Directions in the Study of Barth’s Christology -- By: Richard A. Muller

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 48:1 (Spring 1986)
Article: Directions in the Study of Barth’s Christology
Author: Richard A. Muller

Directions in the Study of Barth’s Christology*

Richard A. Muller

Now that the complete writings of Karl Barth are finally being issued in a critical edition comprising all of the hitherto inaccessible lectures—from the early lectures on theology at Göttingen and Münster (1924–26) in which Barth developed a complete three volume dogmatics1 to the final fragmentary sections of the Church Dogmatics2 —a clearer and surer assessment of his theology and its significance for the twentieth century will most surely be forthcoming. A central issue in this new appraisal must certainly be Barth’s Christology and his Christocentrism, issues identified by Barth himself as central both doctrinally and epistemologically to his entire theological enterprise. Despite the importance of these issues to an understanding of Barth, there is a paucity of material in English. The only extended essays on Barth’s Christology extant in English are the two works reviewed here.3 In this review, I propose to examine both of these essays and then, using their virtues and defects as a point of departure, to present a series of analytical comments on

* John Thompson, Christ in Perspective: Christological Perspectives in the Theology of Karl Barth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978. viii, 202, o.p.). Charles T. Waldrop, Karl Barth’s Christology: Its Basic Alexandrian Character (Amsterdam/ Berlin/New York: Mouton, 1984. xvi, 265. $35.60).

Barth’s Christology itself and to set forth several directions to be taken in the future assessment of Barth’s work.

The discussion of Barth’s Christology is not at all an easy task. Thompson begins his study of “Christological perspectives” with the comment that Barth developed “no Christology as such” but, admittedly, paradoxically, that Barth’s theology is “all Christology.”4 Although we disagree with this particular assessment of Barth and would insist that Barth does have a specific and isolatable Christology, it is true that his Christology does not fit easily into traditional forms. Indeed, if we look for the standard topics of dogmatic Christology in Barth’s topical headings, we will not easily find them. The relation between Barth’s Christological discussion and the standard patterns of Christology-the division of the topic into categories of person and work, the two states and the threefold office—can best be described as encounter, reevaluation and reconstruction: Barth examines these traditional forms and comments, “An abstract ...

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