The Theology of Karl Barth

I just finished reading "Evangelical Theology, an Introduction" by Karl Barth (Eerdmans 1963, reprinted 1996).

Barth appropriately refers to his Trinitarian, Christ-centered Theology as "a theology of freedom" - for this theology speaks of the God of the Gospel - and this Gospel declares God's freedom to grant to us our true freedom in union with Jesus Christ.

This Gospel is the declaration of the history of God's deeds, in Christ, to secure our freedom. In this history, God makes himself known to us. We learn through the deeds of Jesus just who God truly is. There is no God who is not like Jesus Christ. Barth writes:
The God of the Gospel is no lonely God, self-sufficient and self-contained...He is [not] detached from everything that is not himself...he is not imprisoned by his own majesty...He is free..to be the God of man. He exists neither next to man nor merely above him, but rather with him, by him and, most important of all, for him. He is man's God not only as Lord but also as father, brother, friend; and this relationship implies neither a diminution nor in any way a denial, but, instead, a confirmation and display of his divine essence itself (pp. 10-11).
God, in his divine freedom, became one of us and thus one with us, so that we might share in his love and life. This is the Gospel. And this is the basis of our theology, a Theology of Freedom. And we exercise our freedom in Christ, by saying "yes" to God's resounding "YES" said to us already in and through Christ - God for us, with us and in us.

Comments

  1.    Thanks for sharing this great quote! I'd like to also suggest two other books by Barth.
       The first is Christ and Adam, his exposition of Romans chapter 5. In teaching the Church History 01 course for GCS I've been able to see that Barth's interpretation of Romans 5 is straight out of the Church Fathers, specifically Irenaeus of Lyons.
       The other book is The Humanity of God. Specifically, I would recommend the second essay in the book which has the same title as the book: "The Humanity of God." Just reading that second essay can change your world view.
       Here's a quote from The Humanity of God that we put in this month's issue of The Adopted Life:

    On the basis of the eternal will of God we have to think of every human being, even the oddest, most villainous or miserable, as one to whom Jesus Christ is Brother and God is Father; and we have to deal with him on this assumption. If the other person knows that already, then we have to strengthen him in that knowledge. If he does not know it yet, or no longer knows it, our business is to transmit this knowledge to him. On the basis of the knowledge of the humanity of God no other attitude to any kind of fellow man is possible. It is identical with the practical acknowledgement of his human rights and his human dignity. To deny it to him would be for us to renounce having Jesus Christ as Brother and God as Father. The Humanity
    of God, p. 53. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.

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  2. Thanks for this helpful post Jonathan!

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  3. Thanks Ted,
    Just yesterday I was talking to a fellow pastor (non-WCG) and he was giving his negative comments about The Shack. He felt the Godhead was totally disrespected by the way the Trinity was presented. I replied that I believed it made the Trinity more personal and understandable. It seems the evangelical mind has a hard time dealing with God if He isn't some majestic "being" sitting on a shelf in holiness that none of us will every reach.
    Glen

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  4. I'm not sure what Barth would think of The Shack, but I suspect that he'd appreciate its emphasis on God's freedom to be fully with us as Father, Son and Spirit.

    We are free in Christ precisely because God is free to be Immanuel - God with us.

    To me, this is the essential message of The Shack. One might quibble with some details, but we should remember that it is an allegory, not a book setting forth a scientific theology (which was the task to which Barth devoted himself).

    Personally I enjoy reading both allegory and scientific theology. One truth - two complementary lenses.

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