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Barth, Karl, - Credo Reference
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Transcendence and History in Karl Barth's Amillennial Eschatology
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For all enquiries, please contact Herb Tandree Philosophy Books directly - customer service is our primary goal. First, while much in Barth research today gives the impression that Barth's earlier dogmatic theology is a well-traveled road, in fact, no study has traced the encounters that Barth had with Catholicism throughout the decade of the s for the sake of analyzing the material development of his thought, as this present study will do. The classic study of Barth and Roman Catholicism by Hans Urs von Balthasar still retains an authoritative voice when it comes to the major differences in thought forms and paradigms between the two traditions.
Indeed, as this study will show, parts of his conclusions regarding Barth's later theology can actually be more accurately applied to Barth's thought in the earlier period of the s. No study has traced the encounters that Barth had with Catholicism throughout the decade of the s for the sake of analyzing the material development of Barth's thought, as this present study will do.
Second, scholarship on Barth's engagement with Catholicism has tended to latch onto single themes that have grown out of the relationship in order to try to understand the nature and function of particular concepts in the history of theology. Such is the case with the recent interest surrounding Barth's relationship to the analogia entis. Although these kinds of targeted and thematic studies are interesting, they neglect the broader context of Barth's engagement with Catholicism, which clarifies the patterns of his exposure to the analogia entis and other forms of Roman thought.
The research given in the analysis before us offers a deeper and more comprehensive analysis of how Barth's encounter with the living tradition of Catholicism led him to explore and encounter the commitments he had to liberal Protestantism and to Reformation theology in fresh and unexpected ways. The Gottingen lectures on dogmatics makes up the three-volume "Unterricht in der christlichen Religion" in the Karl Barth Gesamtausgabe, while the bulk of the Munster dogmatic lectures remain unpublished with the exception of the prolegomena, which was published in under the title, Die christliche Dogmatik im Entwurf.
These unpublished lectures on dogmatics find their home in the Karl Barth Archive, Basel. These student-generated protocol books also record the historic visit which the Jesuit, Erich Przywara, paid to Barth's Thomas seminar.
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These student protocols cover the seminar's topic, "The Problem of Natural Theology" Unpublished letters between Barth and Przywara provide insight into this unique relationship as well. An analysis of these important and somewhat neglected documents fill the paucity of research on Barth's development into a self-conscious Reformation theologian and a teacher of Christian theology.
They open up new avenues into the material concerns of Barth's earlier period, and demonstrate how his openness towards Catholic theology brought him the remarkable opportunity to clarify and deepen his own theological commitments in conversation with a living tradition of the Christian faith, the endurance of which has been tested by the ages.
An analysis of Barth's early dialogue with Catholicism also demonstrates that this was an open and direct relationship that did not follow any script or set of preconditions. Barth did not take one, fixed methodological approach to his dialogue with Catholicism nor did he treat it like a historical artifact or a specimen for contemporary theological science.
In fact, at times, he took a very atypical and therefore controversial, attitude towards it. Leading Protestant thinkers like Emmanuel Hirsch and Reinhold Seeberg disdained the way Barth saw Roman Catholicism as a vital stream of Christianity and a genuinely modern challenge to Protestant theology. They interpreted Barth's ecumenical efforts as a breaking up of the "common fate" of Protestant theology.
Even long time acquaintances like Karl Heim were not satisfied with how Barth chose to present Protestant concerns in light of the renewal movement in Catholic theology.
In contrast to these reactions, Catholics were beginning to take a keen interest in Barth's theological project, the most important figure being Erich Przywara, who was willing to enter into the uncharted waters of dialogue with the Reformed thinker. One of the reasons for the unconventionality of this direct relationship lay in Barth's decision to face Roman Catholic theology head on.
Early in his academic career, he unapologetically began to study the theology of Thomas Aquinas, which he first explored in with a colleague, Erik Peterson, while in Gottingen. Peterson showed Barth that Thomas' theology had vitality and substance, which deflated the stereotypical impression of Catholic theology as a dusty relic from a gothic past. Barth even perceived parallels between his own dialectical doctrine of revelation and that of Thomas. Thomas' theology upheld an objectivity of the doctrine of God that liberal Protestantism had long ago forfeited to the forces of history and the power of human psychology.
This medieval teacher understood the divine dynamics of revelation. Yet, as Barth dug deeper into Reformation theology and the Reformed tradition, he began to view Thomas less as a teacher and more as the representative of modern Catholicism. This necessitated serious engagement from Reformation theology. Thus, Barth set out to provide a fresh Reformation perspective on Catholic theology.
Such an intellectually honest approach to Protestantism's long-standing and traditional opponent defies easy labeling. It must be asked whether categories such as "dialectical catholicity" are appropriate descriptions of the dynamic of Barth's relationship to Catholicism.
Rein hard Hatter has described the relationship this way based on the swing in Barth's rhetoric in a public lecture he gave on Catholicism in , entitled "Roman Catholicism as a Question to the Protestant Church.
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In this particular lecture, Barth moves from favoring Catholic theology and rejecting Neoprotestantism to challenging Catholicism's doctrine of revelation and affirming overtly Reformational categories. It is true that Barth dove deeply into Reformation theology in his response to Catholicism. But Hatter's characterization of Barth's ecumenical strategy as a "dialectical catholicity" suggests that Barth utilized a fixed and particular strategy for dealing with Catholicism, when in fact, as our research shows, he did not have one.
However, by the late s, Barth's interest in these shared commitments were shelved while he dedicated most of his attention to the menacing rise of Nazism and the Deutsche Christen. A potential rapprochement between the two churches was sidelined and not revived until the years leading up to Vatican II. Because Barth never employed a fixed ecumenical strategy such as a "dialectical catholicity" for dealing with the challenge of Roman Catholicism, he was able to take hold of the unparalleled opportunity to engage more directly and honestly with Catholicism than any Protestant thinker in his day.
Barth let himself be freely challenged by the beautiful structure of Catholic theology, and in so doing, he sharpened many of the rough edges of his own thought on the Roman tradition's solid grindstone. One of the most penetrating observations of Barth's theology came from Erich Przywara, the Jesuit intellectual who was a keen observer of Barth's earlier work, and who is best known for his highly creative work on the analogia entis. Przywara, who was born and raised in Poland, is one of those figures in history whose singular mind perceived the tenor and flow of his particular — and particularly complex — historical moment.
He brought together insights and projects from many different disciplines, opening the way for Catholicism to maneuver itself into the modern currents of the twentieth century while remaining astonishingly true to the theology of Thomas Aquinas. He is the most significant Catholic critic of Barth's theology before the late s, and was the teacher and mentor of probably the most influential Catholic critic of Barth's theology, Hans Urs von Balthasar.
He pointed out that the Protestant concept of transcendence that shaped Barth's early dialectical theology actually hindered a clear expression of God's concrete and objective presence in revelation. In Przywara's view, the fatal flaw in Protestant theology was that it makes the Incarnation impossible because it denies that God is genuinely present within the created world. Theology must articulate a God who is both Lord over the creaturely veils used in revelation but also genuinely 'knowable' as an object within them. In other words, theology must reflect upon what it means that God has become incarnate in Jesus Christ — and therefore knowable and present in history.
While Przywara's early insight into Barth's doctrine of revelation set the stage for a serious discussion and unparalleled respect between the two thinkers, Barth's time in Munster as Professor for Dogmatics and New Testament Exegesis broadened his vision and opened him up even further to a direct encounter with Catholic theology.
During his tenure there, from , Barth's theology of the Incarnation deepened, and he focused his attention on the explicit connection between God's act of revelation and God's act of reconciliation. This new convergence of revelation and reconciliation allowed Barth to speak more concretely about the grace of God that is present in creation. Such a consideration of God's presence in creation through the Incarnation provided a natural opening into frank and direct connections with Roman Catholic theology, which is apparent in his dogmatic lectures of those years.
They are assumptions that opened him up quite dramatically to the concerns and commitments of Catholic theology. The first assumption held that the order of the Incarnation presupposes the order of creation. A second is that there is an "original relationship" between God and the human being that is distinct from and external to the relationship which God enjoys with the human in the man Jesus Christ. Third, Barth granted that the grace of reconciliation peacefully coincides with sinful creatures in a way that produces the paradox of the saint and sinner or the "blessed sinner.
He became bolder about arguing that the event of God's Word is never a neutral event. It is an event of reconciliation that is grounded in the unified action of the God as Creator, Reconciler, Redeemer and rooted in God's singular will.
Further, created reality, which determines the nature of the veils that participate in revelation, only exists in the act of living and moving through time. Thus, the veils employed in God's revelation are constantly becoming that which they are by virtue of the fact that God the Reconciler acts upon them and creates them into something new, namely, into witnesses to God's grace.
The act of reconciliation is an act of creation.
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Likewise, knowledge of creation comes through no other way than through knowledge of reconciliation. Therefore, knowledge of God the Creator must come through the actions of God as the Reconciler. Reconciliation is an act that has consequences- not only for material objects which participate in God's revelation, but also for the human mind.
God's act of reconciliation, which is the core of the event of revelation, is an act of God upon the human mind. He saw a gap in the connection between God's action and the way of human knowledge to God in Catholic theology, which is why he would eventually accuse it of having a "theology of the First Article. Theological epistemology and theological ontology must both lead to the same God. Knowledge must follow the ontology of grace and reconciliation. Consequently, Barth would be led to reject the analogia entis, for he interpreted it as a concept that encapsulates the entire Catholic economy of grace in its peaceful transition from creation through the easy waters of reconciliation to redemption.
It does not take seriously the central and unavoidable fact of Christianity, namely, that God's reconciliation of the world means a death to sin, an interruption to the order of creaturely things, and an extinguishing of all ways to knowledge of God which grow out of the natural human's unreconciled power of reason. In Barth's view, Catholic theology has no real expression of the dialectic between sin and grace, and no real sense of the direct action of God on — and on behalf of — all creaturely existence.
It is precisely on this point of the unreconciled human mind and the unreconciled knowledge of God, especially as it is represented in the analogia entis as a central tenet to Catholic theology, along with the specter of God the Creator and First Cause who has little to do with grace and reconciliation, that friendly exchange between Barth and Catholic theology broke down. He had arrived at the conclusion that the Incarnation as a work of God ad extra could not be the primary way through which God's objective and concrete presence is defined.
Jesus Christ, the one who makes objective knowledge of God possible, is a part of God who in God's very being in eternity acts as Creator, Reconciler, and Redeemer — Father, Son, Spirit.