Karl barth’s name stands out for an unexpected wave of neo-orthodox theology in the middle of our century. Barth’s early books certainly signaled an end to the rule of theological liberalism. Although his early writings show ethical weaknesses that are characteristic also of some reformational orthodoxy, they did prepare a good section of the German church for resistance to the cult of the nation in 1933.

Barth in his later years turned more and more to the Scriptures as the only source of theology, refusing domination by philosophies. The last two or three volumes of his Church Dogmatics show this clearly. His new stance, though, did not exert the same influence throughout the length and breadth of the Church as his earlier one had. Problems and positions of liberal theology have come back and dominated the last twenty years, and the age of “Barthianism” now almost looks like an episode in the history of theology in the twentieth century.

Shortly after Barth’s death in 1968, a program of publishing his complete works was set up that may in the end run to eighty volumes. The editors were successful in catching the public eye by first publishing several volumes of Barth’s letters: his correspondence with Bultmann (showing early roots of their later disagreement), followed by two volumes of Barth’s early exchange of letters with his closest friend, Eduard Thurneysen. More recently, a collection of letters from the last seven years of Barth’s life has proved to be of great interest (Briefe 1961–1968, edited by J. Fangmeier and H. Stoevesandt, Theologischer Verlag Zurich, 1975). The book gives intimate insights into Barth’s mature thinking and reveals a much clearer picture of his position in the crosscurrents of our time. It ...

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