Some critical observations on Barth

Because I’ve posted favorably of some Barthian themes lately, and since Evangelicals for the most part tend to think any mention of Barth is necessarily heretical, here is where I am critical of him.  I will then end with some corrective observations, both of Barth’s method and Evangelical hysteria in dealing with Barth.

  1. I have my suspicions that Barth never fully escaped the Origenist trappings of the earlier editions of Der Rommerbrief.   It appears he might have overplayed the transcendence of God.  I think von Balthasar makes too much of this point, but it is there.
  2. Contrary to some Evangelical nonsense, Barth affirmed the Resurrection.   The problem, though, is that the Resurrection had about as little relevance for his projects as it does (ironically) for American Evangelicalism. This is actually a recurring theme among some Barthian scholars.  This is where I think Pannenberg can offer a corrective.
  3. Barth’s style can take a course on Brevity.   CD I/2 can be about 300 pages shorter with no loss of content.   And it’s not like Barth can’t do this.  CD I/1 was fresh and cogent and about 400 pages.
  4. Perhaps we can agree that Barth’s project makes a categorical affirmation of “inerrancy” rather difficult.  Fair enough.  However, how is his triadic structure of Revelation any different from Augustine’s model in de Trinitate?

Correcting American Evangelicalism

  1. Barth’s Christology and Election became more polished around CD IV/1.  While he did not get rid of all the tensions, he did clear up some problems.  Any sane Evangelical critique of Barth must deal with this.
  2. Barth’s view of Realdialektik precludes any reading of Barth that attempts to reduce him to a postmodernist or a propositional relativist.
  3. Some claim that Barth’s project empties churches and kills the faith.  We have to be careful of this criticism.  While I rejoice with everyone else that mainstream liberalism is hemorrhaging members by the thousand, I must also acknowledge that many conservative churches struggle to get 30 members present on a good Sunday.  Further, liberal American Protestantism by and large rejected Barth, so it is really difficult to say that Barth caused this decline.   Further, the wackier elements of the PCA will “torpedo themselves” in projects that have nothing to do with Barth.