- Series: Clarendon Paperbacks
- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Clarendon Press; Reprint edition (April 24, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0198269560
- ISBN-13: 978-0198269564
- Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 1.2 x 5.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,461,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Karl Barth's Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology: Its Genesis and Development 1909-1936 (Clarendon Paperbacks) Reprint Edition
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"The best intellectual biography of Barth now available....As brilliant and comprehensive as it is meticulous and unorthodox...McCormack's new [book] will be required reading for every subsequent discussion of Barth."--Choice
"Those who have already engaged in some study of Barth's theology will find McCormack's volume challenging and stimulating. And evangelicals approaching the crux of two centuries and two millennia can learn much from Barth and from critical studies of Barth's theology like McCormack's."--Christianity Today
From the Back Cover
This book is a new, major intellectual biography of perhaps the most influential theologian of the twentieth century, Karl Barth. It offers the first full-scale revision of the well-known theologian Hans Urs Balthasar's seminal interpretation of Barth, which was first published in 1951.
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McCormack effortlessly weaves Barth's social situation and his theology together.
>>> Barth as Anti-Bourgeois<<<
Barth flirted with socialism simply because he saw the failure of liberal individualism. Barth was not simply anti-capitalist. He said that socialism and capitalism were created by the modern world under situations that Jesus could not have foreseen (88).
However, the Socialist theme had receded from Barth by the first half of 1914. At the same time we see a new theme in Barth: the judgment of the wrath of God. “That God judges evil tells us something about God himself; it is not simply abstracted from the divine being” (McCormack 94).
>>>Theology in a revolutionary age<<<
McCormack argues that the crises evoked by Germany’s loss in WWI didn’t fundamentally change Barth’s theology. Barth opposed the very bourgeois German liberalism that was destroyed. Further, Barth was in Switzerland, which was neutral. And Barth always maintained ambivalence towards culture. It wasn’t evil but wasn’t the Kingdom of God.
>>>Clearing the Ground: The Theology of Romans II<<<
Thesis: BM argues that the gains made in Romans II are found everywhere in CD (244). T₂: If God can’t be known by metaphysical speculation, then he must be known indirectly, by means of a medium. God is not transformed into this medium. The revelation is distinct from the medium (249).
In many ways this is the most important chapter in the book and the most important moment in Barth’s career: he discovered the en/anhypostatic doctrine.
Thesis 1: This doctrine allowed Barth to replace the time-eternity dialectic with the dialectic of veiling/unveiling of Jesus Christ. The Trinity as Self-Revelation and Differentiation: it is God alone and God in his entirety or it is no revelation (351). God is subject of revelation in the earthly form, but God does not become the earthly form (354). The language of Self-Revelation places 5th century Christology on a modern basis (359). The dialectic of veiling/unveiling has now been localized in the incarnation and not simply in the Cross.
Problems with von Balthalsar's Reading
(1) analogia fide is itself an inherently dialectical term (16). It is grounded in the veiling/unveiling in revelation.
(2) It confuses two different categories. The analogy of faith refers to the result of a divine act over which human beings have no control. On the other hand, “Method” is something humans do.
(3) Talk of analogy has to do with what God does; talk of dialectic emerges here in the context of what humans do in light of the fact that they have no capacity for bringing about the Self-speaking of God” (314, 315)
(4) Contra HuvB, Barth never gave up dialectics, even if he gave a larger voice to analogy. If HuvB is true, then one must explain why Barth still retained the most fundamental category of his theology: the dialectic of veiling/unveiling. However, if HuvB simply said that Barth gave up the time-eternity dialectic, that would be true. Except Barth gave that up long ago. That happened in 1924.
The book is in a class by itself. McCormack has an unparalleled command of primary and secondary literature, both in English and German. Further, it's not so much that he rejects von Balthasar's thesis: he simply contextualizes it.
McCormack manages to trace through the complex world of pre-WW2 Germany to show Barth's influences from the Marburg neo-Kantians, expressionism, socialism, etc. His basic point is that Barth's break with liberalism and his "decisive turn to analogy" were not as radical as one would think. In other words, the Barth of Romans has far more in common with the mature Barth of the Church Dogmatics. This book also proceeds to correct a number of misperceptions about Barth, based on historical work. In the final analysis, McCormack has hoped that his work will press theologians to read the primary sources firsthand, rather than relying on "received interpretations."
I would recommend reading this book, then von Balthsar's _Theology of Karl Barth_ (in that order). The von Balthsar book is interesting, because it tells you how people have understood Barth (up to now), and because of von Balthasar himself. But in the final analysis, I find McCormack's book to be more technically correct.
Bruce McCormack is not one of these pretenders! While perhaps not a "slavish" Barthian, McCormack is a Barthian that Barth would recognize, appreciate, and support.
In general, McCormack wants to present Barth as classically orthodox, not "neo-orthodox." This is a difficult task in many ways, because of Barth's novel appraoch and his departure from the theology of the Reformation on many points (outright rejection of all natural theology, Barth's universal salvation, his rejection of Biblical inspiration opting for an emphasis on illumination instead, etc.)
McCormack is one of the sharpest minds in the mainline church. I studied under him for two degrees at Princeton, where he was clearly the brightest theologian in a brilliant department. Unfortunately, like his hero Barth, he is not often kind to his reader. He makes you work very hard. This is a difficult read. But many will find it worth the effort, not matter what their view of Karl Barth.