A fortnightly report of developments in religion
The following is a report on the lectures delivered by Professor Karl Barth at the University of Chicago, April 23–27. Barth spoke to overflow audiences of more than 2,000 at each of seven sessions held in Rockefeller Chapel. This report has been prepared expressly forCHRISTIANITY TODAYby Dr. Gordon H. Clark, professor of philosophy at Butler University.
To judge Barth fairly one must ask: What is this distinguished theologian trying to do? During the panel discussion, in answering a question from Professor Schubert M. Ogden of Southern Methodist University, Barth said: “In no sense is theology dependent on philosophy; one of my primary intentions has always been to declare the independence of theology from philosophy, including religion.”
As in his Church Dogmatics Barth reiterated his opposition to a nonhistorical religion of general principles, principles discovered by ordinary human capacity as exemplified in anthropology, sociology, politics, or any other science. Theology is sui generis. The reason is that God is not some Hegelian Absolute to be discovered and manipulated by man. God is the living and free person who has acted and spoken in history. Therefore the place and starting point of theology is the Word of God. “The Word of God spoke, speaks, and will speak again.”
Theology is a response to the Word of God. If it should try to justify itself, if it should try to reserve for itself a place among the sciences, if it should explain or excuse itself, it would destroy its whole significance. Before a man can respond, he must be summoned by the creative Word. Otherwise there is no evangelical theology at all.
These sentiments give content to Barth’s aim to free theology ...1
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