barth wrote three different “Dogmatics,” but finished with his Church Dogmatics which comes in 5 volumes of 14 parts.  In these he tries to set out a full fledged church theology which finds as its center the person and work of the triune God.  However, he has written on many other topics of specific theology: prayer, preaching, Christology, theologians, commentaries, etc.  His writings were all concerned with the Church in one fashion or another.

Several books that offer a great introduction to his thought and writings are:

  • Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Eerdmans 1992, pp.219).  This is a great introduction to what is involved in doing theology and what is expected of the theologian…it is a masterful work in my opinion.
  • Dogmatics in Outline (Harper 1959, pp.160).  This slim volume is a concise intro (of sorts) to the vast work in Church Dogmatics and the task of theologizing.  It takes its structure from lectures delivered in Bonn concerning the Apostles Creed.  I have taken my congregation through this work.
  • Prayer: 50th Anniversary Edition (Westminster/John Knox 2002, pp.168).  In this book, you will find an exposition of The Lord’s Prayer as well as a number of Barth’s written prayers (which one can find other places as well), and finally several helpful essays on Barth’s contributions.

His works cover a far more wide-sweeping array, but these (I believe) are fine examples for introducing anyone to the work of Barth.

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