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Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century: Its Background and History [Paperback]

Karl Barth

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Product details

  • Paperback: 652 pages
  • Publisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; New edition (July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802860788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802860781
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 16.2 x 3.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,982,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H. Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Karl Barth (1886-1968) was a Swiss Reformed theologian who wrote many crucially-important theological works (e.g., Church Dogmatics: A Selection). He wrote in the Foreword to the original 1946 edition, "This is not a new book. Indeed, it is a relatively old work. During my time in Basle I was unable to continue and improve the lectures on the history of modern Protestant theology ... The reader... will find all sorts of gaps that I would not leave open today... I have allowed publication because I have constantly had occasion to wish and suggest that the attitude and approach of the younger generations of Protestant theologians to the period of the Church that is just past might be rather different from that which they now often seem to regard...as the norm."

Barth deals with Rousseau, Lessing, Kant, Herder, Novalis, Hegel, Schliermacher, Wegscheider, de Wette, Mahreineke, Baur, Tholuck, Menken, Feuerbach, Strauss, Schweizer, Dorner, Muller, Rothe, Hormann, Beck, Vilmar, Kohlbrugge, Blumhardt, and Ritschl. (In fact, the German title of the book was 'From Rousseau to Ritschl.')

He notes, "By the phrase 'problem of theology,' I mean the subject-matter of theology... It is a matter of God and his revelation... It is a matter of this man being in the Church as the place of organ of the covenant... It is a matter of a book, the Bible, in which everything is documented and told to us." (Pg. 80)

He asserts that "The factor which is decisive in making a theology theology does not belong to the motifs whose presence can be asserted or denied in anyone's work... The Christian quality of a theology ... is not on the same plane with the motifs of a theology that can truly be vouched for. I say all this in opposition to Brunner." (Pg. 428) He argues that "A bold apologetics proves to a particular generation the intellectual necessity of the theological principles taken from the Bible or from church dogma or from both; a more cautious apologetics proves at least their intellectual possibility." (Pg. 440)

He makes the following five points: "if we conceive of the Christian faith as a ... matter of history, (do we not) destroy it as faith?"; are not the New Testament records "useless as 'sources' of a pragmatically comprehensible picture of a man and of a life?"; "It is not a fact that a 'historical Jesus'... has nothing at all to do with the faith of the Apostles?"; does not a historian aiming at a "Life of Jesus" either "give a moralizing interpretation, or, like Strauss, he has to conceive of Jesus as a noble spiritual fanatic." (Pg. 565-566)

At least half of these German theologians are of little importance to most Americans. But whether you read this book as an introduction to them, or as an interesting window into Barth's thought, it is well worth the reading.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Barth and the Protestant Theology 12 Dec 2008
By J. Juarez - Published on Amazon.com
I love this kind of literature, it is a wealth of information about XVIII and XIX century Germany's theology and philosophy as well. I do not have access to German theological literature, but in this text, I found and read some sources that I wouldn't find anywhere because I cannot read German. I liked the XVIII century profile of the culture which the book describes as a background and soil of the theologians Barth examines.

Barth shows himself as an example of how a theologian have to tackle its task. The pressure and problems that a theologian has to answer and cope with are so complex and daunting.
5.0 out of 5 stars Though dead, yet he speaks again and again! 31 Jan 2014
By Claudius Clear - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This work is one of the most penetratingly insightful that I have ever read. A work of this kind comes but very rarely; it stands head and shoulders above most that would dare to venture into this domain. There is a sense in which you have never finished this work; you keep coming back to it again and again, only to find that there are depths that you thought you had plumbed but you actually had not. So you dive again. The scholarship of Barth is so recognized that it is to irritatingly state the obvious over again. Yes, and the Christian grace to be found therein puts paid to the shallow acrimony found in so many dwarfs of thought. Most important of all and in keeping with this colossus, the commitment to the Gospel in its multifarious dimensions has made this reader/reviewer want to burst into the Magnificat and with Mary say "My soul does magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoices ...Thank you Prof. Barth, who though dead(?) still speaketh! Claudius Clear.
4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really better on the Eighteenth Century 3 Nov 2002
By Bruce P. Barten - Published on Amazon.com
The first Complete English Edition had almost 400 pages for Part 1 - Background, before the few hundred pages of History which cover the century mentioned in the title, including chapters on Schleiermacher, Baur, Feuerbach, and Strauss. Most of the chapters have a heavy philosophical theme, but lines of verse liven up Barth's analysis of Lessing's play, "Nathan the Wise," the poems of Herder, and much of what Barth has to say about Novalis, who proclaimed, "The secret path leads inwards. Eternity with its worlds, the past and the future, is within us, or nowhere." Most pages in this book which have footnotes start with a footnote number 1, and anyone flipping through pages might well forget where "Frag., 593" can be found. An earlier review of this book has incorrect citations on David Friedrich Strauss. Albert Schweitzer wrote about Strauss in his THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS, a book which covered a topic on which Struass wrote three books with varying points of view and for different audiences. The biography called D. FR. STRAUSS AND THE THEOLOGY OF HIS TIME was by Hausrath, who called him "essentially a pathological figure."
The last page on Hegel provides the kind of contrast which makes a comparison of the two parts of this book imperative. "Theology had, and still has, no occasion to throw stones at Hegel, as if it had not trodden the same path as he, only not in so firm or so logical a manner as he did. When we come to consider Schleiermacher we shall have to ask very seriously whether his secret is a different one from that of Hegel, only that with Hegel it might be a secret which was to a great extent more respectable and at all events more instructive than that of Schleiermacher."
3 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well informed about some things I know 27 Oct 2002
By Bruce P. Barten - Published on Amazon.com
As philosophy has developed into a field in which a prime consideration is whether it is possible to catch someone in the act of thinking, theology is expected to be something a bit different. In Chapter 23, on Richard Rothe, Karl Barth wrote: "His biographer Hausrath reports in amazement that one never seemed to meet him when he was not in secret conversation with an invisible power and reality; on one bright day during his lifetime he is said to have appeared to one of his pupils `in a transfigured form'." For those who lack such attributes, as in the case of the most typical, Barth observed, "We may reflect upon the great practical problem he raised, which caused him to be so violently rejected, and think how he was in fact unable to find an effective counter to this rejection; we may observe him in the grief and loneliness which was brought upon him on the one hand by the truth he unwillingly represented, and on the other by the insufficiency and lack of fertility of his zeal for truth. Observing these things we involuntarily see not only him, bit in a certain aspect the typical theologian of the century, so that we are not then content, like Hausrath, to establish that Strauss was `essentially a pathological figure.' " I'm not giving a page number for anything in this review, knowing that a 1959 translation of eleven chapters of this book was published with the title FROM ROUSSEAU TO RITSCHL, the complete book was prepared from lectures "which Hitler prevented him from finishing" according to the Preface to the First Complete English Edition in the Judson Press edition, 1973, and I have not had an opportunity to compare either with whatever might be currently available.
What strikes me about the book, as a whole, is that it attempts to cover religious thought at a time which coincides with the concepts of Karl Jaspers in his unfinished history of THE GREAT PHILOSOPHERS VOLUME IV, subtitled: The Disturbers. Barth died in 1968 and Jaspers in 1969, though Jaspers was born in 1883 and Barth in 1886, and both were concerned about German thought in the century that produced them. Jaspers sees a relationship between Kant and Lessing, though "Kant's CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON appeared a few weeks after Lessing's death." Lessing might not have learned much from Kant, but Kant "learned aesthetics and religion from him. . . . Seen objectively, here were two Germans who overcame and went beyond the halfhearted and shallow Enlightenment of reason to the true enlightenment, which is the medium and presupposition of the philosophy of Existenz." Kant and Lessing are both considered in Part I/Background of PROTESTANT THEOLOGY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY by Karl Barth.
A big difference between Barth and Jaspers is on David Friedrich Strauss, who gets credit, in Jaspers, for information on a huge volume by Reimarus, which "became known at a time when it had lost most of its interest. A quarter of the material was published in 1850-52 in Niedner's JOURNAL OF HISTORICAL THEOLOGY; the rest was reported on in a careful analysis by D. F. Strauss." Barth is more interested in what Strauss might have been thinking, and quotes that, "he found it possible to write, as early as 7th April, 1837: `I am beginning to find the manner of pure science a dry one. I was not really meant to be a scholar; I am much too dependent upon mood, and far too self-occupied.' " (Chapter 19/Strauss). Barth even quotes Albert Schweitzer, [this is not in the book, D. FR. STRAUSS UND DIE THEOLOGIE SEINER ZEIT], who wrote, "Strauss must be loved in order to be understood." Barth suggests that we sympathize. "It may well be that in David Friedrich Strauss, just because there is no tragic quality in him, a secret ailment of the whole of modern theology is focused and represented in a special way, so that it was not without justice that he was probably the best-known and most influential theologian of the nineteenth century, in non-theological and non-church circles." It is in the field of music, in which the praise of Strauss for Mozart, the universal genius, where Barth found Strauss superior to those who most ferociously were his detractors. "In this poor Strauss really seems to have chosen the better part, as against Nietzsche, who, as is well known, was the helpless slave of the dreadful Wagner at the time of his great deriding of Strauss."
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