The chapter focuses on the nature and character of Anglican wisdom, exploring this in the context of church structures, tradition, and truth. Drawing on a variety of different examples and contrasting wisdom with folly, it argues that, historically and in the present time, Anglican wisdom is rooted in its capacity, in the presence of God, to acknowledge and hold the complexity and contradictions of human life in all its fullness. Lacking the authority structures required to give a single definitive Anglican view on any given subject, wisdom in the churches of the Anglican Communion continues to emerge through an ongoing, collective, often fraught act of listening to God.
Anglicanism from the time of the Reformation has been characterized by a persistent interest in the Fathers of the church which joins authorities as diverse in date and disposition as Cranmer and Pusey or Jewel and Newman. While both the methods of reading and the conclusions drawn from considering patristic sources have varied greatly, Anglicans of different tendencies have tended to value the Fathers such as Augustine both as representing a Catholic consensus opposed to Roman and Puritan extremes, and as uniquely useful sources for theological discourse, constructive or controversial. Even where the authority of the Fathers is not regarded as theologically unique, the characteristics identified as necessary in a Church both catholic and reformed have tended to be drawn from the practice and belief of ancient Christianity, as in the Quadrilateral. Anglicanism is less a tradition characterized by confessional adherence to the Fathers as by consistent acknowledgement of its historical basis in the early Church in terms of both doctrine and dogma.
This chapter explores questions of power and authority under the headings of identity, orthodoxy and ministry. Written from a (South African) postcolonial context, and employing the method of theologies of liberation, the chapter interrogates the shifting positions of insider/ outsider identities and how these relate to who exercises power in the churches of the Anglican Communion. In turn this opens the question of who is recognized as holding the authority to define contemporary orthodoxy. Finally, in considering the relationship of leadership to authority and power, some reflections on the question of the churches’ mission to draw in those on the margins are offered.
Cornelis van der Kooi
The appropriation of Barth’s theology in contemporary Protestant theology is related to the culture and conditions of its reception. While the direct influence of Barth may broadly have decreased in recent years, some of his major insights and decisions have found wide acceptance in Protestant theology. The importance of Christology for the doctrine of God is recognizable in many strands of contemporary Protestant thought; equally, the ethical dimensions of Barth’s theology have drawn much attention to this domain of the theological enterprise. Barth’s emphasis on God’s action in favour of God’s creatures and of the human being—the creature called to creative and free response to God—also features heavily in current Protestant reception of his work.
Due to a widespread perception that he was a theologian of division, Karl Barth is not generally counted amongst the twentieth century’s great theologians of culture. Although this reputation derives largely from an unfair caricature, it also grows out of Barth’s very real scepticism concerning the possibility of a theology of culture that could avoid the deification of human achievements. Those who delve deeply into Barth’s understanding of culture, however, find in his writings a rich resource in his eschatological appreciation of secular culture. This chapter examines his writings on culture between 1926 and 1932, including his lectures on ethics and Church Dogmatics I/1, as well as his later essays on Mozart (1956) and relevant portions of Church Dogmatics IV/3, noting how these texts can be positively interpreted and can fund a contemporary theology of culture.
This chapter explains the critical reception of Karl Barth by scholars of ecotheology and the challenges that his theology presents to environmental thought. Then, working along lines of critical reconsideration in environmental thought, it develops lines of possibility for reconsidering the environmental legacy of Barth. It argues that Barth silences nature and that his searing critique of modernity unwittingly reproduces its fundamental ecological illusion, the sundering of humanity from nature. Yet the silencing of nature is the first moment in a dialectic that anticipates a recovery of creation in which one may listen to other creatures. With an ecological imagination informing Barth’s logic, his system could constructively be developed to support an unusual stewardship ethic.
At the heart of Barth’s theological anthropology and its accompanying special ethics is a human agent set in motion by the creative and redemptive work of Christ and directed towards its human fellows in a relationship of shared need and obligation. I mobilize the ethically oriented, critical, and reflective mechanisms in Barth’s depiction of this agent to contest his heterosexist framework for the relationship and difference between the sexes. I propose that Barth’s Christocentric account of human agency undermines his efforts to subordinate women to men, that it has critical mechanisms that can contest, decenter, and reconfigure his rigid gender binary, and that it resonates in productive and suggestive ways with Judith Butler’s gender theory.
David W. Congdon
While Karl Barth avoided the question of hermeneutics and theological method, preferring to focus on the actual exegesis of Scripture, his work is thoroughly—albeit often implicitly—hermeneutical. His hermeneutics, however, is always determined by the subject matter. Over against historical critics who advocated a posture of feigned neutrality, Barth argued that the interpretation of a text requires a participation in its subject matter. Barth’s hermeneutics thus changed over the course of his career as his understanding of the subject matter changed. The eschatological subject matter of his early theology led to a hermeneutic of simultaneity. The historical subject matter of his later, Christocentric theology led to a hermeneutic of description. This chapter argues for an apocalyptic subject matter that unifies the eschatological and the historical and generates a bifocal hermeneutic.
This chapter reflects upon the relationship between Barth’s theology and Jewish thought. Currently we inherit a certain framing of this relationship, generated by a family of Jewish thinkers who placed particular stress on the ‘wholly other’ character of God and God’s revelation as command and love. Yet this Jewish appropriation of Barth has resulted in an unwanted strain of antinomianism and the installation of a ‘gnostic’ sensibility, which insists upon the dramatic separation between God, world, and word. The goal of this chapter is to reorient the encounter between Barth and Jewish theology. To that end, it considers the relation between Barth’s theology and Jewish thought in light of the challenge posed by modern science to religion, and it does so by way of a comparison between Barth’s theology and the work of his teacher at Marburg, the great Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen.
Karl Barth has often been seen as the arch-enemy of liberal theology. Closer attention, however, reveals a constant concern to nuance his understanding of key liberal thinkers—even to the point where Barth claimed, towards the end of his life, to be himself a liberal theologian. But what does it mean to be a liberal theologian? What are the key markers of theological liberalism, and is that tradition homogeneous? This chapter addresses these questions and considers the ways that Barth cannot be said to have been either simply ‘anti-liberal’ or straight-forwardly a direct heir of modern liberal theology.
Mediaeval works of theology are frequently cited throughout Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. Yet, with the exception of Anselm of Canterbury’s Proslogion, Barth shows little interest in engaging mediaeval works first-hand in his teaching or writing. This lifelong tendency to hold mediaeval theology at a distance springs from Barth’s critical judgement—first expressed in lectures in 1922 at the University of Göttingen—that the theology of the mediaeval era is by and large a ‘theology of glory’. Although Barth came to view Anselm as an important exception to this judgement by the time of Fides quaerens intellectum (1930), the question of whether he might have found further value in other mediaeval theologians deserves consideration.
Derek Alan Woodard-Lehman
This chapter argues against the familiar consensus that Barth’s relationship to modern moral philosophy is oppositional. It demonstrates that Barth appropriates the central insights of his philosophical predecessors and incorporates them into his ethics, even as he anticipates one of the most fruitful developments in contemporary moral philosophy: Stephen Darwall’s ‘second-personal ethics’. Rather than casting autonomy as sin, he recasts obedience to the Word of God as a form of autonomy. Barth incorporates the rational form of Kantian self-legislation and the social form of Hegelian mutual recognition into his account of subjective reception of revelation. Because Barth does not separate the sovereignty of revelation from the sociality of the church’s interpretation of Scripture and confession of faith, we—Barth’s readers—must not separate his account of hearing the Word of God from his account of hearing the divine command. In fact, we should take his account of the subjective reception of revelation as his most fulsome and winsome account of practical reason.
The struggle with modernity is a characteristic feature of Barth’s theology throughout his career. Because of the moral failure of his ‘liberal’ teachers in the First World War, Barth came to insist that Christian theology be based on a transparent epistemology, and that theory and practice be integrated. From 1915, Barth developed an avant-garde dialectical theology, initially in a neo-idealistic and expressionistic manner, with an implicit methodology, and later in an academic manner, with an explicit methodology. The result of this endeavour was an interpretation of God’s acting in the world through a (dialectically conceived) church.
This chapter examines Barth’s approach to patristic theology as well as his engagement with key doctrines and councils of the patristic era. It is clear in relation to Barth’s use of, and engagement with, the patristic fathers that the Bible is always sovereign over the church and its teachings; even so, the patristic witness is thought to proffer an authoritative reading of Scripture. This chapter, therefore, explores Barth’s approach to the patristic fathers in relation to the ‘Scripture principle’ and Barth’s Protestant, modern, and critical heritage. Having outlined Barth’s orientation, the chapter considers Barth’s approach to the major councils and definitions of the early church. It pays particular attention to the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed in relation to the divinity of Christ and the Symbol of Chalcedonian in relation to the hypostatic union.
Karl Barth was keenly interested in politics throughout his life. This chapter suggests that the implications of this interest for his theology were fourfold. It contends (a) that Barth’s theology functioned as an ideology critique of all forms of nationalism, militarism, and capitalism; (b) that his later work anticipated Walter Wink in developing a critique of ‘the lordless powers’ which oppose the God of life; (c) that his understanding of creation as grace underwrites a response to the current transgression of planetary boundaries and suggests an ecological theology; and (d) that his theology of reconciliation be understood as a theology of human freedom-in-community.
Angela Dienhart Hancock
Some interpretations of Barth’s theology emphasize the constraints it places on the practice of preaching. This chapter argues that, granting Barth’s affirmation of certain homiletical limits, the implications of Barth’s theology for the task of proclamation are best understood under the category of freedom. The first half of the chapter provides an overview of Barth’s homiletical theology, including its Trinitarian backdrop, the Christological aspects of his doctrines of the ‘Word of God’ and of ‘reconciliation’, and the implications of these commitments for Barth’s homiletical approach. The second half explores three issues related to the preacher’s task: the use of language, the role of cognate disciplines in homiletical theory (particularly rhetoric), and the use of ‘secular’ material in sermons. In each case, the chapter demonstrates the way in which, for Barth, the freedom of the preacher is not freedom from all constraint but a freedom for cooperation in the mission of the eloquent and radiant God.
Dolf te Velde
For many years, Karl Barth and Protestant Orthodoxy have been almost separate fields of study. On the basis of recent scholarship, however, it is now possible to judge the adequacy of Barth’s reception of the older Protestant theology with greater nuance than ever before. His intensive engagement with scholastic Protestant sources was one of the main factors that helped him to break free of his earlier ‘liberal’ and ‘dialectical’ leanings, and contributed to the consciously ecclesial character of his mature dogmatics. Throughout Church Dogmatics, Barth incorporated extensive discussions of Protestant scholastic notions and arguments in his doctrinal expositions, even as he gave them his own dialectical and actualistic twist. Despite certain hermeneutical and historical shortcomings, Barth’s discussions of Protestant scholasticism stand as a fascinating example of a creative, critical, and constructive reception of the Protestant Orthodox tradition.
This chapter considers the meaning, spirit, and normative direction of Christian ‘public life’ in the theology and ethics of Karl Barth. Barth viewed the notion of public life quite expansively without losing sight of an area of human existence that one might reasonably call ‘private’. The spirit of Christian public life for him crucially includes both a Christocentric imagination and a secular sensibility. Additionally, it involves the responsive virtues of hope, humility, courage, and merciful solidarity with one’s fellow human creatures. I approach the question of the normative direction or directions basic to Christian public existence by reflecting on Barth’s specific treatment of Jesus Christ’s call to discipleship along with his analysis of ‘the lordless powers’ in his unfinished ethics of reconciliation.
Randall C. Zachman
Karl Barth seeks to restore the Gospel to the centre of Protestant theology by orienting dogmatic theology to the witness of the prophetic and apostolic authors of Scripture and to the theology of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation. Barth especially endorses Luther’s claim that the proclamation of the living and free Word of God in Jesus Christ lies at the heart of the commission laid on the church, and that the task of theology is to test the truth of that proclamation. However, Barth becomes increasingly critical of Luther and Calvin when they distinguish God revealed in Jesus Christ from God in Godself and when they distinguish a Word of God in Scripture—be it a Word of the Creator or the Word as Law—that is distinct from the one Word of God, Jesus Christ. Barth also disagrees with Luther and Calvin regarding the sacraments, insisting at the end of his career that Jesus Christ is the one and only sacrament of God.
Paul D. Molnar
Taking Barth’s doctrines of revelation and the Trinity as a starting point, this chapter places Barth’s thought primarily in conversation with Walter Kasper. It considers Kasper’s work as an attempt to integrate insights drawn from Barth and Karl Rahner, while placing their views within the wider context of post-Vatican II Roman Catholic theology, as well as the thinking of Hans Urs von Balthasar. By focusing on the different attitudes of Barth and Kasper to the analogia entis (analogy of being), the chapter proposes that the primary issue related to ecumenical unity that emerges concerns whether, and to what extent, contemporary theologians are willing to allow Jesus Christ himself to stand as the first and the final Word in all theological reflection.