Multiauthor Volumes -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 53:1 (Spring 1991) p. 178
Attitudes to Barth frequently polarize between uncritical acceptance and hostile rejection. Reckoning with Barth: Essays in Commemoration of the Centenary of Karl Barth’s Birth (ed. N. Biggar; London and Oxford: Mowbray, 1988. xi, 215. [mathL]25.00) is a collection of papers read at the Oxford Conference in Commemoration of the Centenary of the Birth of Karl Barth (held at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, on 18–21 September 1986) that happily steers clear of both extremes. The volume can be recommended to anyone interested in exploring the thought of probably the most remarkable theological mind of the twentieth century. Apart from Geoffrey Bromiley’s paper describing the influence of Barth since 1945, all the contributors were asked to focus on one particular area. Thus the collection ranges across the spectrum, from Christology, creation, and epistemology to hermeneutics, ethics, politics, and moral agency. Moreover, there is also a spread in terms of the Barthian corpus, many of the papers focusing on particular parts of the Church Dogmatics, others on the Römerbrief or Rechtfertigung und Recht.
The editor, in his introduction, sums up the coherence of the volume by pointing to some themes which recur throughout. One is the peculiar integrity of theology, whereby Barth constantly sought to redirect it to its own special theme of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. Another is Barth’s concern that theology be done in a churchly context, evidenced by the title Church Dogmatics. The relation between divine and human reason and that between divine and human agency also looms large. Geoffrey Bromiley recognizes that Barth has had only a small and diminishing band of disciples. However, he has influenced a great many in their work: T. F. Torrance, Eberhard Jüngel, Otto Weber, Hendrikus Berkhof, and, less directly, Järgen Moltmann, Helmut Thielicke, Jacques Ellul, and (among Catholics) the young Käng, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Karl Rahner. In England and the USA, resistance has been the norm. Bromiley considers Barth’s great contribution to have been the Copernican turn he initiated in putting God once again in center stage, thus recalling theology to its proper theme.
As usual, Colin Gunton does not disappoint us. In a survey of chap. 5 of the Church Dogmatics, he explores both the relationship of Barth to the Enlightenment and also his connection with the postcritical thought of Michael Polanyi. Gunton argues that Barth points the way to the transcendence of the subject-object polarization of Kant, a move which has been spearheaded by Polanyi’s view of knowledge as personal, with a tacit prearticulative dimension. Gunton is critically aware of Barth’s weaknesses: the strong elements of Kantian thought that he never sh...
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