Karl Barth’s Doctrine Of Reconciliation A Review Article -- By: Fred H. Klooster

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 20:2 (May 1958)
Article: Karl Barth’s Doctrine Of Reconciliation A Review Article
Author: Fred H. Klooster

Karl Barth’s Doctrine Of Reconciliation
A Review Article1

Fred H. Klooster

The doctrine of reconciliation or atonement is crucial and pivotal in Christian theology: it concerns the heart of the Christian gospel. In Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics the doctrine of reconciliation2 is doubly vital because of its unique and comprehensive scope.

Classic Reformed theology usually divided Christology into the two parts of the person and the work of Christ. The doctrine of the atonement (reconciliation) was then taken up within the section on the work of Christ. Within this framework the doctrine of the atonement concerned mainly the state of humiliation and the priestly office of Christ. Barth admits that this traditional arrangement “seems logically very illuminating, and didactically useful”. Nevertheless he rejects it and charges that the traditional arrangement implies “a self-contained Christology” which “takes on the appearance of an ontology and dramatics arbitrarily constructed from Scripture and tradition” (p. 124).3 This charge indicates that Barth’s own treatment of the doctrine of reconciliation involves more than procedural novelty.

For Barth the doctrine of reconciliation brings together what has been traditionally discussed within the various loci of Christology, anthropology (sin), soteriology, and ecclesiology. The one doctrine of reconciliation for Barth includes both the person and work of Jesus Christ, the states of humiliation and exaltation, the offices of priest, king, and prophet; it includes the doctrine of sin as pride, sloth, and falsehood; it includes objective soteriology in the doctrines of justification, sanctification, and calling; it includes the doctrine of the church which is awakened, quickened, and sent; and it concludes, finally,

with subjective soteriology in the doctrines of the faith, love, and hope of the individual Christian. No wonder, then, that Barth, recognizing that the theologian is here at the “centre of all Christian knowledge”, asserts: “To fail here is to fail everywhere, while to be on the right track here makes it impossible to be completely mistaken in the whole” (p. ix).

Now that this important volume has appeared in translation,4 the English reader has the opportunity of studying this comprehensive center of Barth’s theology. In the first part of this review the main lines of Barth’s doctrine of reconciliation will be sketched.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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