Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Karl Barth

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

Karl Barth

Article excerpt

Karl Barth. By John Webster. Outstanding Christian Thinkers series. second edition. New York: Continuum, 2004. xvi + 181 pp. $27.95 (paper).

Among all the recent publications about Karl Barth, John Webster's discussion of this theological giant invites our attention as a highly authoritative guide It offers a thoroughgoing summary of Barth's theological and ethical contributions, replete with analysis and engagement with his critics, all in a remarkably short span.

After reviewing Barth's life and work, Webster summarizes his contributions prior to the Church Dogmatics. He questions whether there is an "early Barth" to be sharply distinguished from his mature thought, and discusses Barth's rejection of liberalism, his view of Scripture, and his readings of Calvin and Schleiermacher. All this effectively sets the stage for the discussions that follow.

Webster then undertakes the unenviable task of summarizing the whole Church Dogmatics in about a hundred pages. He does so as a scholar who has published on many parts of this monumental work and who has an exceptional familiarity with the whole of it.

He devotes one chapter to each volume of the Dogmatics. "The Word of God and Theology" introduces the whole project and summarizes Barth's positions on the Word of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation and the Spirit, Scripture, and dogmatics. He concludes with a discussion of this material in the light of its critics, a pattern continued in later chapters. His defense of Barth's stress on "God as a single, self-revealing subject" (p. 70) is especially well made.

The chapter on God examines the way Barth addresses Kant's epistemological challenge to any such study, not so much by confronting it directly as by "refusing to be trapped within its categories" (p. 77). He then goes on to look at the reality of God and election, explaining Barth's position in both of these areas, although perhaps offering less engagement with Barth's critics on election than one might wish. …

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