Problems with Barth’s Exegesis on Baptism? - Mondays with McMaken

Today’s post comes from the beginning of my exegetical excursus at the end of chapter 2, “Election, Soteriology, and Barth’s ‘No’ to Sacramental Infant Baptism.” The burden of this excursus is to examine a few New Testament passages that are usually taken to support a sacramental view of baptism, leading to the suggestion that this is not necessarily the case. But the excursus begins with some comments on the reception of Barth’s own exegetical work in support of his argument in Church Dogmatics 4.4.

W. Travis McMaken, The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth, Emerging Scholars (Fortress, 2013), 88–89.

I noted in the first chapter that many interpreters of Barth, even those generally predisposed to supporting his theology as a whole, take issue with Barth’s doctrine of baptism over his rejection of sacramental and infant baptism. Not a few register questions concerning his supporting exegesis in doing so. Many of these theologians appeal to a single essay by Erich Dinkler as support for their claims concerning the dubious quality of Barth’s exegesis, without taking the time to explicate the texts themselves at any length; often, they are not discussed at all. So far has this distrust of Barth’s exegesis penetrated the discussion surrounding his doctrine of baptism that John Yocum makes free to say that the “most fundamental flaw in Barth’s doctrine of baptism in CD IV/4 is its implausibility as exegesis of the New Testament.” He discusses Barth’s exegesis over the course of about three pages, relying heavily on Dinkler’s essay. What is more, Yocum asserts without corroborating argument that Barth’s exegesis is colored by “dogmatic pre-judgments” while also proclaiming that Dinkler “avoids bringing to the question any traditional framework.”

Three points must be registered concerning this state of affairs. . . .

Woah! What a cliffhanger!

DET readers will undoubtedly intuit that the three points that I go on to register will not be supportive of Yocum’s position. To learn what those three points are, go buy the book!



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