Barth’S Election Explains Too Much
Alpha and Omega: A Study in the Theology of Karl Barth, by Robert W. Jenson (Nelson & Sons, 1963, 175 pp., $4), is reviewed by James Daane, Editorial Associate, CHRISTIANITY TODAY.

This book is deceptively simple. It’s short; its language is clear and uncluttered, and not without a touch of easy-going, straight-faced humor. Yet it exposes and evaluates the core of Barth’s theology. It demonstrates that Barth’s theology is truly systematic—ruled throughout by a single motif—so that it can be neither identified with any traditional theology, nor accepted or rejected in part. One can, however, without doing either, learn much from Barth’s thought, and I suspect that Jenson has.

The current slogan, “Christianity is a historical religion,” says Jenson, is a tired cliché; yet its very relevancy has made it a cliché. The slogan means that God has acted redemptively in history and thus disclosed that true reality which determines our lives and the meaning and goal of history. He then smokes out the central core of Barth’s theology by asking it three questions: How does God do this? In what sense does God have a history? And, What is that historical reality that God has wrought, and to which the Church bears witness?

Barth’s answer to all three questions is: Jesus Christ. With this, every traditional theology would agree. But Barth defines Jesus Christ in a quite new way. According to Barth, Jesus Christ is God’s eternal decision, the beginning and end of all God’s ways and works. Jesus Christ is the form in which God wills to exist, namely, as man, with man, and for man.

But this divine decision involves a negative aspect. It posits not only what God wills, but also a negative shadowy existence to what ...

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