Karl Barth

Karl Barth (/bɑːrt, bɑːrθ/;[1] German: [baɐ̯t]; May 10, 1886 – December 10, 1968) was a Swiss Reformed theologian who is most well known for his landmark The Epistle to the Romans, involvement in the Confessing Church, authorship of the Barmen Declaration[2][3], and especially his five volume theological summa the Church Dogmatics[4] (published in twelve part-volumes between 1932-1967)[5][6]. Barth's influence expanded well beyond the academic realm to mainstream culture, leading him to be featured on the cover of Time on April 20, 1962[7] and Pope Pius XII said Barth was “the greatest theologian since Thomas Aquinas.”[8][9] [10][11]

Karl Barth's theological career began while he was known as the "Red Pastor from Safenwil"[12] when he wrote his first edition of his The Epistle to the Romans (1919). Beginning with his second edition of The Epistle to the Romans (1921), Karl Barth began to depart from his former training – and began to garner substantial worldwide acclaim – with a liberal theology he inherited from Adolf von Harnack, Friedrich Schleiermacher and others.[13]. Barth influenced many significant theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer who supported the Confessing Church, and Jürgen Moltmann, Helmut Gollwitzer, James H. Cone, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Rudolf Bultmann, Thomas F. Torrance, Hans Küng, and also Reinhold Niebuhr, Jacques Ellul, Stanley Hauerwas, and novelists such as John Updike and Miklós Szentkuthy. Among many other areas, Barth has also had a profound influence on modern Christian ethics.[14][15][16][17] He has influenced the work of ethicists such as Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, Jacques Ellul and Oliver O'Donovan.[14][18][19]

Karl Barth
Karl Barth Briefmarke
BornMay 10, 1886
DiedDecember 10, 1968 (aged 82)
Basel, Switzerland
OccupationTheologian, Professor
Notable work
The Epistle to the Romans
Barmen Declaration
Church Dogmatics
Nelly Hoffmann (m. 1913)
ChildrenFranziska, Markus, Christoph, Matthias and Hans Jakob
Theological work
Tradition or movementSwiss Reformed

Early life and education

Karl Barth was born on May 10, 1886, in Basel, Switzerland, to Johann Friedrich "Fritz" Barth (1852–1912) and Anna Katharina (Sartorius) Barth (1863–1938)[20]. Karl had two younger brothers Peter Barth (1888–1940) and Heinrich Barth (1890–1965), and two sisters Katharina and Gertrude. Fritz Barth was a theology professor and pastor and desired for Karl to follow his positive line of Christianity, which clashed with Karl's desire to receive a liberal protestant education. Karl began his student career at the university of Bern, and then transferred to the University of Berlin to study under Adolf von Harnack, and then transferred briefly to the University of Tübingen before finally in Marburg to study under Wilhelm Herrmann (1846-1922).[21] From 1911 to 1921 he served as a Reformed pastor in the village of Safenwil in the canton of Aargau. In 1913 he married Nelly Hoffmann, a talented violinist. They had a daughter and four sons, one of whom was the New Testament scholar Markus Barth (October 6, 1915 – July 1, 1994). Later he was professor of theology in Göttingen (1921–1925), Münster (1925–1930) and Bonn (1930–1935), in Germany. While serving at Göttingen he met Charlotte von Kirschbaum, who became his long-time secretary and assistant; she played a large role in the writing of his epic, the Church Dogmatics.[22] He was deported from Germany in 1935 after he refused to sign (without modification) the Oath of Loyalty to Adolf Hitler and went back to Switzerland and became a professor in Basel (1935–1962).

Break from Liberalism

In August 1914, Karl Barth was dismayed to learn that his venerated teachers including Adolf von Harnack had signed the "Manifesto of the Ninety-Three German Intellectuals to the Civilized World"[23], as a result Barth concluded he may not follow their understanding of the Bible and history any longer.[24]

The Epistle to the Romans

Barth first began his commentary The Epistle to the Romans (Ger. Der Römerbrief) in the summer of 1916 while he was still a pastor in Safenwil, with the first edition appearing in December 1918 (but with a publication date of 1919).[25] On the strength of the first edition of the commentary, Barth was invited to teach at the University of Göttingen. Barth decided around October 1920 that he was dissatisfied with the first edition and heavily revised it the following eleven months, finishing the second edition around September 1921.[26][27] Particularly in the thoroughly re-written second edition of 1922, Barth argued that the God who is revealed in the cross of Jesus challenges and overthrows any attempt to ally God with human cultures, achievements, or possessions. The book's popularity led to its republication and reprinting in several languages.

Barmen Declaration

In 1934, as the Protestant Church attempted to come to terms with the Third Reich, Barth was largely responsible for the writing of the Barmen declaration (Ger. Barmer Erklärung).[28] This declaration rejected the influence of Nazism on German Christianity by arguing that the Church's allegiance to the God of Jesus Christ should give it the impetus and resources to resist the influence of other lords, such as the German Führer, Adolf Hitler.[29] Barth mailed this declaration to Hitler personally. This was one of the founding documents of the Confessing Church and Barth was elected a member of its leadership council, the Bruderrat.

He was forced to resign from his professorship at the University of Bonn in 1935 for refusing to swear an oath to Hitler. Barth then returned to his native Switzerland, where he assumed a chair in systematic theology at the University of Basel. In the course of his appointment he was required to answer a routine question asked of all Swiss civil servants: whether he supported the national defense. His answer was, "Yes, especially on the northern border!" The newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung carried his 1936 criticism of Martin Heidegger for his support of the Nazis.[30] In 1938 he wrote a letter to a Czech colleague Josef Hromádka in which he declared that soldiers who fought against the Third Reich were serving a Christian cause.

Church Dogmatics

Barth-- Church Dogmatics
Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics

Barth's theology found its most sustained and compelling expression in his five-volume magnum opus, the Church Dogmatics (Ger. "Kirchliche Dogmatik"). Widely regarded as an important theological work, the Church Dogmatics represents the pinnacle of Barth's achievement as a theologian. Church Dogmatics runs to over six million words and 9,000 pages – one of the longest works of systematic theology ever written.[31][32][33] The Church Dogmatics is in five volumes: the Doctrine of the Word of God, the Doctrine of God, the Doctrine of Creation, the Doctrine of Reconciliation and the Doctrine of Redemption. Barth's planned fifth volume was never written and the fourth volume's final part-volume was unfinished[34].[35][36]

Later life and death

Karl Barth Letters 1961-1968
Photo of Karl Barth on jacket of one of his books

After the end of the Second World War, Barth became an important voice in support both of German penitence and of reconciliation with churches abroad. Together with Hans Iwand, he authored the Darmstadt Statement in 1947 – a more concrete statement of German guilt and responsibility for the Third Reich and Second World War than the 1945 Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt. In it, he made the point that the Church's willingness to side with anti-socialist and conservative forces had led to its susceptibility for National Socialist ideology. In the context of the developing Cold War, that controversial statement was rejected by anti-Communists in the West who supported the CDU course of re-militarization, as well as by East German dissidents who believed that it did not sufficiently depict the dangers of Communism. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1950.[37] In the 1950s, Barth sympathized with the peace movement and opposed German rearmament.

Bundesarchiv Bild 194-1283-23A, Wuppertal, Evangelische Gesellschaft, Jahrestagung
Karl Barth in 1956

Barth wrote a 1960 article for The Christian Century regarding the "East-West question" in which he denied any inclination toward Eastern communism and stated he did not wish to live under Communism or wish anyone to be forced to do so; he acknowledged a fundamental disagreement with most of those around him, writing: "I do not comprehend how either politics or Christianity require [sic] or even permit such a disinclination to lead to the conclusions which the West has drawn with increasing sharpness in the past 15 years. I regard anticommunism as a matter of principle an evil even greater than communism itself."[38]

In 1962, Barth visited the United States and lectured at Princeton Theological Seminary, the University of Chicago, the Union Theological Seminary and the San Francisco Theological Seminary. He was invited to be a guest at the Second Vatican Council. At the time Barth's health did not permit him to attend. However, he was able to visit the Vatican and be a guest of the pope in 1967, after which he wrote the small volume Ad Limina Apostolorum [At the Threshold of the Apostles].[39]

Barth was featured on the cover of the April 20, 1962 issue of Time magazine, an indication that his influence had reached out of academic and ecclesiastical circles and into mainstream American religious culture.[40]

Barth died on December 10, 1968, at his home in Basel, Switzerland. The evening before his death, he had encouraged his lifelong friend Eduard Thurneysen that he should not be downhearted, "For things are ruled, not just in Moscow or in Washington or in Peking, but things are ruled – even here on earth—entirely from above, from heaven above.”[41]


Karl Barth's most significant theological work is his summa theology titled the Church Dogmatics, which contains Barth's doctrine of the word of god, doctrine of god, doctrine of reconciliation and doctrine of redemption. Barth is most well known for reorienting all theological discussion around Jesus.

Trinitarian focus

One major objective of Barth is to recover the doctrine of the Trinity in theology from its putative loss in liberalism.[42] His argument follows from the idea that God is the object of God's own self-knowledge, and revelation in the Bible means the self-unveiling to humanity of the God who cannot be discovered by humanity simply through its own intuition.[43] God's revelation comes to man 'vertically from above' (Senkrecht von Oben).


One of the most influential and controversial features of Barth's Dogmatics was his doctrine of election (Church Dogmatics II/2). Barth's theology entails a rejection of the idea that God chose each person to either be saved or damned based on purposes of the Divine will, and it was impossible to know why God chose some and not others.[44]

Barth's doctrine of election involves a firm rejection of the notion of an eternal, hidden decree.[45] In keeping with his Christo-centric methodology, Barth argues that to ascribe the salvation or damnation of humanity to an abstract absolute decree is to make some part of God more final and definitive than God's saving act in Jesus Christ. God's absolute decree, if one may speak of such a thing, is God's gracious decision to be for humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. Drawing from the earlier Reformed tradition, Barth retains the notion of double predestination but makes Jesus himself the object of both divine election and reprobation simultaneously; Jesus embodies both God's election of humanity and God's rejection of human sin.[46] While some regard this revision of the doctrine of election as an improvement[47] on the Augustinian-Calvinist doctrine of the predestination of individuals, critics, namely Brunner,[48] have charged that Barth's view amounts to a soft universalism, thereby departing from Augustinian-Calvinism.

Barth’s doctrine of objective atonement develops as he distances himself from Anselm of Canterbury’s doctrine of the atonement.[49] In The Epistle to the Romans, Barth endorses Anselm’s idea that God who is robbed of his honor must punish those who robbed him. In Church Dogmatics I/2, Barth advocates divine freedom in the incarnation with the support of Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo. Barth holds that Anselm’s doctrine of the atonement preserves both God’s freedom and the necessity of Christ’s incarnation. The positive endorsement of Anselmian motives in Cur Deus Homo continues in Church Dogmatics II/1. Barth maintains with Anselm that the sin of humanity cannot be removed by the merciful act of divine forgiveness alone. In Church Dogmatics IV/1, however, Barth’s doctrine of the atonement diverges from that of Anselm.[50] By over-christologizing the doctrine, Barth completes his formulation of objective atonement. He finalizes the necessity of God’s mercy at the place where Anselm firmly establishes the dignity and freedom of the will of God.[51] In Barth’s view, God’s mercy is identified with God’s righteousness in a distinctive way where God’s mercy always takes the initiative. The change in Barth’s reception of Anselm’s doctrine of the atonement is, therefore, alleged to show that Barth’s doctrine entails support for universalism.[52][53]


Barth argued that previous perspectives on sin and salvation, influenced by strict Calvinist thinking, sometimes misled Christians into thinking that predestination set up humanity such that the vast majority of human beings were foreseen to disobey and reject God, with damnation coming to them as a matter of fate.

Barth's view of salvation is centrally Christological, with his writings stating that in Jesus Christ the reconciliation of all of mankind to God has essentially already taken place and that through Christ man is already elect and justified.

Karl Barth denied that he was a Universalist.[54] However, Barth asserted that eternal salvation for everyone, even those that reject God, is a possibility that is not just an open question but should be hoped for by Christians as a matter of grace; specifically, he wrote, "Even though theological consistency might seem to lead our thoughts and utterances most clearly in this direction, we must not arrogate to ourselves that which can be given and received only as a free gift", just hoping for total reconciliation.[55]

Barth, in the words of a later scholar, went a "significant step beyond traditional theology" in that he argued against more conservative strains of Protestant Christianity in which damnation is seen as an absolute certainty for many or most people. To Barth, Christ's grace is central.[55]

Understanding of Mary

Unlike many Protestant theologians, Barth wrote on the topic of Mariology (the theological study of Mary). Barth's views on the subject agreed with much Roman Catholic dogma but he disagreed with the Catholic veneration of Mary. Aware of the common dogmatic tradition of the early Church, Barth fully accepted the dogma of Mary as the Mother of God, seeing a rejection of that title equivalent to rejecting the doctrine that Christ's human and divine natures are inseparable (contra the Nestorian heresy). Through Mary, Jesus belongs to the human race. Through Jesus, Mary is Mother of God.[56]

Charlotte von Kirschbaum

Charlotte von Kirschbaum was Barth's theological academic colleague for more than three decades.[57] George Hunsinger summarizes the influence of von Kirschbaum on Barth's work: "As his unique student, critic, researcher, adviser, collaborator, companion, assistant, spokesperson, and confidante, Charlotte von Kirschbaum was indispensable to him. He could not have been what he was, or have done what he did, without her."[58]

Karl Barth Desk
A desk in Karl Barth's old office with a painting of Matthias Grünewald's crucifixion scene

An article written in 2017 by Christiane Tietz (originally a paper she delivered at the 2016 American Academy of Religion in San Antonio, Texas) for the academic journal Theology Today engages letters released in both 2000 and 2008 written by Barth, Charlotte von Kirschbaum, and Nelly Barth, which discuss the complicated relationship between all three individuals that occurred over the span of 40 years.[59] The letters published in 2008 between von Kirschbaum and Barth from 1925-1935[60] made public "the deep, intense, and overwhelming love between these two human beings." [61]

In literature

In John Updike's Roger's Version, Roger Lambert is a professor of religion. Lambert is influenced by the works of Karl Barth. That is the primary reason that he rejects his student's attempt to use computational methods to understand God.

Harry Mulisch's The Discovery of Heaven makes mentions of Barth's Church Dogmatics, as does David Markson's The Last Novel. In the case of Mulisch and Markson, it is the ambitious nature of the Church Dogmatics that seems to be of significance. In the case of Updike, it is the emphasis on the idea of God as "Wholly Other" that is emphasized.

In Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, the preacher John Ames reveres Barth's "Epistle to the Romans" and refers to it as his favorite book other than the Bible.

Whittaker Chambers cites Barth in nearly all his books: Witness (p. 507), Cold Friday (p. 194), and Odyssey of a Friend (pp. 201, 231).

In Flannery O'Connor's letter to Brainard Cheney, she said "I distrust folks who have ugly things to say about Karl Barth. I like old Barth. He throws the furniture around."

Center for Barth Studies

Princeton Theological Seminary, where Barth lectured in 1962, houses the Center for Barth Studies, which is dedicated to supporting scholarship related to the life and theology of Karl Barth. The Barth Center was established in 1997 and sponsors seminars, conferences, and other events. It also holds the Karl Barth Research Collection, the largest in the world, which contains nearly all of Barth's works in English and German, several first editions of his works, and an original handwritten manuscript by Barth.[62][63]


  • The Epistle to the Romans (Ger. Der Römerbrief I, 1st ed., 1919)
  • The Epistle to the Romans (Ger. Der Römerbrief. Zweite Fassung, 1922). E. C. Hoskyns, trans. London: Oxford University Press, 1933, 1968 ISBN 0-19-500294-6
  • The Word of God and The Word of Man (Ger. Das Wort Gottes und die Theologie, 1928). New York: Harper & Bros, 1957. ISBN 978-0-8446-1599-8; The Word of God and Theology. Amy Marga, trans. New York: T & T Clark, 2011.
  • Preaching Through the Christian Year. H. Wells and J. McTavish, eds. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1978. ISBN 0-8028-1725-4
  • God Here and Now. London: Routledge, 1964.
  • Fides Quaerens Intellectum: Anselm's Proof of the Existence of God in the Context of His Theological Scheme (written in 1931). I. W. Robertson, trans. London: SCM, 1960; reprinted by Pickwick Publications (1985) ISBN 0-915138-75-1
  • Church and State. G.R. Howe, trans. London: SCM, 1939.
  • The Church and the War. A. H. Froendt, trans. New York: Macmillan, 1944.
  • Prayer according to the Catechisms of the Reformation. S.F. Terrien, trans. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1952 (Also published as: Prayer and Preaching. London: SCM, 1964).
  • The Humanity of God, J.N. Thomas and T. Wieser, trans. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1960. ISBN 0-8042-0612-0
  • Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1963.
  • The Christian Life. Church Dogmatics IV/4: Lecture Fragments. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981. ISBN 0-567-09320-4, ISBN 0-8028-3523-6
  • The Word in this World: Two Sermons by Karl Barth. Edited by Kurt I. Johanson. Regent Publishing (Vancouver, BC, Canada): 2007
  • "No Angels of Darkness and Light," The Christian Century, January 20, 1960, p. 72 (reprinted in Contemporary Moral Issues. H. K. Girvetz, ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1963. pp. 6–8).
  • The Göttingen Dogmatics: Instruction in the Christian Religion, vol. 1. G.W. Bromiley, trans. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991. ISBN 0-8028-2421-8
  • Dogmatics in Outline (1947 lectures), Harper Perennial, 1959, ISBN 0-06-130056-X
  • A Unique Time of God: Karl Barth's WWI Sermons, William Klempa, editor. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  • On Religion. Edited and translated by Garrett Green. London: T & T Clark, 2006.

The Church Dogmatics in English translation

  • Volume I Part 1: Doctrine of the Word of God: Prolegomena to Church Dogmatics, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09013-2, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05059-9 (German: 1932)
  • Volume I Part 2: Doctrine of the Word of God, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09012-4, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05069-6 (German: 1938)
  • Volume II Part 1: The Doctrine of God: The Knowledge of God; The Reality of God, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09021-3, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05169-2 (German: 1940)
  • Volume II Part 2: The Doctrine of God: The Election of God; The Command of God, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09022-1, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05179-X (German: 1942)
  • Volume III Part 1: The Doctrine of Creation: The Work of Creation, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09031-0, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05079-3 (German: 1945)
  • Volume III Part 2: The Doctrine of Creation: The Creature, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09032-9, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05089-0 (German: 1948)
  • Volume III Part 3: The Doctrine of Creation: The Creator and His Creature, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09033-7, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05099-8 (German: 1950)
  • Volume III Part 4: The Doctrine of Creation: The Command of God the Creator, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09034-5, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05109-9 (German: 1951)
  • Volume IV Part 1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09041-8, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05129-3 (German: 1953)
  • Volume IV Part 2: Doctrine of Reconciliation: Jesus Christ the Servant As Lord, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09042-6, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05139-0 (German: 1955)
  • Volume IV Part 3, first half: Doctrine of Reconciliation: Jesus Christ the True Witness, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09043-4, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05189-7 (German: 1959)
  • Volume IV Part 3, second half: Doctrine of Reconciliation: Jesus Christ the True Witness, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09044-2, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05149-8 (German: 1959)
  • Volume IV Part 4 (unfinished): Doctrine of Reconciliation: The Foundation of the Christian Life (Baptism), hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09045-0, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05159-5 (German: 1967)
  • Volume V: Church Dogmatics: Contents and Indexes, hardcover: ISBN 0-567-09046-9, softcover: ISBN 0-567-05119-6
  • Church Dogmatics, 14 volume set, softcover, ISBN 0-567-05809-3
  • Church Dogmatics: A Selection, with intro. by H. Gollwitzer, 1961, Westminster John Knox Press 1994, ISBN 0-664-25550-7
  • Church Dogmatics, dual language German and English, books with CD-ROM, ISBN 0-567-08374-8
  • Church Dogmatics, dual language German and English, CD-ROM only, ISBN 0-567-08364-0



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  52. ^ Brunner, Emil, The Christian Doctrine of God: Dogmatics: Volume 1, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1950)
  53. ^ Woo, B. Hoon (2014). "Karl Barth's Doctrine of the Atonement and Universalism". Korea Reformed Journal. 32: 243–291.
  54. ^ "Karl Barth's Rejection of Universalism". The PostBarthian. 2016-08-18. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  55. ^ a b Richard Bauckham, "Universalism: a historical survey", Themelios 4.2 (September 1978): 47–54.
  56. ^ Louth, Andrew (1977). Mary and the Mystery of the Incarnation: An Essay on the Mother of God in the Theology of Karl Barth. Oxford: Fairacres. pp. 1–24. ISBN 0728300737.
  57. ^ Suzanne Selinger (1998). Charlotte Von Kirschbaum and Karl Barth: A Study in Biography and the History of Theology. Penn State Press. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-271-01864-5.
  58. ^ George Hunsinger's review of S. Seliger, Charlotte von Kirschbaum and Karl Barth: A Study in Biography and the History of Theology. Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  59. ^ Houtz, Wyatt (2017-10-09). "A Bright and Bleak Constellation: Karl Barth, Nelly Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum". The PostBarthian. Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  60. ^ "A Bright and Bleak Constellation: Karl Barth, Nelly Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum". The PostBarthian. 2017-10-09. Retrieved 2019-04-05.
  61. ^ Tietz, Christiane (2017-07-01). "Karl Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum". Theology Today. 74 (2): 86–111. doi:10.1177/0040573617702547. ISSN 0040-5736.
  62. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 3, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link). Princeton Seminary Library. Retrieved on 2012-07-15.
  63. ^ Center for Barth Studies website - http://barth.ptsem.edu


  • "Witness to an Ancient Truth". Time. April 20, 1962. Retrieved 2012-11-17.
  • Bradshaw, Timothy. 1988. Trinity and Ontology: A Comparative Study of the Theologies of Karl Barth and Wolfhart Pannenberg. Rutherford House Books, reprint, Lewiston; Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press for Rutherford House, Edinburgh, 1992.
  • Braaten, Carl E. (2008). That All May Believe: A Theology of the Gospel and the Mission of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 080286239X. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  • Bromiley, Geoffrey William. An introduction to the theology of Karl Barth. Grand Rapids, Mich. : William B. Eerdmans, 1979.
  • Buclin, Hadrien, Entre culture du consensus et critique sociale. Les intellectuels de gauche dans la Suisse de l'après-guerre, Thèse de doctorat, Université de Lausanne, 2015.
  • Busch, Eberhard. Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1976.
  • ——— (2004), The Great Passion: An Introduction to Karl Barth's Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdmans.
  • Chung, Paul S. Karl Barth: God's Word in Action. James Clarke & Co, Cambridge (2008), ISBN 978-0-227-17266-7.
  • Chung, Sung Wook. Admiration and Challenge: Karl Barth's Theological Relationship with John Calvin. New York: Peter Lang, 2002. ISBN 978-0-820-45680-5.
  • Chung, Sung Wook, ed. Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.ISBN 978-0-801-03127-4.
  • Clark, Gordon. Karl Barth's Theological Method. Trinity Foundation (1997, 2nd ed.), 1963. ISBN 0-940931-51-6.
  • Fiddes, Paul. 'The status of women in the thought of Karl Barth', in Janet Martin Soskice, ed., After Eve [alternative title After Eve: women, theology and the Christian tradition], 1990, pp. 138–55. Marshall Pickering
  • Fink, Heinrich. "Karl Barth und die Bewegung Freies Deutschland in der Schweiz." [Doctoral dissertation.] "Karl Barth und die Bewegung Freies Deutschland in der Schweiz : Dissertation zur Erlangung des akademischen Grades doctor scientiae theologiae (Dr.sc.theol.), vorgelegt dem Senat des Wissenschaftlichen Rates der Humboldt-Universitaaet zu Berlin." Berlin, H. Fink [Selfpublisher], 1978.
  • Galli, Mark (2000). "Neo-Orthodoxy: Karl Barth". Christianity Today.
  • Gherardini, Brunero. "A domanda risponde. In dialogo con Karl Barth sulle sue 'Domande a Roma' (A Question Answered. In Dialogue with Karl Barth on His 'Questions in Rome')". Frigento (Italy): Casa Mariana Editrice, 2011. ISBN 978-88-9056-111-5.
  • Gignilliat, Mark S (2009). Karl Barth and the Fifth Gospel: Barth's Theological Exegesis of Isaiah. Farnham: Ashgate. ISBN 0754658562. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  • Gorringe, Timothy. Karl Barth: Against Hegemony. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Hunsinger, George. How to Read Karl Barth: The Shape of His Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Jae Jin Kim. Die Universalitaet der Versoehnung im Gottesbund. Zur biblischen Begruendung der Bundestheologie in der kirchlichen Dogmatik Karl Barths, Lit Verlag, 1992.
  • Mangina, Joseph L. Karl Barth: Theologian of Christian Witness. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2004.
  • McCormack, Bruce. Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology: Its Genesis and Development, 1909–1936. Oxford University Press, USA (March 27, 1997), ISBN 978-0-19-826956-4
  • McKenny, Gerald. "The Analogy of Grace: Karl Barth's Moral Theology." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. ISBN 0-19-958267-X.
  • Oakes, Kenneth. Karl Barth on Theology and Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Oakes, Kenneth. Reading Karl Barth: A Companion to Karl Barth's Epistle to the Romans. Eugene: Cascade, 2011.
  • Webster, John. Barth. 2nd ed., London: Continuum, 2004.
  • Webster, John, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

External links

Barmen Declaration

The Barmen Declaration or the Theological Declaration of Barmen 1934 (Die Barmer Theologische Erklärung) was a document adopted by Christians in Nazi Germany who opposed the Deutsche Christen (German Christian) movement. In the view of the delegates to the Synod that met in the city of Barmen in May, 1934, the German Christians had corrupted church government by making it subservient to the state and had introduced Nazi ideology into the German Protestant churches that contradicted the Christian gospel.

The Barmen Declaration includes six theses:

The source of revelation is only the Word of God — Jesus Christ. Any other possible sources (earthly powers, for example) will not be accepted.

Jesus Christ is the only Lord of all aspects of personal life. There should be no other authority.

The message and order of the church should not be influenced by the current political convictions.

The church should not be ruled by a leader ("Führer"). There is no hierarchy in the church (Mt 20, 25f).

The state should not fulfill the task of the church and vice versa. State and church are both limited to their own business.

Therefore, the Barmen Declaration rejects (i) the subordination of the Church to the state (8.22–3) and (ii) the subordination of the Word and Spirit to the Church."8.27 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans."

On the contrary, the Declaration proclaims that the Church "is solely Christ's property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance." (8.17) Rejecting domestication of the Word in the Church, the Declaration points to the inalienable Lordship of Jesus Christ by the Spirit and to the external character of church unity which "can come only from the Word of God in faith through the Holy Spirit. Thus alone is the Church renewed" (8.01).

8.04 Try the spirits whether they are of God! Prove also the words of the Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church to see whether they agree with Holy Scripture and with the Confessions of the Fathers. If you find that we are speaking contrary to Scripture, then do not listen to us! But if you find that we are taking our stand upon Scripture, then let no fear or temptation keep you from treading with us the path of faith and obedience to the Word of God, in order that God's people be of one mind upon earth and that we in faith experience what he himself has said: "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Therefore, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.The Declaration was mostly written by the Reformed theologian Karl Barth but underwent modification, especially with the introduction of its fifth article (on the two kingdoms), as a result of input from several Lutheran theologians.

The document became the chief confessional document of the so-called Confessing Church. The ecumenical nature of the Declaration can be seen by its inclusion in the Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Book of Order of the worldwide Moravian Unity, the Unitas Fratrum.

One of the main purposes of the Declaration was to establish a three-church confessional consensus opposing pro-Nazi "German Christianity". These three churches were Lutheran, Reformed, and United.

Charlotte von Kirschbaum

Charlotte von Kirschbaum (June 25, 1899 – July 24, 1975) was a German theologian, and assisted Karl Barth in writing the Church Dogmatics. Charlotte von Kirschbaum was born in Ingolstadt. In 1916 her father died in the war, which inspired her to be trained as a nurse. In 1924 she met Karl Barth, and initially became his pupil and later contributed to all of Karl Barth's academic publications.

Church Dogmatics

Church Dogmatics (German: Kirchliche Dogmatik) is the four-volume theological summa and magnum opus of Swiss Protestant theologian Karl Barth, and was published in twelve part-volumes (spanning thirteen books) from 1932 to 1967. The fourth volume of the Church Dogmatics (CD) is unfinished, and only a fragment of the final part-volume was published, and the remaining lecture notes was published posthumously. Karl Barth's planned fifth volume was never written.

Daniel Migliore

Daniel L. Migliore is a Christian theologian and author. He is Professor Emeritus of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.His works include:

Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology (1980)

Rachel's Cry: Prayer of Lament and Rebirth of Hope (with Kathleen D. Billman, 2007)

The Power of God and the Gods of Power (2008)

Called to Freedom: Liberation Theology and the Future of Christian Doctrine (1980)

The Power of God (1983)

The Lord's Prayer: Perspectives for Reclaiming Christian Prayer (1993)

Hope for the Kingdom and Responsibility for the World (1994)

Protestant Theology at the Crossroads: How to Face the Crucial Tasks for Theology in the Twenty-First Century (with Gerhard Sauter, 2007)

The Church and Israel: Romans 9-11 (with Paul M. van Buren, Otfried Hofius and J. Christiaan Beker, 1990)About: He holds a B.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University. He received an honorary doctorate (humane letters) from his alma mater Westminster College (Pennsylvania). An ordained Presbyterian minister, he is a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick and frequently teaches in local congregations. His areas of interest include systematic theology, Karl Barth, the Trinity, and Christology. During his career he taught courses on Christology, the doctrine of God, the theology of Karl Barth, Barth’s Church Dogmatics, and an introductory course on the doctrines and practices of Christian faith. He retired as Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary in 2009.

Eduard Thurneysen

Eduard Thurneysen (10 July 1888, in Walenstadt – 21 August 1974, in Basel) was a Swiss Protestant clergyman and theologian, who was an important representative of dialectical theology.

He studied theology under Bernhard Duhm and Paul Wernle at the University of Basel, and from 1911 served as an assistant secretary of the Christliche Verein Junger Menschen in Zürich. From 1913 to 1920 he was a pastor in Leutwil, during which time, he came in close contact with Karl Barth, then a minister in nearby Safenwil.In 1920 he took charge of the parish in St. Gallen-Bruggen, then from 1927 to 1959 was a pastor at Basler Münster. From 1930 he taught classes in theology at the University of Basel, becoming an associate professor of practical theology in 1941. In 1960–63 he gave guest lectures in Hamburg, Wuppertal and Berlin.From 1923 to 1933 he was editor of the journal Zwischen den Zeiten, and from 1933 with Karl Barth, was editor of the publication Theologische Existenz heute.

Emil Brunner

Heinrich Emil Brunner (1889–1966) was a Swiss Reformed theologian. Along with Karl Barth, he is commonly associated with neo-orthodoxy or the dialectical theology movement.

George Hunsinger

George Hunsinger is an American theologian who is Hazel Thompson McCord Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. He served as director of the Seminary’s Center for Karl Barth Studies from 1997 to 2001.

Idealism (Christian eschatology)

Idealism (also called the spiritual approach, the allegorical approach, the nonliteral approach, and many other names) in Christian eschatology is an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that sees all of the imagery of the book as symbols.Jacob Taubes writes that idealist eschatology came about as Renaissance thinkers began to doubt that the Kingdom of Heaven had been established on earth, or would be established, but still believed in its establishment. Rather than the Kingdom of Heaven being present in society, it is established subjectively for the individual.F. D. Maurice interpreted the Kingdom of Heaven idealistically as a symbol representing society's general improvement, instead of a physical and political kingdom. Karl Barth interprets eschatology as representing existential truths that bring the individual hope, rather than history or future-history. Barth's ideas provided fuel for the Social Gospel philosophy in America, which saw social change not as performing "required" good works, but because the individuals involved felt that Christians could not simply ignore society's problems with future dreams.Different authors have suggested that the Beast represents various social injustices, such as exploitation of workers, wealth, the elite, commerce, materialism, and imperialism. Various Christian anarchists, such as Jacques Ellul, have identified the State and political power as the Beast.It is distinct from Preterism, Futurism and Historicism in that it does not see any of the prophecies (except in some cases the Second Coming, and Final Judgment) as being fulfilled in a literal, physical, earthly sense either in the past, present or future, and that to interpret the eschatological portions of the Bible in a historical or future-historical fashion is an erroneous understanding.

Incurvatus in se

Incurvatus in se (Latin for Turned/curved inward on oneself) is a theological phrase describing a life lived "inward" for oneself rather than "outward" for God and others.

Paul the Apostle wrote of this condition in the Epistle to the Romans 7:15, 7:18-19:

For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. ... For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

It was perhaps Augustine of Hippo who first coined the phrase incurvatus in se. Martin Luther expounded on this in his Lectures on Romans and described this state as:

Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin, [being] so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them (as is plain in the works-righteous and hypocrites), or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake."

This was later extended by Karl Barth to include other sins beyond pride. It is also believed that, even though people are justified by Jesus dying on the Cross, they still possess a propensity to sin against God because of this condition (i.e. simul justus et peccator).

Infinite qualitative distinction

The infinite qualitative distinction (Danish: den uendelige kvalitative forskel; German: unendliche qualitative Unterschied), sometimes translated as infinite qualitative difference, is a concept coined by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. The distinction emphasizes the very different attributes of finite and temporal men and the infinite and eternal qualities of a supreme being. This concept fits into the apophatic theology tradition and therefore is fundamentally at odds with theological theories which posit a supreme being able to be fully understood by man. The theologian Karl Barth made the concept of infinite qualitative distinction a cornerstone of his theology.

Karl Barth's views on Mary

Karl Barth's views on Mary agreed with much Roman Catholic dogma but disagreed with the Catholic veneration of Mary. Barth, a leading 20th-century theologian, was a Reformed Protestant. Aware of the common dogmatic tradition of the early Church, Barth fully accepted the dogma of Mary as the Mother of God. Through Mary, Jesus belongs to the human race. Through Jesus, Mary is Mother of God.

List of Christian universalists

This is a list of believers in Christian Universalism—specifically, Trinitarian Universalism prior to the 1961 creation of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Early Christians—from the second through fourth centuries—have been catalogued by scholars Hosea Ballou (Ancient History of Universalism, 1828), John Wesley Hanson (Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years, 1899), George T. Knight (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1911), and Pierre Batiffol (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914), but modern scholarship questions the claim that all of these individuals were believers in universal reconciliation. Some of those listed here may have simply believed in apokatastasis in the Jewish or early Christian sense, without any intention that all who had ever lived would be saved.

Several modern Christian theologians have been deemed "hopeful Universalists" for a belief in the possibility of universal reconciliation, but who did not claim it was a dogmatic fact—e.g. Karl Barth and Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.


Neo-orthodoxy, in Christianity, also known as theology of crisis and dialectical theology, was a theological movement developed in the aftermath of the First World War. The movement was largely a reaction against doctrines of 19th-century liberal theology and a reevaluation of the teachings of the Reformation. Karl Barth is the leading figure associated with the movement. In the U.S., Reinhold Niebuhr was a leading exponent of neo-orthodoxy.A similar title has been given to the unrelated Eastern Orthodox theology of Christos Yannaras, John Zizioulas and John Romanides.

Orders of creation

Orders of creation (or sometimes creation orders) refer to a doctrine of theology asserting God's hand in establishing social domains such as the family, the church, the state, and the economy. Although it is commonly traced back to early Lutheranism, the doctrine is also discussed within Reformed Christianity as well as modern Judaism. During the 1930s–1940s rise of European neo-orthodoxy, the meaning of this doctrine in regard to the foundations of church and state (e.g., how its interpretation by 19th-century German theologians may have aided in legitimizing the then-contemporary Nazi party or how it would support the reality or non-reality of natural law) came into dispute amongst such famed theologians as Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Though a specific 1934 controversy between Brunner and Barth over the interpretations of the doctrines of natural law and the orders of creation was not inherently political, Barth alleged that Brunner's position gave credibility to pro-Nazi "German Christians".

Princeton Theological Seminary

Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) is a private Presbyterian school of theology in Princeton, New Jersey. Founded in 1812 under the auspices of Archibald Alexander, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), it is the second-oldest seminary in the United States. It is also the largest of ten seminaries associated with the Presbyterian Church.

Princeton Seminary has long been influential in theological studies, with many leading biblical scholars, theologians, and clergy among its faculty and alumni. In addition, it operates one of the largest theological libraries in the world and maintains a number of special collections, including the Karl Barth Research Collection in the Center for Barth Studies. The seminary also manages an endowment of $986 million, making it the third-wealthiest institution of higher learning in the state of New Jersey—after Princeton University and Rutgers University.

Today, Princeton Seminary enrolls approximately 500 students. While around 40% of them are candidates for ministry specifically in the Presbyterian Church, the majority are completing such candidature in other denominations, pursuing careers in academia across a number of different disciplines, or receiving training for other, non-theological fields altogether.Seminarians hold academic reciprocity with Princeton University as well as the Westminster Choir College of Rider University, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Jewish Theological Seminary, and the School of Social Work at Rutgers University. The institution also has an ongoing relationship with the Center of Theological Inquiry.

The Epistle to the Romans (Barth)

The Epistle to the Romans (German: Der Römerbrief) is a commentary by Swiss theologian Karl Barth on the New Testament Epistle to the Romans.

Disillusioned with both German Protestant Liberalism and Religious Socialism after the outbreak of the World War I in 1914, Barth decided in the summer of 1916 to write a commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans as a way of rethinking his theological inheritance. Barth was a pastor in Safenwil at the time. Protestant Liberal theology had played a significant role in the rise of German nationalism prior to World War I, leading to Barth's disillusionment and attempts to restructure Protestant theology. The first edition of the commentary was published in December 1918 (but with a publication date of 1919). It was the first edition of the work, which has not been translated into English, which earned Barth his invitation to teach at the University of Göttingen and which Karl Adam said fell "like a bombshell on the theologians' playground." In October 1920 Barth decided that he needed to revise the first edition and worked for the next eleven months on rewriting the commentary, finishing around September 1921. The second edition was published in 1922 and translated into English in 1933.

This work, like many of his others, emphasizes the saving grace of God and humanity's inability to know God outside of God's revelation in Christ. Specifically, the God who is revealed in the cross of Jesus challenges and overthrows any attempt to ally God with human cultures, achievements, or possessions. While famous for its use of dialectic, some scholars have argued that Barth makes extensive use of analogy in the work as well.

Thomas F. Torrance

Thomas Forsyth Torrance, (30 August 1913 – 2 December 2007), commonly referred to as T. F. Torrance, was a Scottish Protestant theologian. Torrance served for 27 years as professor of Christian dogmatics at New College, in the University of Edinburgh. He is best known for his pioneering work in the study of science and theology, but he is equally respected for his work in systematic theology. While he wrote many books and articles advancing his own study of theology, he also edited the translation of several hundred theological writings into English from other languages, including the English translation of the thirteen-volume, six-million-word Church Dogmatics of Swiss theologian Karl Barth, as well as John Calvin's New Testament Commentaries. He was a member of the famed Torrance family of theologians.

Torrance has been acknowledged as one of the most significant English-speaking theologians of the twentieth century, and, in 1978, he received the prestigious Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion. Torrance remained a dedicated churchman throughout his life, serving as an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland. He was instrumental in the development of the historic agreement between the Reformed and Eastern Orthodox churches on the doctrine of the Trinity when a joint statement of agreement on that doctrine was issued between the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Orthodox Church on 13 March 1991. He retired from the University of Edinburgh in 1979, but continued to lecture and to publish extensively. Several influential books on the Trinity were published after his retirement: The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church (1988); Trinitarian Perspectives: Toward Doctrinal Agreement (1994); and The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being Three Persons (1996).

University of Basel

The University of Basel (German: Universität Basel) is located in Basel, Switzerland. Founded on 4 April 1460, it is Switzerland's oldest university and among the world's oldest surviving universities. The university is traditionally counted among the leading institutions of higher learning in the country.The associated Basel University Library is the largest and among the most important libraries in the country. The university hosts the faculties of theology, law, medicine, humanities and social sciences, science, psychology, and business and economics, as well as numerous cross-disciplinary subjects and institutes, such as the Biozentrum for biomedical research and the Institute for European Global Studies. In 2016, the University boasted 12,852 students and 377 professors. International students accounted for 24 percent of the student body.In its over 500-year history the university has been home to Erasmus of Rotterdam, Paracelsus, Daniel Bernoulli, Leonhard Euler, Jacob Burckhardt, Friedrich Nietzsche, Tadeusz Reichstein, Karl Jaspers, Carl Gustav Jung, Karl Barth and Jeanne Hersch. The institution is associated with nine Nobel prize winners and two Presidents of the Swiss Confederation.

Wilhelm Herrmann

Johann Georg Wilhelm Herrmann (6 December 1846 – 2 January 1922) was a Lutheran German theologian.

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