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Contemporary Christian Thought
Azusa Pacific University
Dr. Craig Keen
February 5, 2004
"Karl Barth"

I.   Karl Barth (1886-1968)
A.   Understood as the most renowned 20th century theologian (he would laugh at this)
B.   Seemingly changed his position many times - did not mind switching from what he previously published works
C.   He worked from scripture
D.   Beliefs
1.   The theologian must begin again at the beginning every time
2.   Tradition - had a friendly relationship with it but didn't feel it had to be "built on"
3.   Scripture - he always worked from scripture (very rare in theology)
4.   Reason - We are called to pursue God with one's mind
a.   Had no patience for people who felt Christians had no reason in their belief
b.   He was a serious thinker
5.   Religious Experience
a.   Criticism of Religious Experience
i.   If you start there, you can pretty much justify anything you do
ii.   You end with a God just like you, and give a stamp of approval with all your stuff
iii.   You are out to pursue the good and true and the beautiful "no matter how many people must die"
iv.   His critique of religious experience is a critique of subjectivism (irony, some people feel he is a subjectionist, but he says he's not)
b.   Support of Religious Experience
i.   He knows that GOD SAVES US
ii.   Therefore there has to be an experience with an event like that
E.   God is wholly other
1.   That's the God that shows up
2.   There is an objectivity to God
a.   Biblical example
i.   Isaiah 6 - fear and trembling when God shows up
ii.   John - Thomas responds to Jesus showing up, "my Lord and my God"
b.   This is not an objectivity that allows for the control of an object (like it typically is understood)
i.   According to Barth, it is an objectivity because we have no control because He shows up, not us controlling what we think
ii.   Barth believes the problem with subjectivity is it is an element of control (i.e. if Christ lives in your heart, you control that)
c.   It does not mean that tradition, scripture, reason and experience don't have value, but it means that they are not there to build on because when God shows up you will be set free
II.   The good, the true, and the beautiful
A.   Plato's reality
1.   Good is the highest reality
2.   Good is the most desirable therefore could be understood as the beautiful
B.   Barth reality
1.   When God shows up, God's judgment on this world puts everything into a crisis
2.   However, when God shows up and says YES, that bigger than all good, true, and beautiful
III.   Barth's Doctrine of the Trinity
A.   He is all about revelation and it critical on how it has been understood in the past
1.   Information about God
a.   Critical on how it has been understood in the past, which was understood to be information which God supplies us
b.   Barth says that revelation cannot be information
2.   Choices about God
a.   Sometimes it is understood as God bringing us something and we are decided whether to accept or deny it
b.   Barth says that revelation cannot be defined as choice
3.   Barth says, that revelation is not information about God, it is GOD.
a.   God's revelation only happens when God's' yes and our yes happen together
b.   If there is no faith, there is no revelation
i.   God's faithfulness to us
ii.   Our faithfulness to God
iii.   You can't tell where the boundary line is between the two
c.   Revelation only occurs in the yes saying of faithfulness
B.   Doctrine Structure
1.   God reveals Himself as Lord
2.   God reveals God as sovereign
3.   Elements
a.   Offenbarer - the revealer - God
b.   Offenbarung - the revelation - the Christ
c.   Offenbarsein - being revealed (effects of revelation) - the Holy Spirit
4.   Revelation occurs when God goes out with us, and we are gathered that event
a.   There is no meaning of revelation outside of revelation itself
b.   If you think you could run outside of revelation for reasons of revelation, you will completely fail
C.   According to Barth, the only possible way for anyone to meet Jesus is for the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit to occur
1.   When that occurs, I don't have Jesus in my heart, but Jesus has me in His
2.   All that I am, including my whole world (strengths, iniquities, and false pretenses), is crucified with Christ, but only in Him
D.   Being revealed to God sets us free
1.   Not just sin, but sets us free to come to God - like a child being freed to a field
2.   It is this freedom that makes me "I am that I am"
3.   Who am I?
a.   I am the one in the freedom of revelation as the one who goes out to God
b.   And who going out to God, becomes what I was not already
E.   Religious experience vs. Revelation
1.   The reason he has problems with religious experience is because it seems to him to be an imprisonment within one's self
2.   The reason revelation is the answer to the problem of experience is because you are now apart of something larger than life
F.   God coming to us vs. Us coming to God
1.   When God comes to us, He is saying yes to who we are
2.   When we come to God, it is a miracle every single time because we did not have the ability to do so - it's a gift
IV.   Barth maintains that freedom is love and love is freedom
A.   Freedom
1.   Typically understood as being allowed to do what you want, and getting out on your own
a.   It is all about individuality
b.   We are allowed to do what we want as long as it doesn't infringe on the freedom of others
2.   Etymologically - freedom = friend
a.   The words indicate communal
b.   Freedom and love does not violate the words at all
B.   Why does God love us? Because God is free
V.   The resurrection swallows up death by providing life
A.   It does not fix death, we still die, including God
B.   But death must come in order to provide life
C.   The process of death, is part of the process on the way to God
VI.   Barth was a very strong opponent of apologetics
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