Theology and Church: Shorter Writings, 1920-1928


Karl Barth is the greatest theological genius that has appeared on the scene for centuries. He cannot be appreciated except in the context of the greatest theologians such as Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Schleiermacher, Kierkegaard, nor can his thinking be adequately measured except in the context of the whole history of theology and philosophy. Not only does he recapitulate in himself in the most extraordinary way the development of all modern theology since the Reformation, but he towers above it in such a way that he has created a situation in the Church, comparable only to the Reformation, in which massive clarification through debate with the theology of the Roman Church can go on. Karl Barth has, in fact, so changed the whole landscape of theology, Evangelical and Roman alike, that the other great theologians of modern times appear in comparison rather like jobbing gardeners.

Who is he?

Karl Barth is a native of Switzerland, born and brought up in the home of a Swiss pastor who when Karl was but two years old became a Professor of Church History in the University of Bern. It was in Bern that Karl Barth grew up and went up to University to study philosophy and theology, and from there he went on to the Universities of Berlin, Tübingen, and Marburg. After spending some twelve years in the pastorate, mostly in the Alpine village of Safenwil in Aargau, he was called to be Professor of Reformed Theology in Göttingen. Then after more than a decade of teaching and debating in the Universities of MÚnster and Bonn, in which he was the living centre of a volcanic disturbance in the whole field of theological thinking, and the great mind behind the German Church's struggle for survival against National-Socialism, he was ejected from Germany, and found refuge in Basel, the city of his birth, where he was appointed to the chair of Dogmatics, which for centuries had been occupied by some of the greatest thinkers of the Reformed Church.

What is he like?

Perhaps more than any other theologian of modern times Barth resembles Luther in his sheer Menschlichkeit. That is to say, he has an overflowing love for all things human, whether they are the simplicities . . .

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • New York
Publication year:
  • 1962


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