Karl Barth: Against Hegemony

Karl Barth: Against Hegemony

Karl Barth: Against Hegemony

Karl Barth: Against Hegemony

Synopsis

Karl Barth (1886-1968) was the most prolific theologian of the twentieth century. Avoiding simple paraphrasing, Dr Gorringe places the theology in its social and political context, from the First World War through to the Cold War by following Barth's intellectual development through the years that saw the rise of national socialism and the development of communism. Barth initiated a theological revolution in his two Commentaries on Romans, begun during the First World War. His attempt to deepen this during the turbulent years of the Weimar Republic made him a focus of theological resistance to Hitler after the rise to power of the Nazi party. Expelled from Germany, he continued to defy fashionable opinion by refusing to condemn communism after the Second World War. Drawing on a German debate largely ignored by Anglo-Saxon theology Dr Gorringe shows that Barth responds to the events of his time not just in his occasional writings, but in his magnum opus, the Church Dogmatics. In conclusion Dr Gorringe asks what this admittedly patriarchal author still has to contribute to contemporary theology, and in particular human liberation.

Excerpt

Possidius, Augustine's biographer, remarked that anyone who claimed to have read everything Augustine wrote was certainly lying. How much more likely to be true is this of Barth, whose Church Dogmatics is almost twice as long as the Summa Theologiae, and who alongside that published well over one hundred books and articles in his lifetime, many of them major works in their own right. The Gesamtausgabe is meanwhile adding texts of work which remained unpublished, like the Göttingen Dogmatics and the lectures on Calvin, which likewise take their place as major works. If we add the secondary literature, which comprises many thousands of books and articles in many languages, then reading everything relevant becomes an impossibility. Life is short and there are many calls on one's time apart from writing on Barth. Nevertheless I think I can truthfully say that all the major items in his bibliography have been consulted, and in most cases lived with over many years.

Acquaintance with the secondary literature is necessarily much more selective. I have learned greatly from the work of F. W. Marquardt, Peter Winzeler and Sabine Plonz, as will be obvious. Likewise I, along with all other students of Barth, am in debt to the brilliant work of Bruce McCormack, whose treatment of Barth's early period is unlikely to be superseded for many years. The onus on those who differ from him, as I do in some respects on Barth's position in Weimar, is to make an equally compelling case.

As a student I recall being wearied by the many tedious paraphrases Barth has attracted, and I have written with Hans Frei's warning, about the way any attempt to summarize Barth turns the material to dust, constantly in my ears. Rereading the central expository chapters of this book I fear the same fate. Yet I hope I have made clear that, as Gollwitzer insisted, 'This man's spirit cannot be reduced to a simple or single formula.' And with others who have attempted to read Barth 'from the left' the study is undertaken not primarily because of the intrinsic fascination and beauty of his theology, which I do not deny, but because, like Barth, I hope one day for a society which has escaped from capitalist hegemony. The Christian gospel is a vision of a society beyond all hegemony. Perhaps the situation where it is from each according to their ability to each according to their need is the kingdom, and we all know that no political programme is identical with that. Neverthless, Barth insisted vehemently that provisional political goals, in which hegemony is resisted and overcome, were essential. And the great . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.