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date: 10 April 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reconstructs the context and argument of Karl Barth’s innovative account of human sin and evil. For a proper understanding of the shifts in Barth’s treatment of these core themes, some ‘default positions’ are briefly sketched. The chapter next describes the implications that attend a transference of the doctrine of sin from anthropology to Christology. This shift is not only epistemic, changing the basis on which sin is recognized and understood. It is also a significant conceptual move, with sin described as a specific posture towards the grace of God, manifest in Christ. The chapter also shows how Karl Barth resists the temptation to reduce the existence of evil to a manageable deficiency of creation, while avoiding any dramatization of the experience of evil. Barth construes evil (nothingness, das Nichtige) in light of God’s creation as an election, with nothingness being that which is rejected in the divine act of creation. Rejecting a personification of evil (i.e., the devil), Barth nonetheless emphasizes the agency of evil as that against which the sovereign God battles.

Keywords: battle, creation, devil, evil, nothingness, sin, sovereignty

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