Home > Barth for Armchair Theologians, John Franke, Karl Barth > Barth for Armchair Theologians: Intro/Chapter 1

Barth for Armchair Theologians: Intro/Chapter 1

John Franke opens his introduction by asserting, as many would, that when all is said and done Karl Barth will be considered the giant of the 20th Century, and in all likelihood one of the giants of Christian theology period. The irony, as Franke points out, is that despite this he is one of the least read theologians, in part due to the sheer mass of his Church Dogmatics. Franke points out though that this was not what Barth intended. In fact, Barth himself never completed his doctorate and saw his role as a theologian as assisting the church in its proclamation.

Franke then outlines what the book will be. “This little book tells the story of Barth’s theological journey from liberalism to a new form of theology” (Pg. x) Franke points out that in the end, Barth traced a path of theological thinking that drew the ire of the “conservatives” for being “too liberal” and the ire of the liberals for being “too conservative”. But John invites us to “… enter into the story for themselves and come to their own conclusions”

Chapter 1 is a brief biography of Barth’s childhood, followed by a clear and concise introduction to the three main figures (Schleiermacher, Ritschl, and Herrmann) and in theology who preceded Barth himself and thus shaped Barth’s early thinking. A few things stood out to me from this chapter that I thought were significant

  • I was unaware that Barth had grown up in a deeply pious family with a father who valued religious experience over “orthodoxy” and viewed “orthodoxy” as something that sometimes hindered faith
  • Franke offers a nice introduction to the enlightenment as well as summaries of Schleiermacher, Ritschl, and Herrmann – not too technical or in-depth, but adequate.
  • I think its helpful that Franke starts with a historical introduction and allows the story of Barth’s life to unfold in story form.

Chapter 2: “Breaking with Liberalism”

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