A Continually Developing Theology

The Humanity of God, by Karl Barth (John Knox Press, 1960, 96 pp., $2.50), is reviewed by Gordon H. Clark, Professor of Philosophy at Butler University.

When Karl Barth makes retractions, it is news. In these three lectures, delivered between 1953–1957, he admits that the phrases “Wholly Other,” “infinite qualitative distinction,” “tangent,” and so on were unfortunate because they stressed the deity and transcendence of God at the expense of God’s humanity, i.e. “God’s relation to and turning toward man” (p. 37).

Barth does not retract his basic criticism of nineteenth century theology. It was humanistic, anthropocentric; it had nothing to say on the deity of God; it was a “blind alley” (p. 41). Nevertheless, nineteenth century theology is not to be dismissed. With all its limitations, so cruelly brought to light in 1914–1918, those men were great men. “They will not cease to speak to us. And we cannot cease to listen to them” (p. 33). The reviewer gets the impression that Barth looks upon theology as a continuous development, of which Schleiermacher, D. F. Strauss, F. C. Baur, and others are integral parts. When he says, “We cannot cease to listen to them,” he does not mean that we should take them as horrible examples and warnings. On the contrary, it is quite clear that Barth does not admire these men, as we might, merely for their intellectual ingenuity. He confesses to a spiritual affinity. Theologizing, he says, is done in the community of the Church. A theologian “refuses to part company with them not only personally and intellectually, but above all, spiritually” (p. 94–95).

This spiritual solidarity, however, does not seem to harmonize with Barth’s explicit definition of evangelical ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.