Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

Andrew Root reviews Rosalene Bradbury, Cross Theology: The Classical Theologia Crucis and Karl Barth’s Modern Theology of the Cross (Pickwick, 2011). If you are interested in exploring Barth's Lutheran side (I feel compelled to insert an asinine remark here, such as
"although I don't know why you would be" . . . but I'm not going to sink to such), then this book might be for you. Check out the review to see!


P.S. For those of you who don't already know, I am (and have long been) the Center for Barth Studies book review editor. So if you have written a book about Barth - or know of a good one - that has not yet been reviewed on the site, feel free to contact me with that information: barth [dot] reviews [at] ptsem [dot] edu.
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8 comments:

Matthew Frost said...

Barth's retrieval of Luther is an insuffciently-explored vein. Good topic selection on her part.

W. Travis McMaken said...

Have you read Hunsinger's essay on the subject, Matt? If so, what are your thoughts?

Alexander said...

What I would like to see more of is a focused analysis of individual works of Barth's with regard to Luther's influence. One thesis for which I argued is that the influence of Luther's deus absconditus (de servo arbitrio) on Barth's early thought is quite underrated.

Matthew Frost said...

Sorry for the delay in response, Travis. You mean the 1999 article in LQ, I assume? It's a great piece. He has a quote near the beginning that is a guide to my own critiques of Barth:

"Almost every objection that Barth ever made against Luther was ventured on "Lutheran" grounds. If he sometimes criticized Luther, it was for the sake of Luther—with questions that would never have become possible without all that Luther had bequeathed to him."

And his genealogical method is exemplary. If I ever manage to have time to demonstrate the ethical debt Barth has to Nietzsche in particular, I could definitely do worse.

It's also a great piece of scholarship in that it opens up avenues of further exploration. Amy Marga has a good followup, from the Aug. 2007 Currents in Theology and Mission, exploring the substantive Christology aspect. Her debt in that article is both obvious and acknowledged, and she puts some detailed examples into the structure.

Formal pandering aside, I think he hits the ways that Barth is engaged in a kind of retrieval of Luther, and especially in ways that the Lutherans were not. It's like the line from Young Werther, "Be a man, and do not follow me," in many ways. Barth is a way out of Protestant Orthodox doom, and his quarrels with Luther over precisely Luther's insights are a significant part of that. But he does so without ceasing to be Reformed, and he does so in many of the same ways that Luther did, by attention to scripture, the Fathers, and the early church in pursuit of the truth. I like to demonstrate Barth's debt to Luther by comparison with Torrance, as an example of what a difference a generation makes: a theologian who is so clearly Reformed without the obsession with Luther, but also without the need to break the ground Barth needed him for.

Matthew Frost said...

A lot of Lutheran retrieval of Luther is for specific bits and pieces. Things we have to flesh out ourselves to make anything out of, like the priesthood of all believers, or the theology of the cross. Or law/gospel dialectic. But Barth is never "doing Luther" the ways that we tend to be. He's doing dogmatics. And that makes so much difference!

W. Travis McMaken said...

"A lot of Lutheran retrieval of Luther is for specific bits and pieces. Things we have to flesh out ourselves to make anything out of, like the priesthood of all believers, or the theology of the cross."

*resists mightily...

Matthew Frost said...

Aw, play along. :) I don't know you well enough to know which direction you'd leap.

I'm not saying the emphases aren't there, and I've seen any number of pieces attempting to correct the popular versions in light of Luther, but it's a Sisyphean task.

W. Travis McMaken said...

I've been *trying* to be less polemic about Lutherans lately, for a number of reasons, so...

Get behind me, Satan!

;-)