The Theology of Karl Barth (Communio Book) Paperback – 1 Jun 1993
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At the back of HuvB's argument is Barth's attack on the analogia entis, the analogy of being. Barth call is "the artifact of Antichrist." HuvB's longer response is at the end of the book and end of this article. HuvB begins with a passionate discussion on the current schism between Rome and Protestantism and notes the only way it will be healed is if dialogue begins (whether or not it will be healed is a different story). He notes some of Barth's own comments, including Barth's own penchant criticisms against the Protestant idea of "the invisible church." In short, this provides HuvB the justification for writing: the unity of the Church.
However, it didn't provide HuvB with the coherency of thought. This book does not work as a guide to Barth's theology. HuvB spends very little time on the key elements as they are worked out in CD. Rather, he focuses on the issues where Barth is most in agreement and most in disagreement.
HuvB begins by noting the Origenist tendencies in Barth's early editions of Rommerbrief, and how this Origenism would give way to another form of dialectics. By dialectics HuvB means "setting one word against another to allow a way through the unavoidable" (59). HuvB points out that Barth cannot simply be labeled a "dialectic theologian," for he did not always rely on dialectics (earlier editions of Rommerbrief), and dialectics anyway is a sort of method in theology, not a new form of theology.
Analogia fidei: By this Barth wants to focus on action, not being. Being is a vague and generic category. Analogy by itself is not a bad thing (94). How one is using the analogy is key: are we making analogies between man's essence and God's essence, or man's acts and God's acts?
So what is the issue with the analogia entis? Here is where I think both Barth and HuvB miss the point. Barth was correct to identify the key problem as analogia entis. I suspect, though, he failed to fight the battle on the right fronts. He was not clear about the key problems. At the end, HuvB is able to rebut all of Barth's objections. Neither, though, saw through to some of the key issues. Had Barth said that Rome does start with a Hellenistic metaphysics (e.g., Plotinus's "One" handed down through Augustine's doctrine of simplicity, which Aquinas will significantly harden), he would have been able to show some real problems in the analogia entis. He didn't do that. Instead he kept asserting, per HuvB's gloss, that analogia entis is wrong because it posits a continuity between God's nature and man's, robbing God of the prerogative to be God.
I think Barth is correct, but he phrased the issue in such a way that allows HuvB to rebut him thoroughly. 20th Century Roman Catholicism faced the "sunaturel" controversy ala Henri de Lubac. To what extent is nature graced, or something like that. I am not going to pretend I understand the ins and outs of the controversy, suffice to say that HuvB had done his homework in this field and competently responded to Barth.
HuvB begins this section, which is the last major section of the book, with a warning to Protestants on what happens when one utterly identifies the imago dei as grace, so when Adam falls--presumably a "fall from grace--" he also falls from God's image. HuvB's comments on Calvin are interesting: "In the hands of Protestant thinkers, therefore, the concept of nature is used dialectically. For Calvin nature can mean the pristine creation of human nature as it really is. 'Here the ambiguity of the concept of nature reaches its high point. It can be something positive of something negative. Calvin can say that sin is unnatural or that it is the epitome of human nature'" (220).
At this point, though, HuvB's argument meanders. He continues with an exposition both of Chalcedon and the development of doctrine, presumably to point towards a good use of analogia entis. He finishes this section with a 20th century "Catholic Roll-Call," where he identifies the key theses of his friends' works on nature and grace. Barth has since been eclipsed from the picture.
In conclusion we must note this is not HuvB's best work. Students who come to this book having read his watershed book on St Maximus will be thoroughly disappointed. It simply does not have the same "flavor." (It is much easier to read, though.) One is also reminded that things which appear most dissimilar are actually most similar. While Barth and HuvB disagree on key issues, one also suspects they are operating from the same presuppositions. If one is doing post-graducate work on Barth, or wants a decent introduction to Barth, this book is worth reading. True, there are better and more scholarly books on Barth, but this book isn't bad, either. As an exposition of Barth's thought, however, this book certainly is not.
the many similarities and contrasts within the light of Catholic theology. Balthasar does write in such a way that Barth can and does speak for himself and this alone makes this book worthwhile. This is a book that Protestants and Catholics alike can find rewarding.