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  • Evangelical, Catholic, and Reformed: Doctrinal Essays on Barth and Related Themes by George Hunsinger
  • Lane Scruggs
George Hunsinger. Evangelical, Catholic, and Reformed: Doctrinal Essays on Barth and Related Themes. Grand Rapids, mi: Eerdmans, 2015. Pp. 331. Paper, $34.00. isbn 978-0-8028-6550-2.

In his latest published collection of essays, Princeton Seminary’s McCord Professor of Systematic Theology provides an engaging offering of Barth-related theology. The subtitle of the book states that the doctrinal essays will cover “Barth and Related Themes”; however, it could just as easily have said “Barth and Related Theologians.” Conventional Barth conversation partners are present throughout, such as Schleiermacher, Torrance, Jüngel, Pannenberg, and Moltmann, but they are joined by the likes of Calvin, Luther, Aquinas, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Cyril, and many others.

The majority of the essays, almost entirely republished from other sources, are occasional. That is, they address a specific context or question in contemporary Barth scholarship. Some read like a corrective to many of the caricatures of Barth that float through the twenty-first-century theological world, while others are direct rebuttals to more significant revisionist interpretations of Barth. In this way, the collection is a quasi-reference guide of Barthian hot topics: election, universal salvation, natural theology, analogia entis, sanctification, and even Christology. Taking just one example, in an updated piece (chapter 3), Hunsinger rebuffs his colleague Bruce McCormack by presenting twenty-five theses on Barth’s understanding of election and its relation to the doctrine of the [End Page 166] Trinity. The opposing interpretations of Barth from these two colleagues is, at this point, well known, and this chapter is exceedingly helpful in framing the discussion, albeit in an unsurprisingly robust anti-McCormack (revisionist) and pro-Hunsinger (classic) manner. The chapter gains even more currency and persuasiveness, moreover, because the first two chapters of the volume engage, respectively, Barth on the Trinity, and Barth’s Trinitarian theology in conversation with four later voices (Moltmann, Pannenberg, Jüngel, and Torrance). In other words, there is a coherence to the themes and ordering of the essays that carries the book beyond simply a handbook resource of random Barth-inspired thoughts from the previous fifteen years. For those readers, however, less interested in intra-Barthian polemics, fear not, for in true Hunsinger fashion, the essays stand on their own as examples of rigorous theological reasoning, and the mix of Barthian interlocutors is worth the read in its own right.

Hunsinger’s stellar reputation as an interpreter of Karl Barth is beyond question, but this collection supplements that by displaying his thematic breadth and historical depth as a constructive theologian who happens to work from a Barthian framework. Some of the most impressive and persuasive parts of the collection are Hunsinger’s own theological proposals (often manifest in helpful typologies) and even his qualified (though selective!) pushback on Barth. Although it is evident that Hunsinger intends for his title “Evangelical, Catholic, and Reformed” to be the predicates of the dogmatic theology of Barth, rather than ecclesial contexts per se, it is disappointing that the theological category of ecclesiology is absent from the essays. A reading of Barth’s ecclesiology in relation to an evangelical, catholic, and reformed example or precedence would have been welcomed in a collection like this. Instead, explicitly Trinitarian and christological themes (1, 2, 3, 7, 8) alongside justification and sanctification (10, 11, 12) make up more than half of the essays included.

In Evangelical, Catholic, and Reformed George Hunsinger has offered a thoroughly theological collection of some of the finest Barthian-based essays from the twenty-first century. Whether the essays are read through consecutively or out of order in fits and starts, they will not disappoint.

Lane Scruggs
Wycliffe College, Toronto School of Theology


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