Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
FM 8:1 (Fall 1990) p. 106
Books By The Faculty
An Affront to the Gospel? The Radical Karl Barth and the Southern Baptist Convention by Elizabeth B. Barnes. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1987. 149 pp. $14.95
Based upon her doctoral dissertation, Elizabeth Barnes’ initial book is a noteworthy achievement. The book begins by narrating the Atlanta murders of 1981. She asks why the Southern Baptist Convention churches of Atlanta failed to address the conditions of poverty, discrimination and racial hatred underlying the context of these murders? The question, though addressed to the Atlanta situation of 1981, continues to haunt Southern Baptists as well as North American Christians in other contexts.
Against this background, Dr. Barnes sets forth her thesis that the traditional “tides quaerens intellecturm, faith seeking understanding,” should be replaced by “fides quaerens rationem reddere, faith seeking accountability which understands.” Fides quaerens rationem reddere begins with social location with the poor, the oppressed and the outcast and seeks responsible discipleship before God. The Christian considers the content of faith from the perspective of concrete action, thus overcoming the hiatus between theology and ethics.
Pursuing her thesis, Barnes describes the theological history of Baptists. Then, with her theses as compass, she surveys the theology of Karl Barth from its earliest stages to its final stages. She finds that the early Barth employed a methodology congruent with her own tides quaerens rationem reddere. The Safenwil pastorate years for Barth saw him approaching theology from “below” to “above.” When he moved to the professorship he became much more academic. He then began to utilize
Anselm’ s fides quaerens intellectum. Yet, even after his famous Anselmian turn, traces of the older praxis-oriented methodology remain even in Church Dogmatics. Her final chapter offers a doctrine of the Church based upon Barth’s understanding of the Church as it stands criticized and informed by her own praxis-based thesis.
With this book Barnes makes an informative contribution to Barthian scholarship. The book is also an articulation of Barnes’ own theological vision. Though Barthian, Liberation and Narrative influences as well as a distinctly Southern Baptist flavor are evident, tides quaerens rationem reddere is an original suggestion embracing her basic theological presupposition. Barnes’ thesis is an indictment of Southern Baptist failures to construct a theology and ecclesiology which properly emphasizes faith and action in the sociopolitical and economic spheres of life. Her call for “faith seeking accountability which understands” is attractive.
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