A Conservative Interviews Barth -- By: Miner B. Stearns

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 106:422 (Apr 1949)
Article: A Conservative Interviews Barth
Author: Miner B. Stearns


A Conservative Interviews Barth

Miner B. Stearns

The following lines are not intended as a journalistic report, but rather as an appendix to a study of Barthianism which Bibliotheca Sacra published last year.1 The writer has been deeply interested in the theology of Karl Barth since first he heard of it during student days; consequently more space was devoted to it in the above-mentioned article than might have been expected in a survey called “Protestant Theology since 1700.” It was quite natural, therefore, that he should seek an opportunity to meet the man about whom he had read and written so much, in order to try to clarify and even correct if necessary his understanding of this best known among contemporary theologians.

The time was not auspicious, for Professor Barth had just returned from the assembly of the World Council of Churches and was to leave Basel again the next day. Nevertheless, through the kindness of a mutual pastor and friend I was able to secure a thirty minute interview, which before either of us realized it had lengthened into forty-five minutes. The ice was quickly broken, as I had been reading a copy of Barth’s opening address at the World Council Assembly and had with me a criticism of it by a Dutch paper which the Professor had not seen but which seemed to interest him. Then I told him I had made bold to write a summary of the history of Protestant theology in Europe since 1700, which he considered to be a large undertaking in itself. He ought to know that, because he has recently published a “History of Protestant Theology since Schleiermacher”

dealing principally with the nineteenth century, containing over 50 per cent more material than my modest effort and drawing much more on the original sources than I was able to do at the time. Incidentally, this Geschichte des Protestantischen Theologie was given originally in Barth’s lectures at the University of Bonn in 1929 and 1930.

I told him that I had been keenly interested in his theology but should like to ask a few questions so as to clarify some points. He realdily assented. So I began with a question about his use and interpretation of the word historical and quoted his comment on Romans 6 where he refers to the resurrection of Christ as “the non-historical event kat' exochēn.”2 Professor Barth first of all assured me that his works that I had read so far were for the most part twenty years old and did not represent his present thought. He suggested that the best summary of his views at p...

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