Karl Barth was born in Basel, Switzerland, in 1886. A theologian, Barth is considered to be one of the most prolific writers Christendom has ever produced. His Church Dogmatics runs well over 12,000 pages in English translation. There also is a great body of occasional writing. Barth would be worthy of note if only for his first published work, a commentary on The Epistle to the Romans. In 1918, when he published this study, Barth was a young pastor in his native Switzerland. The guns of World War I could still be heard, their angry shells destroying, perhaps forever, the liberal optimism of Continental theology. Where was the progress young Barth had learned about from Harnack in Berlin? Where was human rationality, dispelling the noisome holes of ignorance and superstition, when the great leaders of Christendom descended to the barbarity of trench warfare? For answers Barth turned St. Paul's greatest epistle, as St. Augustine of Hippo and Martin Luther had before him. Barth obtained a post at the University of Bonn, but Hitler objected to his work with the Confessing Church (see Dietrich Bonhoeffer), and he was forced to return to his own country, there to produce all his great tomes. Turning theologians from their rational optimism, Barth has driven them to consider again the power of the Word of God-the acted, spoken, inscripturated, incarnated Word was always his chief theme. Against it, all human pride and pretension, all schemes for utopian societies, all theologies based on anything other than the Bible and Christ have proved transient. Barth's objectors reply that Barth's God is too far away like Soren Kierkegaard; that Barth spoke of the "infinite qualitative distinction" between God and man; that Barth ignores scientific advances; and that he cares little for dialogue with other religions. Yet Barth's oppposers never complain of a lack of erudition or ecumenical concern. To some Barth is the greatest theologian the church has produced. Barth died in 1968 as he had hoped-with his Dogmatics still unfinished.
Of the many people who write on the life and thought of Karl Barth, Eberhard Busch is uniquely placed. A world-renowned expert on Barth's theology, he also served as Barth's personal assistant from 1965 to 1968. As Busch explains, one cannot fully understand Barth the theologian without also understanding Barth the man. In this book he weaves doctrine and biography into a superb presentation of Barth's complete work.
Busch purpose in this introduction is to guide readers through the main themes of Barth's monumental "Church Dogmatics" against the horizon of our modern times and problems. In ten sections Busch clearly explains Barth's views on all of the major subject areas of systematic theology: the nature of revelation, Israel and christology, the Trinity and the doctrine of predestination, the problem of religion, gospel and law, creation, salvation, the Holy Spirit, eccclesiology, and eschatology.
A distinctive feature of the book is the way Busch lets Barth speak for himself, often through surprising quotations. Busch also shows how Barth's writing should be read as a dialogue, constantly and consciously engaging other voices past and present, both in and outside of the church. Most important of all, however, is the way the book demonstrates that Barth'sthought is not only still accessible today but also remarkably helpful.
How good it is that the author of the rich Karl Barth biography has drawn anew on his intimate acquaintance with the person and work of Barth to introduce the theology of the "Church Dogmatics." In this study we are engaged by a theology that, as if stubbornly, asked and still asks different questions, addressed and still addresses things other than what in Barth's own time and also now in ours claims to be at the center of the science of theology. Eberhard Busch has written a passionate, wonderfully readable book that portrays how "thinking" about the friendliness of God for humanity' can itself becomes a great passion.
Veteran readers will find here a rich and subtle extension of Moltmann's trinitarian and christological works, even as he makes bold use of key insights from feminist and ecological theologies, from recent attention to embodiment, and from charismatic movements. Newcomers will find a fascinating entree into the heart of his work: the transformative potential of the future.
Moltmann develops a theology of the Holy Spirit that links the Christian community's experience of the Spirit to the sanctification and liberation of life. He brilliantly displays the ecological and political significance of Christian belief in the Trinity.