Barth’s View Of Man

Christ and Adam, Man and Humanity in Romans 5, by Karl Barth, Harper, 1957. 96 pp., $2.00.

In his introduction to this book of Karl Barth, Dr. Wilhelm Pauck asserts that Barth’s doctrine of man as expressed in his view of the relation of Adam to Christ involves “a reinterpretation of traditional theological anthropology” (p. 12).

Pauck’s estimate is true to the facts. For the “parallel between Adam and Christ” of orthodox theology, Barth wants to substitute the parallel between Christ and Adam” (p. 16). “The relation between Adam and us reveals not the primary but only the secondary anthropological truth and ordering principle.… Man’s essential and original nature is to be found, therefore, not in Adam but in Christ. In Adam we can only find it prefigured. Adam can therefore be interpreted only in the light of Christ and not the other way round” (p. 29).

While Barth, then, holds to a formal parallelism between Adam and Christ, his chief aim is to indicate the “essential priority” and “inner superiority that would make Christ the master of Adam” rather than Adam the master of Christ (p. 32).

This “material relationship” between Christ and Adam means “that sin is subordinate to grace, and that it is grace that has the last word about the true nature of man” (p. 43). Thus “the history of humanity is the history of God’s covenant with man” (p. 61). “Jesus Christ is the secret truth about the essential nature of man, and even sinful man is still essentially related to Him. That is what we have learned from Rom. 5:12–21” (p. 86).

The radical character of Barth’s ...

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