Friday, October 12, 2007

Barth's 'Evangelical Theology: An Introduction'

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1963).

Quote from the Book: "Theological work can be done only in the indissoluble unity of prayer and study. Prayer without study would be empty. Study without prayer would be blind." (p. 171)

Bonus quote! "A lazy student, even as a theologian, is no student at all!" (ibid.)

This is one of the finest theological works that I have ever come across. For those interested in taking up a study of Karl Barth's theology, this is one of the best places to begin. Based on the lectures he delivered at Princeton Theological Seminary in the 1960s, and edited by himself and his son Marcus, this work is a series of succinct and mature reflections on the task of theology. As usual with Barth, these essays never give one a comfortable place to rest but tirelesly press on towards the ideal of dogmatic theology. Also, these essays never loose their freshness no matter how many times one takes them up. I highly recommend this volume to all regardless of how much theological background is possessed.

Contents:

1. Commentary

I) The Place of Theology
2. The Word
3. The Witnesses
4. The Community
5. The Spirit

II) Theological Existence
6. Wonder
7. Concern
8. Commitment
9. Faith

III) The Threat to Theology
10. Solitude
11. Doubt
12. Temptation
13. Hope

IV) Theological Work
14. Prayer
15. Study
16. Service
17. Love

P.S. This book was featured in my installment of the Recommended Reading Meme. It has also received some attention over at Exiled Preacher.

12 comments:

millinerd said...

People have asked me if they were only going to read one Barth book, which should it be? I'm curious as to whether you would advise this one. (and no cheating by saying no one should read only one Barth book.)

WTM said...

Matt,

No one should read only one Barth book.

That said, I always tell people to start with 'Evangelical Theology.' It is where I started.

millinerd said...

Cheater!!!!!!!!!

Aric Clark said...

This is where I started too and I don't regret it. In fact, now that I've read much more of the CD, and his other works I want to go back because I'm sure I'd understand it better now.

Joshua said...

if you only read one barth book it should be church dogmatics iv.1. although i very much doubt someone who only want to read one will read that one.

wtm,
what do you think about using evangelical in an intro to systematics course instead of dogmatics in outline? i know that at candler in both the course and i took and the one i t.a.ed they used outline, do you think evangelical would be a better option?

WTM said...

Joshua,

Since you brought up the question of which Church Dogmatics volume one should read if one is going to read only one, I would recommend 2.2.

As for the question about ET or DO, I don't know DO well enough to make such judgments about it. Also, ET isn't quite systematic enough for my tastes. At Wheaton College, they had a course called 'Christian Thought' that was a general education requirement for all undergrads. I would use ET in there, but not in an intro to systematics class (a class for undergrad theology majors, or for seminarians), at least not as the primary text.

For the benefit of anyone watching this thread who might be thinking of starting the journey through Karl Barth's work, refer to my So, You Want to Read Karl Barth? post.

Through the Veil (Scott) said...

Excellent review. I was introduced to this work about a year and a half ago. It has led to a great relationship with Barth and changed my paradigm about theology. As a result my Barth library has grown tremendously (sadly, no CD volumes yet).

Anonymous said...

The first quotation is a neat little bit bordering on intellectual plagiarism. Kant originated it in a non-theological context, his Critique of Pure Reason: “Without sensibility no object would be given to us, without understanding no object would be thought. Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind.” Norman Kemp Smith trans. B 75. Of Barth I know very little, but I would be interested in a discussion of the Kantian influences on Barth.

GAB
I may be contacted via col_mustard@pobox.com

WTM said...

GAB,

I wouldn't necessarily say that Barth's line borders on plagiarism, but Kant's influence on him was substantial. He was educated by the Marbug neo-Kantians (Cohen, and another guy whose name I never remember), and his theology works very much within Kant's orbit and is, in many ways, a response to Kant.

Anonymous said...

I said “borders on” because the concepts and phrasing are clearly Kant’s. But what I am really interested in is what you mentioned as Barth’s indebtedness to Kant and how Barth differs. I take it there that you mean the Critique of Practical Reason. Do you have any reading suggestions?

My larger point is that Kant and Hegel are foundational to 20th century and 21st century thought, as to which see Robert Pippin, Idealism as Modernism (1997) and, more recently, The Persistence of Subjectivity: On the Kantian Aftermath (2007). The lack of knowledge of even rudimentary Kant and Hegel results in distorted (or at least incomplete) understanding. There are (perhaps inadvertent) allusions, and one misses the power of the point if one misses the allusion. Was Barth simply cribbing a good turn of phrase or was he a attempting a deeper meaning by an allusion? The quote from Kant is perhaps the most well-known (to the extent that anything from Kant is well-known). Kant styled his Critique of Pure Reason a Copernican revolution — it reversed the mind-world relationship. Was Barth’s allusion to Kant intentional, and was he making the same claim for his theology?

GAB

WTM said...

GAB,

I doubt that Barth is here explicitly alluding to Kant, although he may have unconsciously emulated his style.

Not just the critique of practical reason, but also and especially the first critique.

Barth addresses Kant in a chapter of his Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth-Century, and Bruce McCormack addresses his neo-Kantian background in Karl Barth's Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology.

If Schleiermacher tried to sidestep Kant through establishing a faculty within human beings to serve as the basis for awareness of God, then Barth did it through a radical affirmation that God has made himself a part of our epistemological range (brining the noumenal into the phenomenal, as it were). But, Barth in many respects maintains a broadly Kantian framework.

mike d said...

@ GAB

"I said “borders on” because the concepts and phrasing are clearly Kant’s."

I don't know, this seems to say too much. The primary concepts in the quote are prayer and study - hardly Kant's for the owning. Would you really be shocked to find a similar quote in any major theologian?