God Here and Now
Karl Barth is considered one of the most influential theologians of this century. Initially educated in the classic, liberal German tradition – he rebelled and embraced a primacy – not just of the scripture – but of a necessity for an overall centrality of Christ. His phrase, there is “no Anthropology without Christology,” serves to both underscore and embody his thought. Barth is one of the mountains that any aspiring theologian must eventually try to climb. God Here and Now is perhaps an introductory hike into his thought.
Barth’s book Epistle to the Romans was once referred to as a ‘bomb gone off in the theologians’ playground,’ because of it’s radical and resonating challenge to liberal thought. These same contentions are essentially spelled out in this book – which serves as a primary introduction to both his theological method and it’s attendant assertions. Barth outlines his Christological focus and the supremacy of the position of the scripture in all theological formulation via a series of transcripts and reflective comments regarding 7 addresses that he made throughout the course of his theological career.
Each chapter/speech represents an applicative dimension of his thought and the contentions unique therein.
1) The Christian Proclamation Here and Now
In this chapter, Barth describes the essence of the Christian faith and explores it’s theological assertions in regards to it’s own nature, the nature of man, the position of scripture within it, and it’s relation to the world to which is it made known.
2) The Sovereignty of God’s Word and the Decision of Faith
In this chapter, Barth explores the nature of God’s Word, the reasons and the ways that it’s sovereignty has been lost in theology and must be rediscovered, the decision of the believer to believe in it, and the centrality of the believer’s decisions as it relates back to the God’s Word.
3) The Proclamation of God’s Free Grace
In this chapter, Barth explores dynamics and essences of Grace as it relates to the believer; God’s aseity, the freedom of God’s grace, the potentials for both it’s expanse and limitation, and the centrality of Christ within it.
4) The Authority and Significance of the Bible: Twelve Theses
In this chapter, Barth discusses the authority of the and maintains that any correct discussion of it can only contribute to it’s further affirmation. He goes through a list of statements that seek to explore the nature of it’s authority as it relates to itself, man, the world, and belief itself.
5) The Church: The Living Congregation of the Living Lord Jesus Christ
In this chapter, Barth discusses the nature of the essence of the Church in terms of how it functions and relates to itself, the nature of the threats that exist against the church in terms of how it can actually experience death, and then the renewal of the church – or how it can be resurrected to life.
6) Christian Ethics
In this chapter, Barth explores the world of ethics in terms of its relation to the human state and the world, it’s source, and it’s limitations.
In this chapter, Barth reflects upon a conference that he attended – of which the topic was Humanism. He comments in regards to what it is generally accepted as being, as well as the futility that others experience in both further definition and application. Barth reflects on the inherent awkwardness of a ”Christian Humanism” and the potentially inherent futility thereof. He also explores the incompatibility of the Christian faith because of the nature of its “exclusiveness” in relation to all other human states/thoughts.
Barth finds both acceptance and concern across both liberal and conservative isles of theological thought. Some Evangelicals have difficulty with Barth’s idea of the Scripture becoming the Word only when it actually “impacts” the reader – whereas Liberals view Barth as potentially constraining and “Patriarchal” in his theological method. Few theologians offer a body of work as expansive, deep and as potentially confrontational as does Barth. He takes his work seriously – but often, not himself. It has often been said that he was the one true theological genius of his time. It is very likely that even with the coming of our next generation’s revealed luminaries, they will themselves always be cast as a shadow within his own light.