… we need to read him with our eyes open.
During his lifetime, Karl Barth was a very controversial figure. In 1986, 100 years after his birth, he is still a controversial figure. One contemporary lauded him as the greatest theologian since the apostle Paul—greater than Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, or Calvin. Another deplored his contribution to theology as a rehash of liberal neo-Christianity, and highly deceptive to boot since he tried to pawn his theology off as a new evangelicalism.
My own acquaintance with the thought of Karl Barth traces back to 1935. I had just found Jesus Christ, but I didn’t have much faith, and I was hanging on for dear life. Everyone whose intelligence I respected seemed to think that faith in Jesus Christ as divine Lord and Savior was a piece of foolishness. I was reading voraciously to bolster my shaky Christian faith, but pickings proved mighty slim.
Then I ran across a book by a man called Karl Barth entitled The Word of God and the Word of Man. Rumor had it that almost single-handedly he had set liberalism back on its haunches and moved the Western church back toward orthodoxy. With ecstatic delight I read: “It is not the right human thoughts about God which form the contents of the Bible, but the right divine thoughts about men. The Bible tells us not how we should talk with God, but what he says to us; not how we find the way to him, but how he has sought and found the way to us; not the right relation in which we must place ourselves to him, but the covenant which he has made with all who are Abraham’s spiritual children, and which he has sealed once and for all in Christ Jesus. It is this which is within the Bible.”
Here was a new Luther and Calvin—risen from the dead to call my generation ...1
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