Lesson 38B Preview: Prof. David Clough on Karl Barth; Princeton Univ. Professors and Seminarians Assess Karl Barth’s Contribution; Prof. Tom Greggs on Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Videos on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Wikipedia tells us that “Neo-orthodoxy, in Europe also known as theology of crisis and dialectical theology, is an approach to theology in Protestantism that was developed in the aftermath of the First World War (1914–1918). It is characterized as a reaction against doctrines of 19th-century liberal theology and a reevaluation of the teachings of the Reformation, much of which had been in decline (especially in western Europe) since the late 18th century.It is primarily associated with two Swiss professors and pastors, Karl Barth[4] (1886–1968) and Emil Brunner (1899–1966), even though Barth himself expressed his unease in the use of the term. ”

David Clough, our presenter in the video, is a Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Chester in the United Kingdom.

“Karl Barth (May 10, 1886 – December 10, 1968) (pronounced “Bart”) was a Swiss Reformed theologian whom critics hold to be among the most important Christian thinkers of the 20th century; Pope Pius XII described him as the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas.[1] Beginning with his experience as a pastor, he rejected his training in the predominant liberal theology typical of 19th-century European Protestantism.[2]

Instead he embarked on a new theological path initially called dialectical theology, due to its stress on the paradoxical nature of divine truth (e.g., God’s relationship to humanity embodies both grace and judgment).[3] Other critics have referred to Barth as the father of neo-orthodoxy[2] — a term emphatically rejected by Barth himself.[4] The most accurate description of his work might be “a theology of the Word.”[5] Barth’s theological thought emphasized the sovereignty of God, particularly through his interpretation of the Calvinistic doctrine of election.”[Wikipedia]

Princeton University professors and seminarians assess Karl Barth:

“Dietrich Bonhoeffer (February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and martyr. He was a participant in the German resistance movement against Nazism and a founding member of the Confessing Church. He was involved in plans by members of the Abwehr (the German Military Intelligence Office) to assassinate Adolf Hitler. This led to his arrest in April 1943 and execution by hanging in April 1945, 23 days before the Nazis’ surrender. His view of Christianity’s role in the secular world has become very influential.[Wikipedia]

Barth and Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer Speaks Out Against Hitler

Bonhoeffer: Is Assassination Ethical?

Bonhoeffer: Who Am I?

Quotes for Your Consideration: “The revelation of God in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the judging but also reconciling presence of God in the world of human religion, that is, in the realm of man’s attempts to justify and sanctify himself before a capricious and arbitrary picture of God. The church is the locus of true religion, so far as through grace it lives by grace .” (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, p.280).

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Bible Verses for Reflection: Mark 4: 11-20; John 1: 14

Lutheran Satire

The “How To” Show: How to Start a Cult

…and you lost me

The Two Faces of Rome

A Bonus Lesson Studying and Defending the Gospel: Rudolph Bultmann, Martin Hengel, John Lennox, and The Barmen Declaration clicking here.

Discussion Questions:

1. Prof. Clough describes the impact on Karl Barth of many German mainstream liberal theologians supporting Kaiser Wilhelm at the outbreak of WWI. How did these pre-war events help shape Barth’s theological development?

2. What was different about Barth’s response to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans? How did this response influence his writing of the commentary on the Epistle?

3. I know thee, / I love thee, / Give me help, / As I seek to / understand more / fully.

How did the above prayer from St. Anselm influence Karl Barth’s approach to theology?

4. Barth’s Church Dogmatics, reflected “a new insight”, according to Dr. Clough,  into how such a major, multi-volume work should be accomplished. This new insight, however, triggered a negative reaction among some of the European theological establishment. What was Barth challenging? Were there political and social implications to this debate?

5. What was the Confessing Church? What was the Barmen Declaration, and how did they both come about? [The text of the Barmen Declaration is available in the Bonus Lesson that follows.]

6. Costly grace? Cheap grace? Can you define these concepts? What was the historical-political context that led Dietrich Bonhoeffer to develop them?

7. Why do you think Barth’s described Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Sanctorum Communio as a “theological miracle”? In the spirit of this work, how might you complete the following phrase from it: Christ is really only present…

8.”…he who resists authority resists the ordinance of God”. Who said this? How would imagine Bonhoeffer responding to this text in light of his most deeply held beliefs and commitments?


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