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THE BARTH LEGACY: NEW ATHANASIUS OR ORIGEN REDIVIVUS? :A RESPONSE TO T. F. TORRANCE RICHARD A. MULLER Fuller Theological Semma1·y Pasadena, California I I N A SERIES of papers, essays, and introductions reaching back some twenty years, T. F. Torrance has provided an interpretation of the place arnd of the importance of Karl Barth not only in the theological debates of the twentieth cent- -bury but also and more importantly in the who1e of the history of doctrine. According to Torrance, Barth is not only the greatest theologian since Schleiermacher and the most important thinker of our own times, he is also the greatest theologian since Athanasius, the heir of the Reformers, and the thinker on whose insights our theological future must rest.1 In these essays by Torrance, the characterization of Barthian thought as "neo1 Cf. Karl Barth, Theology and Church: Shorter Writings, 1920-1928, trans. Louise Pettibone Smith, with an introduction (1962) by T. F. Torrance (N.Y.: Harper & Row, 1962), pp. 7, 9-10; T. F. Torrance, Theology in Reconstruction (London: SCJ'vf, 1965), pp. 99, 103-105, 111-115; idem, ReaUty and Evangelical Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1982), ,pp. 14-15; idem, Transformation and Convergence in the Frame of Knowledge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans , 1984), pp. vii-x, 279-283; idem, "The Legacy of Karl Barth (1886· 1986)," in Scottish Journal of Theology, 39 (1986): 289-308 and "Karl Barth and the Latin Heresy," in 39 (1986): 461-482. The latter two essays draw together themes from the earlier words. .Although the term "Latin heresy" does not seem to have been used by Torrance in any of his previous writings, it does represent a continuation of the attack on medieval and postReformation theology :first presented in his introduction to The School of Faith: The Oatechisms of the Reformed Ohi1rch (N.Y.: Harper, 1959), pp. lxx-lxxix, and elaborated in Space, Time and IncM'nation (London: Oxford, 1969). 673 674 RICHARD A, MULLER orthodox" takes on a new meaning. Barth himself rejected the term, just as (we might guess) Calvin or Chemnitz would have !'ejected any claim that their great dogmatic projects were the proper basis for a new orthodoxy in the sixteenth century. Both Calvin and Chemnitz stood for right teaching, for ortho-doxy, but neither would have presented their own views-no matter how correct they believed their exegesis and interpretation to be-as a final ground for the establishment of future theological formulations. Both in the Reformation aind in the twentieth century, it has been the next generation, the generation of the students of the great teaicher, that has moved definitely from the system of the teaicher to the establishment of a new orthodoxy . And in all fairness to the Protestant orthodox of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, we must l'ecognize that they neither exalted the theology of the Reformation to the status of a new orthodoxy (ovcer against the faith of the church throughout the centuries) nor identified any single theological system, whether that of Calvin or that of Chemnitz or of a later, more fully "orthodox" and "scholastic" thinker like Polanus or Gerhard, as an exhaustive statement of theological Ol1thodoxy for the chmch.2 In the writings of Torrance, we encounter this second-generation sense of orthodoxy but, I believe , without the caution characteristic of the Protestant orthodox of the seventeenth century. In the following essay, I propose to examine the origin and the subsequent trajectory of Torrance's views on Barth's relationship to the tradition, with attention to his view of Barth's patristic roots and of Barth's position over against the western theological mind. In the concluding sections of the essay, I will try to provide a corrective to Torrance's approach to the history of 1Christian doctrine and, on the basis of that correc-. tive, an alternative view of the lega1cy of Karl Barth. Torrance's pronouncements concerning the role of Barth in 2 Cf. Richard A. Muller, " Scholasticism Protestant and Catholic: Francis Turretin on the Object and Principles of Theology," in Ohuroh Historv, 55 ( 1986) ; 19::!-205, THE BARTH LEGACY 675 the history of Christian doctrine and, therefore, in its future development a11e based on an...


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