Doing Ethics in a Pluralistic World: Essays in Honour of Roger C. Hutchinson

By Roger C. Hutchinson; Phyllis D. Airhart et al. | Go to book overview

3
KARL BARTH ON DIVINE COMMAND
A Jewish Response
DAVID NOVAK

The Philosophical Engagement of Barth

Usually one does not include Karl Barth in contemporary JewishChristian dialogue. Unlike his Protestant theological contemporaries, Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr, there is no evidence that, during his long theological career, Barth had any real contact with Jewish thinkers. 1 The only contemporary Jewish thinker whom he engages, to my knowledge, is Martin Buber, but in Barth's magnum opus, Church Dogmatics, Buber is discussed almost en passant and with a rather hurried dismissal. 2 Barth's relations with Judaism are seriously complicated, but one gets the impression from reading what he says about Judaism that he is doing typology—engaging a type already created in his mind largely by Paul and those who followed in his path. He does not seem to be dealing with Judaism as a living tradition, indeed as a current rival religious option to Christianity. After all, how can one engage Judaism as a living tradition, let alone as a current rival religious option, if one has no serious contact with living Jews during the most productive years of one's thought? 3 For that reason, it would seem that an engagement of Barth's thought by a contemporary Jewish theologian could be, at most, only an arcane academic exercise with no real Jewish significance.

Notes to chapter 3 are on pp. 73–76.

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