Book Review: Regarding Karl Barth

I first encountered Karl Barth in a seminary class. Gary Deddo assigned us to read Dogmatics in Outline. Though it was the smallest book we had to read for the class, it took the longest to read. In Barth, I encountered a theologian who worked more deeply than any of the pop-theologies available in your average Christian bookstore.

Barth is one of the most confusing figures in modern theology. At one moment, I find myself nodding my head with him. At another moment, I'm re-reading to see if he really just said the outlandish thing I thought he said. Barth is a difficult read.

And he's also written a ton. His major work, Church Dogmatics, runs for almost 10,000 pages. Getting your mind around so much writing can be pretty difficult.

This is why Dr. Deddo recommended Regarding Karl Barth by Trevor Hart. Hart provides a big-picture overview of the major themes in Barth's theology. He introduces Barth to us in a way that helps us understand where the great theologian is coming from. This context makes a tremendous difference.

For example, if you aren't aware of Barth's commitment to the "otherness" of God, his comments on the Incarnation and Scripture can be radically confusing. Some have even labeled Barth a "heretic" due to this confusion.

My favorite chapter in Hart's book placed Barth's ideas in conversation with modern pluralism. One by one, a great deal of Barth's theology locked into place: revelation, hypostatic union, dialectic. As an introducer of Karl Barth, Hart performed splendidly.

This book swims in the deep end theologically. It's not for the faint of head.

Here are some excellent quotes:

"If I offer the obvious qualification that I have not always agreed with what I have found in the text, it is equally true that I have rarely come away from the reading without some benefit"

"'What if,' he asks, 'God be so much God that without ceasing to be God he can also be, and is willing to be, not God as well?""

"The paradox of grace is precisely that it both liberates and binds us in the very same moment."

"The insistence of Athanasius that the Son is eternally from the substance of the Father, rather than a product of his will, carries within it the implication that the divine substance as such is inherently relational."

"We are dealing with a permanent antinomy rather than a dialectic to be resolved in a higher synthesis."

"Very often theological 'liberals' and 'conservatives' are united in their basic methodologies and in the tools which they brandish as weapons with which to destroy one another's fortified positions."

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