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Christ and Adam: Man and Humanity in Romans 5 Paperback – April 2, 2004
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He writes for preachers and theologians. The masses would be better benefit if the preachers took the time to consider Barth.
A main concern is that Barth seemed to lean toward universalism. I support this with quotations from his book. Why is this a problem? The message of the Bible, and in particular the Lord Jesus Himself, is that people need to repent of sin and believe in Jesus to share in His life. Barth, however, seemed to think that people will be saved even if they don’t repent and believe—thus, universalism.
I’m glad, however, Barth turn away from dead liberalism of his day and made Christ central in his theology, but was his “Christ” the Christ of the Bible? He also affirmed Christ’s bodily resurrection and the substitutionary atonement (that Jesus died to save sinners). Both of these are good, but let’s get to a dozen specifics:
1. On page 34, we read Barth’s words (in translation), “In believing in Him they are acknowledging that when he died and rose again, they too, died and rose again in Him, and that, from now on, their life, in its essentials, can only be a copy and image of His.”
This is a good statement; he was affirming Christ’s resurrection and, also, that believers are united with Christ.
2. On p45, Barth affirmed, “Therefore the status of Adam is lower than the status of Christ, the sin of Adam counts for less than the righteousness of Christ.”
This is problematic, for of course the status of Adam is lower than that of Christ—infinitely lower. Why even say it—unless there was confusion in the mind of the thinker about Jesus’ majesty? Adam is a creature; Jesus is the Creator. The sin of Adam counts less than zero, but the righteousness of Christ counts infinity.
3. Barth’s statement on p66 seems to point in the direction of universalism, “Men are still sinners, who do not know that Christ died for them and that they are therefore reconciled sinners; sinners, who make no thankful response to God’s grace, but still go on rejecting it: sinners who still cried “Crucified Him!” and commit all over again the very sins that Christ bore away, sinners who all over again make themselves liable to the death that He suffered for them….”
Where in Barth’s book does he anywhere speak about the need for repentance? The Apostle Peter preached it. Sinners are not “reconciled” to God unless they repent and believe. See Jesus’ words in Luke 13:3,5.
4. On p90, Barth affirmed, “The people of Israel, which is convicted by the Law of rebellion against God’s grace, the people that has offered its covenant-Lord and Lawgiver nothing but unfaithfulness and disobedience, this stock that has been cut down right to the ground and has withered away, has been awakened to new life by a miraculous act of God in its midst, for from it there has sprung up the new shoot, Jesus Christ. Out of Israel comes a Christ who bears but also bears away the guilt of Israel and the guilt of all men in His death.”
Barth was affirming that Jesus was/is the fulfillment of such passages as Isaiah 11:1 and 53:2. Good! However, he revealed his incipient universalism, also. Jesus did not take away the guilt of all men or even all of Israel. Only those who turn away from rebellion to faith in Jesus are forgiven. All through the Scriptures there are two groups—believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers will be condemned; believers, accepted. I supply just one verse here (but there are many more): “He who believes in the Son has lasting life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).
5. On p91, we read more truth mixed with untruth: “He is the righteous man. And out of Israel comes the Christ who, having endured the punishment and death of Israel and of all men, makes an end of death in His resurrection, so that it does not have to be endured anymore, and so becomes Himself the pledge of deliverance from every trouble of the past and of the present.”
Christ Jesus is indeed “the righteous man” (foretold in the Old Testament), but Barth is in error when he wrote that death “does not have to be endured anymore.” We all face death, but more importantly, unbelievers will face the ultimate death following even their physical death.
6. On p92, we read, “Not only was Christ Israel, He chose to be Israel—and to be the Israel that was subject to the Law and that through the Law was accused and convicted of its sin. And just in that way He was Israel’s Messiah, the Israelite, whose coming was the expectation and goal of all Israel’s history.”
Barth was right in saying Jesus was/is “Israel,” for it is one of His prophetic names (cf. Isaiah 49:3). I more or less agree with Barth’s word above, but I’m not sure Barth and I would mean the same thing. He continued, “If God was to show mercy to man by saving him from sin and death, and if at the same time He was to honor His own righteousness as man’s Creator and Lord, He had to intervene on man’s behalf, He had to come to man’s rescue and let Himself be condemned as a sinner and put to death on the cross. That was what happened in Jesus Christ and that is how in Him grace became greater than sin” (p95).
I’m glad it does not fall to me to be the judge of Barth’s hear. I can affirm much of what he wrote on p92, but there also also words of his (below) that very much trouble me. In the above, he affirmed that Jesus was/is God. Amen! He did not seem to be fully clear, however, that Jesus was substituting Himself in the place of sinners, but what he did write seems to come pretty close. But then on the next page (p96), we read, “…God Himself takes man’s place as a sinner who is condemned to die.” That is clearer, and it seems Karl Barth believed in the substitutionary atonement—the very truth many “liberal” theologians deny. I say “Amen” again.
7. On p101, we read, “And it was at the hands of these unclean Gentiles, who were not elected and not called, at the hands of those who according to Eph. 2:12, “were without God in the world,” that He was hung on the gallows … outside the gate.”
Barth was saying that Gentiles as well as Jews experience salvation, but saying that the Gentiles were not “elect” is not true. All through the Old Testament we learn that “all the families of the earth” would be blessed in Abraham. Israel was to be a light to the “Gentiles.” Naaman was a Syrian, and Isaiah 19:24-25 says, “In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance.’”
8. On p106, we read, “That is the secret of the closing and completion of that revelation in Jesus Christ. God takes a man’s transgressions seriously by taking it upon Himself: He Himself becomes the sinner and dies in man’s place and so makes both sin and death pass away.”
Again, Barth was teaching that God (i.e. Christ) took on human sin. Good.
9. On p109, we read, “…we might quite easily come to that conclusion that for Paul Christ’s manhood is significant only for those who are united to Him in faith. We would then have no right to draw any conclusion about the relationship between Christ and man as such….”
Indirectly at least, Barth acknowledged the concern I have been pointing out—that Christ’s death benefits only those who believe in Him. His words, “we might quite easily come to that conclusion,” show that. Well, as a matter of fact, Barth himself should have come to that conclusion because it is taught all over Paul and the Bible in general.
10. On the same page (109), Barth wrote, “Paul does not limit his context to Christ’s relationship to believers but gives fundamentally the same account of His relationship to all men. The context is widened from Church history to world history, from Christ’s relationship to Christians and to His relationship to all men.”
Well, “Christians” can be Gentiles as well as Jews. God’s arms have always been open to all His creatures, but men must come humbly in faith to receive the Lord’s saving benefits.
Further down (same page), he wrote, “What is said here applies generally and universally, and not merely to one limited group of men.”
I can’t help but think that the main verse for Barth in support of his “universalism” is verse 18. It reads, “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men,” but what does “all men” mean—"all men” without exception or “all men” without distinction (not just Jews but Gentiles, too)? I favor the latter, but Barth apparently favored the former.
11. On p111, Barth wrote that this “is truth for all (emphasis in the translation) men whether they know it or not, as surely as they are all Adam’s children and heirs.”
This is very problematic, for it seems to convey the false message that everyone will be saved even if that one keeps cursing God and living in sin. It is VERY SAD that Barth seems to have taught this lie.
12. Finally, on p.112, Barth added, “Vv. 12-21 are revolutionary in their insistence that what is true of Christians must also be true of all men. That is a principle that has an incalculable significance for all our actions and thought.”
Barth seems to be teaching that there is no difference between Christians and unbelievers—all will be saved. Such is a HUGE LIE! Shame on Barth for teaching it. Over and over again the Scriptures teach a final separation. The Lord Jesus, a far greater Authority that either Adam or Barth, said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Barth was wrong— “what is true of Christians must” NOT “also be true of all men.” You are free to believe Barth, that he was right, but he was dead wrong on this issue. The Lord Jesus will separate the goats from the sheep on the Day of Judgement. Make sure you are one of His believing sheep—not one of those rebelling goats.
HE DOES'N SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF THE COMMON MAN WHICH IS WHAT HE SHOULD BE DOING TO REACH THE MASSES.
I'M LOOKING FOR SOME ONE WHO WILL GIVE IT TO ME PLAIN AND STRAIGHT.
BARTH IS NOT THE MAN FOR THAT TASK .
ONLY THOSE IN ACADEMIA ARE THRILLED WITH HIS "KNOWLEDGE".
I'M NOT ONE OF THEM.