Mit dem Anfang anfangen: Stationen auf Karl Barths theologischem Weg

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Karl Barths Denken und Handeln folgte der Devise: Es gilt, als Christenmensch immer wieder mit dem Anfang anzufangen. In jeder Zeit ist jeweils neu auszugehen von dem, was Gott uns sagt. So bleiben Theologinnen und Theologen zeitlebens Schülerinnen und Schüler des Wortes Gottes.

Der Barth-Kenner Eberhard Busch zeichnet in diesem Buch anhand ausgewählter Stationen seinen theologischen Weg nach: Von den frühen Predigten (1911) über den aufsehenerregenden «Römerbrief» (1922), die deutlichen Stellungnahmen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, die grundlegenden Themen der «Kirchlichen Dogmatik» bis hin zum Ende seiner Tätigkeit 1967.

Das Buch regt dazu an, genau hinzuhören, was Barth in seiner Zeit gesagt hat und was er uns heute sagen würde. Denn Theologie hat nach Barths Auffassung die Aufgabe, sich einzumischen und die Probleme der Zeit zu benennen. Dabei hat sie nicht zu wiederholen, was die Mehrheit schon meint, sondern hat, wenn nötig, auf eine vergessene Wahrheit zu pochen.

This is the best introduction to the thinking of Barth that has yet been written. Busch begins with the earliest writings of Karl Barth and carefully shows, with ample evidence, the stages along Barth’s theological and intellectual development.

Commencing with an early sermon of Barth, from 1911, on Atheism and Discipleship and moving through the Tambach conference and Barth’s ‘Romans’, Busch helps readers see, and literally trace, the core concepts which Barth would later fully enunciate.  Barth’s critique of Protestantism and his adventures and struggles in the context of the German University system and the German church’s life in the era of Hitler are also stages along the way which – one and all – contribute in one way or another to the mature Barth’s theology.

Barth’s theology and its relationship to Judaism, and the Third Reich, and the friendships Barth maintained after the end of the Second World War are also players on the stage of Barth’s theological development.

But Barth was also influential in and influenced by the Cold War, as well as by the rise of pietistic movements post war.  These influences are manifested in the later volumes of the Church Dogmatics, especially in IV/2, IV/3, and IV/4.

The volume at hand not only exposes readers to a very well documented ‘roadmap’ to Barth’s theological development, it also answers some of the most pressing questions raised about Barth’s theology.

Yes, it answers the question of Barth’s universalism, with a resounding YES.  YES, Karl Barth believed all would be saved.  In no uncertain terms.

… alle Menschen geheiligt sind.  Alle, und nicht nur eine Auswahl.

In Christus sind alle geheiligt.  (S. 216)

It could not be made more clear.

This little book also includes a lot of photographs which come from the author’s own collection.  Some of which I have seen before, but many which I have not.  And I suspect that I am not alone in that.

There are no indices, but the table of contents is full enough and each chapter includes clearly labelled subsection headings.  If you’re interested in finding out some particular this or that, it’s easily done in a few minutes skimming.

Karl Barth is a Himalaya that no one seeking theological truth can avoid crossing.  This little book is the best guide yet to that journey.  Barthians one and all, and theologians in general, should make use of it and by so doing they will come to a much clearer understanding of what Barth thought, how he got there, and how it influenced his work.

Love him or hate him.  Or both.  You owe it to yourself to read this volume.