The December 11, 1995, issue of Christianity Today contained a review of Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology: Its Genesis and Development 1909-1936, by Bruce McCormack, Oxford University Press, 1995. The review was by Roger Olson of Bethel College. Note the praise heaped on heretic Barth by this publication which professes to believe the Bible:
“When chroniclers of twentieth-century theology look back one hundred years hence, there is little doubt that one name will overshadow all others as THE GIANT OF THIS CENTURY’S THEOLOGIANS--KARL BARTH. Thinkers of Barth’s stature provide a framework within which countless others carry out their own work, and thus a change in the paradigm governing interpretation of a Barth or a Hegel or an Edwards or a Thomas Aquinas has consequences that ultimately extend far beyond the inner circle of scholarly debate. ...
“In contrast to the reigning conservative paradigm, however, Barth’s governing assumption dialectically (paradoxically) emphasized the other side of divine revelation--that even in Jesus Christ, God’s self is veiled in the historical particularity of a man, and in Scripture the veiling is in the use of human language. Thus, human flesh and propositions can never be God’s Word directly, but only vehicles for God’s self-communication. God remains radically free even as he gives himself in revelation. ...
“Barth has been a source of controversy among evangelicals for much of his century. Perhaps McCormack’s demonstration of a basic continuity in Barth’s theology--”God is God!” yet really comes to us in self-communication-will help evangelicals appreciate Barth more as an ally in our struggle to discover a balanced account of the God-world relationship” (Christianity Today, Dec. 11, 1995, p. 42).
The reviewer admits that Barth was not orthodox, that he denied the biblical view of inspiration, yet he believes he was a great theologian. A more discerning view of Barth was given by Raymond Waugh in Baffling Karl Barth’s Neo-Orthodoxy. Waugh concludes: “Those who never bother to analyze Karl Barth at this point, and who go on to assume that he developed a valid view of the Bible, God, Christ Jesus, the resurrection, truth, or salvation will be in for a sad delusionment if they are honest with themselves. He began his career with his Romans and concluded his academic career with his lectures which were later published as Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. In these volumes, and in every volume in the interim, his approach to the Scriptures is the same; a rejection of them as the Word of God.”
Consider some excerpts from the writings of this “great theologian” Karl Barth:
“THE WORD WHICH ENTERS HUMAN EARS AND IS UTTERED BY HUMAN LIPS, IS THE WORD OF GOD--ONLY WHEN THE MIRACLE TAKES PLACE. OTHERWISE, IT IS JUST A HUMAN WORD LIKE ANY OTHER. ... What stands there, in the pages of the Bible, is the witness to the Word of God ... God can be called truth only when ‘truth’ is understood in the sense of the Greek word ‘aletheia’” (Barth, Romans).
“The prophets and apostles as such, even in their office ... were ... actually guilty of ERROR IN THEIR SPOKEN AND WRITTEN WORD” (Barth, Church Dogmatics).
“The assumption that Jesus is the Christ (1.4) is, in the strictest sense of the word, an assumption, void of any content that can be comprehended by us” (Barth, Romans, p. 36).
“THIS TOMB MAY PROVE TO BE DEFINITELY CLOSED OR AN EMPTY TOMB: IT IS REALLY A MATTER OF INDIFFERENCE.” (Barth, The Resurrection of the Dead, p. 135).
Christianity Today has no excuse for promoting Barth. At a luncheon in Washington D.C. May 25, 1960, Barth was asked by Christianity Today editor Carl Henry if the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ were events which occurred in a normal historical sense.
“In a later letter to Gordon W. Clark, Carl F.H. Henry gave a pointed account of the occasion. When he, Henry, asked Barth whether the resurrection event was of such a nature in covering it, that it would have been regarded in the same sense in which the man on the street understands news, Barth became visibly angry and asked, sarcastically, ‘Did you say Christianity Today or Christianity yesterday?’ He then continued by saying that ‘the resurrection of Jesus had significance only for His disciples,’ implying that it had no significance to the world. The religious editor of United Press International, Louis Cassels, said upon leaving, ‘We got Barth’s answer; it was ‘Nein’ [the German word for ‘no’]’ (Gordon H. Clark, Historiography--Secular and Religious, The Craig Press, 1972, reprinted in Christian News Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 1480).
Karl Barth almost always spoke obscurely so that it is often difficult to know what the man meant. Barthian experts disagree among themselves as to what his theology signified. I doubt the man even understood himself! It is this very obscurity that attracts those who fancy themselves to be intellectuals and scholars. Consider this lucid excerpt from Barth’s writings:
“If you ask about God and if I am really to tell about him, dialectic is all that can be expected from me. ... Neither my affirmation nor my denial lays claim to being God’s truth. Neither one is more than a witness to that truth which stands in the center, between every Yes and No. And therefore I have never affirmed without denying and never denied without affirming, for neither affirmation nor denial can be final. If my witness to the final answer you are seeking does not satisfy you, I am sorry. It may be that my witness to it is not yet sufficiently clear, that is, that I have not limited the Yes by the No and the No by the Yes incisively enough to set aside all misunderstanding-- incisively enough to let you see that nothing is left except that upon which the Yes and the No, and the No and the Yes, depend. But it may also be that your refusal of my answer arises from your not having really asked your question, from your not having asked about God--for otherwise we should understand each other” (Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man, Pilgrim Press, p. 209).
This is Barth, the “giant among theologians.” You say, I don’t understand the man. Neither does anyone else, if they would be honest. The Bible, on the other hand, comes to us with plain speech. The Apostle Paul warned the puffed-up Corinthians that it is the devil who complicates the simplicity of Bible truth.
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).
He also warned, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
Barthianism is philosophy. It is also wicked, Christ-denying heresy. Beware of the Barths of this world AND of those who speak highly of them.
The following is from Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts, translated by John Bowden, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975:
“In 1924 Georg Merz introduced Charlotte von Kirschbaum to Barth [she was 13 years younger than he]; she soon became a loyal assistant and joined his household in 1929. ... In September 1925 Barth stayed at the Bergli (a remote cottage) again. This time he got to know Charlotte (‘Lollo’) von Kirschbaum more closely. ... Many people, even good friends, and not least his mother, took offense at the presence of ‘Lollo’ in Barth’s life, and later even in his home. There is no question that the intimacy of her relationship with him made particularly heavy demands on the patience of his wife Nelly. Now she had to retreat into the background. Nevertheless, she did not forsake her husband. .... However, it was very difficult for the three of them to live together. .... The result was that they bore a burden which caused them unspeakably deep suffering. Tensions arose which shook them to the core. To avoid these, at least to some extent, was one of the reasons why in future Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum regularly moved to the Bergli during the summer vacation.” (pp. 158,164,185-86)
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