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RECENT BARTHIANA 1 JOHN D. GODSEY Wesley Theological Seminary Washington, D.C. N 0 ONE CAN responsibly do theology today without reckoning with the prodigious legacy of Karl Barth, the Swiss Reformed theologian who was born in 1886, began theological studies in 1904, entered a full-time pastorate in 1911, taught dogmatics successively at Gottingen, Munster, Bonn, and Basel between 1921 and 1962, and died in 1968. From his electrifying Commentary on Romans through his multivolumed but unfinished Church Dogmatics he wrote unceasingly in the areas of exegetical, historical, ethical, practical, and dogmatic theology, and ventured from time to time into the realms of politics and culture. Helper in organizing textile workers while pastor in Safenwil, questioner of major assumptions of neoProtestant liberal theology, spiritual leader of the German Confessing Church's struggle against Nazism, principal author of the Barmen Confession, participant in the 1948 Amsterdam Assembly of the World Council of Churches, and invited guest of Pope Paul VI in Rome in 1966-these are some of the highlights of Barth's colorful career. The books under review provide impressive testimony to Barth's ongoing significance for modern theology. One is a work 1 Karl Barth, The Gottingen Dogmatics: Instruction in the Christian Religion , vol. I, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Eerdmans, 1991). 490 pp. $39.95 cloth. George Hunsinger, How To Read Karl Barth: The Shape of His Theology (Oxford Univ. Press, 1991). 298 pp. $32.50 cloth. John Macken, S.J., The Autonomy Theme in the Church Dogmatics: Karl Barth and his Critics (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990). 232 pp. $54.50 cloth. S. W. Sykes, ed., Karl Barth: Centenary Essays (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1989). 171 pp. $39.50 cloth. 269 270 JOHN D. GODSEY by Barth himself, two grew out of doctoral dissertations, and the other contains interpretative essays by five theologians who wished to honor Barth on the occasion of his centenary year in 1986. To appreciate properly the surprising appearance of Barth's Gottingen Dogmatics requires a bit of history. After ten years as a pastor in the village of Safenwil in north-central Switzerland, Barth was called in 1921 to be "Honorary Professor of Reformed Theology" on the theological faculty of the University of Gottingen in Germany. Having neither doctorate nor teaching experience, he was offered the cp_air on the basis of the first edition of Romans ( 1919) with the expectation that he would represent the Reformed tradition in this German Lutheran stronghold . During his first years he presented exegetical lectures on biblical texts as well as historical lectures that would help him learn his own tradition: the Heidelberg Catechism, Calvin, Zwingli, the Reformed Confessions, and Schleiermacher. Not until 1924-25 did he dare attempt to lecture on dogmatics, and even then he was not allowed to use the title "dogmatics," which was reserved strictly for Lutherans, so he chose to name his lecture series " Instruction in the Christian Religion," recalling Calvin's chief work, Institutio religionis christianae. Unlike his second cycle of lectures in Munster in 1926 (published as Prolegomena to Die Christliche Dogmatik in 1927) and the magisterial Church Dogmatics that began in 1932, these first lectures on dogmatics were never published during Barth's life time. Preserved in his own handwriting, they were edited and finally made public in 1990 in the Swiss edition of his Collected Works. The first of two volumes has now appeared in English and comprises four of seven chapters : three on the doctrine of the Word of God (as Revelation, as Holy Scripture, and as Christian Preaching) plus one on the doctrine of God. Three other major loci (Anthropology, Reconciliation, and Redemption) will appear in Volume Two. Professor Daniel L. Migliore of Princeton Seminary has written a 48-page Introduction to the whole, which provides brilliant insights into Barth's theology and points RECENT BARTHIANA 271 out the particular characteristics and peculiarities of this first (and only completed!) set of lectures on dogmatics. Why should one read the Gottingen Dogmatics rather than, say, the Church Dogmatics? First, Barth's basic theology, at least the lineaments thereof, is to be found here in what is perhaps its most accessible form; in relatively short compass he sets forth his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 269-275
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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