Karl Barth: theology, Books, Epistle to the Romans, Anthropology, Angels, Catholicism. Karl Barth was born on May 10, 1886, in Basel, Switzerland as a Swiss Protestant theologian.
He is probably regarded as the most influential theologian of the 20th century. He was closely supported by his lifelong friend and colleague Edward Thurnesysen who was also a theologian when Barth initiated a radical change in Protestant thought where he was stressing the whole otherness of God against the anthropocentrism of the liberal theology of the 19th century.
Barth succeeded in recovering the centrality of the doctrine of the Trinity within the rational and dynamic structure of the Christian dogmatics. It was of particular importance being his appropriation of the Christology of the ancient church. The strong opposition of Barth to German National Socialism became the cause of his suspension as professor of theology at the University of Bonn.
Afterward, he carried on to work on his monumental Church Dogmatics at Basel where he completed four volumes and delivered over 500 sermons.
Let’s have a small look at the early life and career of Karl Barth too. He was the son of Fritz Barth and he was a professor of early church history and New Testament at Anna and Ben Sartorius. Barth studied at different universities including the universities of Tubingen, Bern, Berlin, and Marburg.
When he was in Berlin he came under the influence of the liberal theologian Adolf von Harnack’s seminar while in Marburg he was looking after the influence of Wilhelm Hermann and developed a deep interest in the thoughts of Friedrich Schleiermacher who was German theologian of early 19th century.
Barth developed a great interest in the scientific method too. He served Geneva from 1909 to 1911 and afterward, he was appointed for the working-class parish of Safenwil, in Aargau Canton. He got married in 1913 to a talented violinist and the couple shared one daughter and four sons.
Barth’s doctrine of election was one of the most controversial and influential features of Barth’s Dogmatics. His theology necessitates the rejection of the idea that each person is chosen by God to either be saved or cursed based on the purposes of the Divine Will, and it is impossible to understand why God chose some and not others.
Barth’s doctrine of election firmly rejected the notion of the eternal, hidden decree. Going with his Christo-centric theology, Barth argued that attributing the salvation or damnation of humanity to an abstract complete command is for making some part of God more definitive and final as compared to God’s saving act of Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the theology of Barth was to establish the truth that anyone can know about God only by following nature. He put forward his theology to reject the idea that saw an identity between religious self-consciousness and God or the other view was about identity between the laws of God and the natures of man’s life and history. These views were given in the 19th century.
Reading about one of the most famous ancient theologians without having a look at the name of his books may develop an unfinished feeling within you that you may at least know about the names of the books. The books of Karl Barth are:
- Doctrine of Creation
- Einfuhrung in die evangelische Theologi Karl Barth
- Church Dogmantics
- Esquisse d’une dogmatique
- The humanity of God
- Church Dogmantics: The Doctrine of Reconciliation IV.
- Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century
- Church Dogmantics Study Edition 2: The Doctrine of the Word of God.
- The World of God and Theology
- Spiritual Writings
- The Theology of John Calvin
The books weren’t there but there are remaining works that are all related to his work. His passion for his work can be observed from the fact that he has established many books pointing out different theologies.
Among the above-mentioned books, the most famous book is 13-volume Church Dogmatics, and understanding this book after reading is not an easy task so you may think not to start from here.
Luckily there are two smaller works from where you can make a start as they are a great introduction to his books. These two are Dogmatics in Outline and Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. The first-mentioned work is the volume of commentary on the creed whereas the second is based on the lectures that were delivered by Karl in 1962 when he visited the United States.
The Epistle to the Romans
The Epistle to the Romans is the work that established the position of Karl Barth as a notable theologian. He gave birth to this work in Germany in which he delivered a new and arresting message about the complete Goodness of God and the unlimited range of his fineness. The reason why his work lit up was the clear use of bright similes and phrases along with irrepressible humor.
The first six heavily revised editions of his noticeable work came out in 1922. Because of the explosive and critical nature of theology explained by Karl Barth, the theology became popular as “the theology of crisis” or ‘dialectical theology” and it commenced a trend directing towards neo-orthodoxy in Protestant theology.
The credit must be given to this publication that Barth was appointed as Professor of Reformed theology in 1921 at the University of Gottingen. Later on, he was appointed to professional chairs at Munster and Bonn in 1930.
Anthropology is defined as a study that is dependent on what makes us human. Anthropologists take broad steps for understanding different concepts, and various aspects of human experience which is termed holism by us. Anthropologists develop looks on the past through archaeology to know how human groups lived hundreds or thousands of years ago and what things were important to them.
They look at what constitutes our genes and biological bodies as well as our diet, health, and bones. They also compare humans and animals most often with chimpanzees and monkeys to consider what we have in common and what are the things that make us unique.
Even though every human being needs common things such as food, water, and companionship to survive, every individual can meet these needs in different ways. For instance, every individual needs food to live but different people consume food in different ways.
When Anthropology came to Karl Barth then he answered the question What is Man? Karl Barth solved this enigmatic anthropological question in a single word: Jesus! Barth reflected out his anthropology completely through The Church Dogmactics Vol. 3.2, Sections 45-46: The Doctrine of Creation, Men for others, beginning with Jesus and announcing the success of executing one over the Dionysus of Nietzsche’s Man in Freedom.
Karl Barth has written a book called The Doctrine of Angels however this book has not received the scholarly attention that it is destined to. In particular, the argument presented in this book by Barth is a unique construction of an angelic being, and the purpose of which was to force him to propose that angels owe a mediatorial function when it comes to the service of God’s revelation.
Both these concepts were consistent and necessary to Barth’s description of ontology-based on Angels. Moreover, interestingly, the service of this contradicts his previous doctrine of revelation and excesses to it.
Another description of the Angels was given by Barth in 1968 and according to this description, he maintained that angels have an intermediate role. He further describes that a world without angels is like a world without wonders whereas a theology without angels is theology without mystery.
Karl Barth explained that if theology failed to accommodate the mystery of the Angels and Heavens then in the end we will remain empty-handed from the accommodation of God.
In Bible, there are various explanations about what are angels and according to one belief Angels are the supernatural being that are the servants of God and Abrahamic religions often portray Angels as kind heavenly intermediaries between God and Humanity while another belief is that Angels are protectors and guiders of human, and servants of God.
The chief beliefs of Catholicism are that: God’s interest in the individual, God’s objective who can get into relation with God with developing through prayers, the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, the immortality of the soul of every human being when each soul is accountable at death for his or her deeds in life along with the award oh heaven or hell, the revival of death.
Along with studies and theologies on different topics, Karl Barth exerted influence on Catholicism too with his thoughts and actions along with the influence on the post-conciliar teachings of usual magisterium and theology covering three various specific areas.
More knowledge about Catholicism tells us that the word Catholic was used by the church father Saint Ignatius of Antioch. In English, it either means relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the western church or faith. The title “Catholics” was in use for the head of some churches regarding Eastern Christian traditions.
External resources: Wikipedia