A Biography of Barth— Part One

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Whether you love him or hate him, or are just frustrated by the girth of his work, Karl Barth, hands down, was the most influential theological of the twentieth century of any sort. Mark Galli, senior editor of Christianity Today has now produced a very readable, helpful and svelte biography (192 pages, Eerdmans Pub.) of Barth, which I am quite happy to commend. It is a good little introduction to Barth the man and his thought world. In this and subsequent posts, Mark and I discuss the book and Barth himself. See what you think—- BW3

Q. Mark I’m prone to ask right out of the gate, why another book on Barth, and why now?

A. I don’t know of any book that tries to tell Barth’s story. There are lots of introductions to his theology (and yes, there is some theology in my book), but I wanted readers to recognize that Barth faced two giant opponents in his day (19th century liberalism; the Nazis), and stood his ground before both of them. In addition, many evangelicals are still suspicious of Barth, but I happen to think he’s our ally in many respects. He deserves a hearing among evangelicals.

Q. What did John Updike mean by referring to Barth’s ‘frank supernaturalism’?

A. I don’t know that he explained himself on this point. I take it to mean that Barth took a number of supernatural realities as a given: existence of God; Christ’s divinity; the resurrection; miracles, and so forth. Where liberal theologians would begin talking about such things by trying to explain them (and sometimes explain them away) rationally, Barth just jumps in and starts talking about their theological significance.


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