Michael Allen on Karl Barth

Michael Allen on Karl Barth March 6, 2014

Michael Allen (Knox Theological Seminary) is interviewed by Logos about Karl Barth. Its a good interview and worth checking out, esp. if you’re curious as to what the “deal” is with evangelicals and Karl Barth. Allen has a new book coming out called  Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics: An Introduction and Reader, which no doubt will be worth getting your hands on.

Sadly too many evangelicals have approached Barth through the lens of Carl Henry and Cornelius Van Til, who was overwhelmingly hostile towards Barth, whereas a more nuanced, though not uncritical, appreciation of Barth is possible. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if you think that you have nothing to learn from Karl Barth then you should probably quit theology and consider a career in taxidermy. Allen is on the money when he says:

I would love to see a more open-minded response from traditionalists in their reception of Barth—not that they would disagree less with certain facets of his thought, but that they’d still engage him in an attempt to learn from him. I’m certainly no Barthian, and on most every major area where he critiques his tradition, I side fundamentally with the tradition. That said, I and the tradition will be far worse off if we don’t listen and think through his arguments.

I should mention also, that Bobby Grow has a great little piece comparing Karl Barth and Tom Wright on Philippians 2:6-7.

I hope one day, thanks to the inspiration of Jessica Parks, to re-write the lyrics of a Katy Perry song along the lines of “I read Karl Barth and I liked it!”

In fact, the same young lady recently found a great Barth quote about his view of Scripture, which Ben Blackwell cites on his blog:

My sole aim was to interpret Scripture.  I beg my readers not to assume from the outset–as many in Germany have assumed–that I am not interpreting Scripture at all, or rather, that I am interpreting it ‘spiritually’.  In this context the word ‘spiritually’ is used, of course to convey a rebuke.  It may be however, that the rebuke turns back most heavily upon those who launch it so easily against me.  The publication of this book in English may perhaps lead to a fresh formulation of the problem, ‘What is exegesis?’  No one can, of course, bring out the meaning of a text (auslegen) without at the same time adding something to it (einlegen).  Moreover, no interpreter is rid of the danger of in fact adding more than he extracts.  I neither was nor am free from this danger.  And yet I should be altogether misunderstood if my readers refused to credit me with the honesty of, at any rate.

That is the Barth I’ve grown to like and admire!

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