Home > Barth for Armchair Theologians, John Franke, Karl Barth, Main > Barth for Armchair Theologians: Chapter 4-7

Barth for Armchair Theologians: Chapter 4-7

So I got a little behind on my blogging about Barth for Armchair Theologians mainly because I was reading it so fast to the point where I finished the book today. So I’m going to summarize the last four chapters in this post and then post my summary thoughts.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 is entitled “The Impossible Impossibility” which traces Barth’s rise to popularity as he shifted from Switzerland into Germany and began his time there. What I found most ironic was that Barth was actually throughly unqualified to teach what he had been called to teach (Reformed dogmatics) and thus spent much of his time lecturing in order to teach himself. It’s interesting that he highlights the Heidelberg Catechism which is something that Barth references a great deal in the Church Dogmatics. Franke also highlights Barth’s understanding of Reformed Theology as theology that is constantly reforming, hence for Barth reformed theology has never “arrived”. Finally, this chapter brings to light Barth’s rediscovery of John Calvin and the ultimate impact that that had on his development.

The next section of the chapter highlights Barth’s reference to the “impossible possibility” of theology. Basically, as humans we are inherently unable to speak of God but because God acts in revelation we thus can attempt to speak of God. This is one of many dialectical tensions that emerge in Barth’s thought, but this is perhaps the most central.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 is entitled, “Bearing Christian Witness” which, given the impossibility of speaking about God is all that we can do. This, along with the belief that Dogmatics was ultimately to serve the church led him to undertake “The Church Dogmatics” rather than his previously attempted, “Christian Dogmatics”.   The final part of the chapter highlights Barth’s engagement with the Nazi Party in Germany, the Barmen Declaration, and his ultimate dismissal for refsing to sign an oath of faithfulness to the German government.

Chapter 6

Chapter 6, entitled “The Church Dogmatics” is by far the longest and therefore its going to get the shortest summary.  It traces the outline and shape of the Church Dogmatics and then summarizes each volume.

Chapter 7

The final chapter traces Barth’s legacy and his post-retirement legacy.  Franke devotes considerable time to outlining two interpretations of Barth – the neo-orthodox interpretation and the postmodern interpretation.  Franke argues that each interpretation of Barth ultimately fails to account for Barth’s dialectical style.  The neo-orthodox side diminishes the “God as wholly other” emphasis, while the postmodern interpretation neglects God givenenss and revelation.  Franke ultimately argues that is Barth’s dialectical style that must govern our reading of Barth.

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