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Karl Barth (1886 – 1968)


Swiss Reformed pastor, and one of the most influential Christian thinkers of the 20th century, a leader of what became known as the neo-orthodox movement.
Karl Barth
The doctrine of election is the sum of the Gospel because of all words that can be said or heard it is the best: that God elects man; that God is for man too the One who loves in freedom. It is grounded in the knowledge of Jesus Christ because He is both the electing God and elected man in One. It is part of the doctrine of God because originally God's election of man is a predestination not merely of man but of Himself. Its function is to bear basic testimony to eternal, free and unchanging grace as the beginning of all the ways and works of God.
Barth quotes
The power of God can be detected neither in the world of nature nor in the souls of men. It must not be confounded with any high, exalted, force, known or knowable.
Barth
The goal of human life is not death but resurrection.




Barth Karl quotes
The center is not something which is under our control, but something that controls us.
Barth Karl
The Truth lies not in the Yes and not in the No, but in the knowledge and the beginning from which the Yes and the No arise.
Karl Barth quotes
Faith in God's revelation has nothing to do with an ideology which glorifies the status quo.
Karl Barth
Since Jesus Christ is a servant, looking to Him cannot mean looking away from the world, from men, from life, or, as is often said, from oneself. It cannot mean looking away into some distance or height. To look to Him is to see Him at the very centre, to see Him and the history which, accomplished in Him, heals everything and all things, as the mystery, reality, origin and goal of the whole world, all men, all life. To look to Him is to cleave to Him as the One who bears away the sin of the world. It is to be bound and liberated, claimed, consoled, cheered and ruled by Him.
Barth Karl quotes
We are now assuming that we have here the centre and goal of all God's works, and therefore the hidden beginning of them all. We are also assuming that the prominent place occupied by this divine work has something corresponding to it in the essence of God, that the Son forms the centre of the Trinity, and that the essence of the divine being has, so to speak, its locus ... in His work, in the name and person of Jesus Christ.
Barth
"The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed!" This is the voice of our conscience, telling us of the righteousness of God. And since conscience is the perfect interpreter of life, what it tells us is no question, no riddle, no problem, but a fact — the deepest, innermost, surest fact of life: God is righteous. Our only question is what attitude toward the fact we ought to take.
We shall hardly approach the fact with our critical reason. The reason sees the small and the larger but not the large. It sees the preliminary, but not the final, the derived but not the original, the complex but not the simple. It sees what is human but not what is divine.
We shall hardly be taught this fact by men.
Barth Karl
One of the cardinal points of Barth's doctrine of God is that He is the transcendent God. On every hand Barth is out to set God immensely above the dieties of the world, and the substitutes for God which modern philosophy and scientific research into Nature's forces have put into "modern" man's mind. ... Barth makes it explicit from the beginning that God is the unknowable and indescribable God. The hidden God remains hidden. Even when we say we know him our knowledge is of an imcomprehensible Reality. ... Barth's contention is summed up in the dictum: Finitum non Capax infiniti, the finite has no capacity for the Infinite. ... On every hand Barth speaks of time and eternity as two distinct realms, an unbridged chasm between God and man, and the unknown God.
Karl Barth
Man as man can never know God: His wishing, seeking, and striving are all in vain.




Karl Barth quotes
When I come before these men I do not have to explain that we are all sinners. They have committed every sin there is. All I have to tell them is that I, too, am a sinner.
Karl Barth
The Gospel is not a religious message to inform mankind of their divinity or to tell them how they may become divine. The Gospel proclaims a God utterly distinct from men.
Barth quotes
The Resurrection is the revelation: the disclosing of Jesus as the Christ, the appearing of God, and the apprehending of God in Jesus. The Resurrection is the emergence of the necessity of giving glory to God: the reckoning with what is unknown and unobservable in Jesus, the recognition of Him as Paradox, Victor and Primal History. In the Resurrection the new world of the Holy Spirit touches the old world of the flesh, but touches it as a tangent touches a circle, that is, without touching it. And, precisely because it does not touch it, it touches it as its frontier — as the new world.
Barth Karl
Barth accepts and welcomes scholarly criticism of the Bible, even when it shows the Scriptures to be full of errors and inconsistencies. He does not consider the Bible infallible, and he deplores orthodox Protestants who make it into "a paper Pope." Nevertheless, the Bible testifies to God's Word, which is revealed to man through human speech. The words that the Biblical writers use may not always be the appropriate ones, but they must be accepted as words elected by God.
Barth Karl quotes
He is the One who stands above us and also above our highest and deepest feelings, strivings, intuitions, above the products, even the most sublime, of the human spirit. God in the highest means first of all … He who is in no way established in us, in no way corresponds to a human disposition and possibility, but who is in every sense established simply in Himself and is real in that way; and who is manifest and made manifest to us men, not because of our seeking and finding, feeling and thinking, but again and again, only through Himself. It is this God in the highest who has turned as such to man, given Himself to man, made Himself knowable to him … God in the highest, in the sense of the Christian Confession, means He who from on high has condescended to us, has come to us, has become ours.
Karl Barth
At the center of the discussion of the nature of practical theology is the issue of the relation of theory to praxis. If theory precedes and determines practice, then practice tends to be concerned primarily with methods, techniques and strategies for ministry, lacking theological substance. If practice takes priority over theory, ministry tends to be based on pragmatic results rather than prophetic revelation … Barth, from the beginning, resisted all attempts to portray theory and praxis in opposition to one another. In his early Church Dogmatics he described any distinction between “theoretical” and “practical” as a “primal lie, which has to be resisted in principal”. The understanding of Christ as the light of life can be understood only as a “theory which has its origin and goal in praxis”.
Karl Barth quotes
There is a notion that complete impartiality is the most fitting and indeed the normal disposition for true exegesis, because it guarantees complete absence of prejudice. For a short time, around 1910, this idea threatened to achieve almost a canonical status in Protestant theology. But now, we can quite calmly describe it as merely comical.
Karl Barth
The saving of anyone is something which is not in the power of man, but only of God. No one can be saved — in virtue of what he can do. Everyone can be saved — in virtue of what God can do. The divine claim takes the form that it puts both the obedient and the disobedient together and compels them to realise this, to recognise their common status in face of the commanding God.
Barth Karl
His treatment of Christian dogma has soared across denominational boundaries, affecting the thought of Baptists, Lutherans and Episcopalians as well as his own Reformed Church. Preachers read him, and his thought probably affects a good share of the sermons spoken in U.S. churches any given Sunday, but laymen hardly know his name. ... In a way, this lack of a following is a tribute to the originality and individuality of Barth's accomplishments. His kind of God-thinking has been commonly called "neo-orthodoxy" and "theology of crisis" — labels that Barth rejects, since they scarcely define it at all.


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