Cover: The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Karl Barth by George Hunsinger and Keith L. Johnson

Volume I

Wiley Blackwell Companions to Religion

The Wiley Blackwell Companions to Religion series presents a collection of the most recent scholarship and knowledge about world religions. Each volume draws together newly commissioned essays by distinguished authors in the field and is presented in a style that is accessible to undergraduate students, as well as scholars and the interested general reader. These volumes approach the subject in a creative and forward‐thinking style, providing a forum in which leading scholars in the field can make their views and research available to a wider audience.

Recently Published

  1. The Blackwell Companion to Religious Ethics

    Edited by William Schweiker

  2. The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality

    Edited by Arthur Holder

  3. The Blackwell Companion to the Study of Religion

    Edited by Robert A. Segal

  4. The Blackwell Companion to the Qur’ān

    Edited by Andrew Rippin

  5. The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought

    Edited by Ibrahim M. Abu‐Rabi’

  6. The Blackwell Companion to the Bible and Culture

    Edited by John F. A. Sawyer

  7. The Blackwell Companion to Catholicism

    Edited by James J. Buckley, Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt, and Trent Pomplun

  8. The Blackwell Companion to Eastern Christianity

    Edited by Ken Parry

  9. The Blackwell Companion to the Theologians

    Edited by Ian S. Markham

  10. The Blackwell Companion to the Bible in English Literature

    Edited by Rebecca Lemon, Emma Mason, John Roberts, and Christopher Rowland

  11. The Blackwell Companion to the New Testament

    Edited by David E. Aune

  12. The Blackwell Companion to Nineteenth Century Theology

    Edited by David Fergusson

  13. The Blackwell Companion to Religion in America

    Edited by Philip Goff

  14. The Blackwell Companion to Jesus

    Edited by Delbert Burkett

  15. The Blackwell Companion to Paul

    Edited by Stephen Westerholm

  16. The Blackwell Companion to Religion and Violence

    Edited by Andrew R. Murphy

  17. The Blackwell Companion to Christian Ethics, Second Edition

    Edited by Stanley Hauerwas and Samuel Wells

  18. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Practical Theology

    Edited by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore

  19. Wiley Blackwell Companion to Wisdom Literature

    Edited by Samuel L. Adams and Matthew Goff

  20. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Religion and Materiality

    Edited by Vasudha Narayanan

  21. The Wiley Blackwell Concise Companion to the Hadith

    Edited by Daniel W. Brown

  22. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Christian Martyrdom

    Edited by Paul Middleton

  23. The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Karl Barth (2 volumes)

    Edited by George Hunsinger and Keith L. Johnson

The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Karl Barth

Barth and Dogmatics

Volume I

Edited by

George Hunsinger and Keith L. Johnson

No alt text required.

To Eberhard Busch


George Hunsinger and Keith L. Johnson

Readers of Karl Barth often find his work at once familiar and strange. The familiarity stems from the largely traditional subject matter of his theology. The questions, debates, and doctrines that Barth considers have been the currency of Christian theologians for centuries. He talks about recognizable topics like the triune God, Jesus Christ, the church, and the Christian life. He cites the Bible regularly, nearly 15 000 times in the Church Dogmatics alone, and he interacts with the work of well‐known figures within the Christian tradition. All these things make Barth's theology appear accessible to new readers, as if they have found a theologian who speaks a language nearly everyone can understand. But one does not have to read very far in Barth's work before things become strange. Barth uses everyday language in new and surprising ways. He often places fairly simple claims in dialectical tension with one another to produce an unexpected and complex result. Major figures within the tradition might be cited approvingly on one page only to have central aspects of their work rejected and reconfigured a few pages later. Barth frequently produces innovative readings of Scripture that stretch the imagination. No one who reads Barth comes away without being challenged, provoked, and changed.

We edited this Companion with these readers of Barth in mind. Our goal was to help them better understand those parts of Barth's theology that seem strange so they can see the familiar aspects of his theology with new eyes. We sought to create a comprehensive resource that covers nearly every topic of interest related to Barth's life and work. The diverse set of scholars who participated are experts in their subject matter, and they brought great care to their work. Each chapter was composed with the aim of providing both clarity and depth to the topic. New readers of Barth should find that the chapters serve as a helpful introduction to the most important questions, themes, and ideas in Barth's work. Experienced readers should discover fresh insights and interpretations that will raise new questions and enrich their scholarship.

This Companion is divided into two volumes and four parts. Volume 1 explores “Barth and Dogmatics.” Part I introduces “The Life of Karl Barth” through two timelines of Barth's life and a chapter‐length survey of his historical and theological significance. Part II examines “Barth on Doctrinal Theology.” The 33 chapters in this section explore Barth's thought on key topics and questions in dogmatic theology as reflected both in Barth's early work and his Church Dogmatics. Volume 2 turns attention to “Barth in Dialogue.” The 22 chapters in Part III place Barth into conversation with major figures in the history of Christian thought in order to capture a true, critical dialogue between them. Part IV explores “Barth on Major Themes.” Over the course of 21 chapters, Barth's relationship to a variety of movements, traditions, religions, and events are explored with the goal of placing his thought in its theological, ecumenical, and historical context.

Projects of this size are the product of a community. We are grateful to editors and production team at Wiley‐Blackwell both for inviting us to take on this project and for supporting our work along the way. Special recognition should be given to Rebecca Harkin, Joseph Catherine, Benjamin Elijah, Jake Opie, Richard Samson, and Sandra Kerka. They were gracious and professional at every turn. We also want to express our deep appreciation to each of our authors for their contribution to this project. Several of them put other tasks on hold, or worked on short time frames, in order to meet the deadlines associated with this project.

Special recognition should be given to Ty Kieser, who worked as an editorial assistant on this project while completing his doctoral studies at Wheaton College. Ty's encyclopedic knowledge of this project proved to be invaluable time and again. His enthusiasm, work ethic, and joyful spirit kept this project from becoming overwhelming despite its size. In addition to bringing every chapter into conformity with the bibliographical requirements, he also raised good questions and contributed insights that made the work stronger. It was a privilege to work with such a fine theologian.

One of the best days we experienced over the course of this project was the day Eberhard Busch accepted our invitation to participate in it. The importance of Professor Busch's contributions to Barth studies over the past 50 years can hardly be overstated. His keen mind, gracious spirit, and willingness to share his knowledge – not to mention his close personal acquaintance with Barth – have strengthened and enriched Barth's legacy. In honor of his lifetime of work, we dedicate this Companion to him.

List of Contributors

Kimlyn J. Bender is Professor of Christian Theology at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

Matthew J.A. Bruce is Visiting Associate Lecturer of Theology at Wheaton College.

Andrew Burgess is Dean of Bishopdale Theological College in Nelson, New Zealand.

David C. Chao is a PhD Candidate in Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.

John L. Drury is Associate Professor of Theology and Christian Ministry at Indiana Wesleyan University.

David Gibson is a Minister of Trinity Church in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Jason Goroncy is Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology at Whitley College, University of Divinity.

David Guretzki is Adjunct Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Briercrest Seminary.

Kevin W. Hector is Associate Professor of Theology and of the Philosophy of Religions at the University of Chicago Divinity School.

Marco Hofheinz is Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany.

Matt Jenson is an Associate Professor at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute.

Adam J. Johnson is an Associate Professor at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute.

Keith L. Johnson is Associate Professor of Theology at Wheaton College.

Cambria Janae Kaltwasser is Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Northwestern College.

JinHyok Kim received a DPhil in Systematic Theology from Oxford University.

Sung‐Sup Kim received his Ph.D. in theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Wolf Krötke is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology at Humboldt University in Berlin.

David Lauber is Associate Professor of Theology at Wheaton College.

Jonathan Lett is Assistant Professor of Theology at Le Tourneau University.

Gerald McKenny is Endowed Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

W. Travis McMaken is Associate Professor of Religion and Assistant Dean of Multidisciplinary Humanities at Lindenwood University.

Paul D. Molnar is Professor of Systematic Theology at St. John's University.

Martha Moore‐Keish is J.B. Green Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary.

Adam Neder is Bruner‐Welch Professor in Theology at Whitworth University.

Paul T. Nimmo is King's Chair of Systematic Theology at the University of Aberdeen.

Robert B. Price is Associate Professor and Co‐Chair, Department of Theology in the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.

Andrew Purves is Professor of Reformed Theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

Hanna Reichel is Associate Professor of Reformed Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Jeffrey Skaff received his PhD in Systematic Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Shannon Smythe is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Seattle Pacific University.

Katherine Sonderegger is William Meade Chair in Systematic Theology at Virginia Theological Seminary.

Christiane Tietz is Professor of Systematic Theology as the University of Zürich.

Michael Weinrich is Professor of Systematic Theology, Dogmatics and Ecumenism at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany.

William H. Willimon is Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke Divinity School.

Primary Text Abbreviations

Ad Limina Apostolorum
Against the Stream
The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism
Church Dogmatics
The Christian Life
Community, State, and Church
Deliverance to the Captives
Dogmatics in Outline
Epistle to the Ephesians
Epistle to the Philippians
Eine Schweizer Stimme
Evangelical Theology
“Fate and Idea in Theology”
The Faith of the Church
Final Testimonies
Anselm: Fides Quaerens Intellectum
Karl Barth Gesamtausgabe
Göttingen Dogmatics
The Heidelberg Catechism for Today
“The Humanity of God”
How I Changed My Mind
The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life
Karl Barth Archiv
Kirchliche Dogmatik
The Knowledge of God and the Service of God
Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century
The Epistle to the Romans, first edition
The Epistle to the Romans, second edition
The Resurrection of the Dead
A Shorter Commentary on Romans
Theology and Church
Theological Existence Today!: A Plea for Theological Freedom
Theology of John Calvin
Theology of Reformed Confessions
Theology of Schleiermacher
The Word of God and Theology
Witness to the Word: A Commentary on John 1

Part I
The Life of Karl Barth

Karl Barth Professional Timeline

1886 – Born 10 May in Basel, Switzerland.

1904–1908 – Studies at the Universities of Bern, Berlin, Tübingen, and Marburg.

1908–1909 – Editorial Assistant for Christliche Welt.

1909 – Ordained 4 November by his father in the cathedral in Bern.

1909 – Assistant pastor in Geneva.

1911–1921 – Reformed pastor in Safenwil, a small industrial city in Switzerland.

1914 – In August Barth is shocked to read a manifesto supporting the Kaiser's war efforts signed by almost all of his theology professors.

1918–1919 –‐ First edition of Barth's The Epistle to the Romans. Barth likens himself to a man climbing a dark bell tower who, reaching out to steady himself with the rail, grabs a bell rope by mistake, thus sounding an alarm that rings through the whole town.

He writes: “The Gospel proclaims a God wholly other from humankind,” a God who dwells in “another plane that is unknown.”

1919 – Tambach Lecture delivered at a conference of religious socialists. Barth's break with religious socialism. He protests against “secularizing Christ for the umpteenth time, e.g. today for the sake of democracy, or pacifism, or the youth movement, or something of the sort – as yesterday it would have been for the sake of liberal culture or our countries, Switzerland or Germany.”

1921–1922 – Second edition of Barth's The Epistle to the Romans. He writes: “If Christianity is not altogether and unreservedly eschatology, there remains in it no relationship whatsoever to Christ.” It becomes a best seller through the present day.

1921–1930 – Professor of Theology in Göttingen and Münster.

1921 – Barth is appointed professor of Reformed theology at the University of Göttingen, and later to chairs at Münster (1925) and Bonn (1930).

1923 – Barth debates his distinguished teacher, Adolf von Harnack.

1924–1925 – Göttingen Dogmatics (published posthumously).

1924 – Zwischen den Zeiten. Beginning of the “dialectical theology” movement. Barth, Bultmann, Gogarten, Thurneysen, Merz. Dissolved in 1933.

1925 – October. Barth assumes a theology position in Münster.

1926 – First seminar on Anselm.

1927 – Christliche Dogmatik.

1928 – Collaboration with Heinrich Scholz. Beginnings of Barth's Anselm book.

1929 – Meetings with Eric Przywara.

1930–1935 – The years at Bonn.

1931 – Fides Quaerens Intellectum.

1931 – Church Dogmatics. Barth begins the first book of his magnum opus. It grows year by year out of his class lectures; though incomplete, it eventually fills four volumes in 12 parts, nearly 10,000 pages in all.

1933 – January. Theologische Existenz heute [Theological Existence Today]. From broadside to journal. “As though nothing had happened.”

1934 – 31 May. The Barmen Declaration. Barth mails this declaration to Hitler personally.

1935 – June. Barth is forced to resign from his professorship at the University of Bonn for protesting against the treatment of the Jews and for refusing to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler. Arrested and deported.

1935–1968 – Professor in Basel.

1935 – Increasing sense of isolation.

1936 – Attends lecture by Pierre Maury on “Election and Faith.”

1937– Gifford Lectures. The Knowledge of God and the Service of God.

1941 – Conversations with Bonhoeffer in Basel.

1942–1945 – Works against a Swiss law that prevented Jewish refugees from entering the country. His telephone is wiretapped by the police.

1944 – Committee for a Free Germany. Communist‐led organization organized to support refugees from Germany.

1945 – Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt (19 October). Written under Barth's influence but he considers it to be too vague.

1946–1955 – The postwar era: Between East and West.

1941–onward – Friendship with Hans Urs von Balthasar.

1945–1955 – Opposes German rearmament and nuclear weapons, both in general and in Europe.

1945–1950 – Works for reconciliation with Germany and stands against retribution.

1948 – World Council of Churches. First Assembly in Amsterdam. Barth delivers plenary address.

1949 – “The Church Between East and West.”

1955–1962 – Final years of teaching and activism for peace.

1956 – Bicentenary of Mozart's death.

1958 – Petition against nuclear weapons. In company with many famous nuclear physicists, Barth calls for unilateral nuclear disarmament. Declares preparation for atomic warfare a sin and a denial of all three articles of the Christian faith.

1962–1968 – The years of retirement.

1962 – Trip to the United States. Visits Chicago, Pittsburgh, Richmond, and Princeton.

1963 – Sonning Prize. Copenhagen.

1963 – Honorary doctorate in Paris. Laudatio given by Paul Ricouer.

1968 – Sigmund Freud Prize. Awarded by the Academy for Poetry and Speech in 1968 for the quality of his academic prose.

1968 – On 10 December Barth dies in his sleep.

Karl Barth Personal Timeline

1886 – Barth is born in Basel on 10 May.

1907 – Barth, age 21, falls in love with Rösy Munger. They plan to marry but are prevented by Barth's parents. At their last meeting they burn their letters to one another.

1909 – Barth serves as assistant pastor in Geneva. Preaches from Calvin's pulpit in the Auditoire.

1911 – Barth's parents (mainly his mother) arrange his marriage to Nelly Hoffman (b. 1893), an accomplished violinist and a former pupil in one of Barth's confirmation classes.

1911 – Barth leaves Geneva for a pastorate in Safenwil.

1913 – Barth and Nelly's wedding day (27 March). He is 27, she is 19.

1921–1925 – Professor in Göttingen.

1925 – Charlotte von Kirschbaum meets Barth. She is 24 years old, financially almost destitute, and in poor health. Barth is 37.

1925–1930 – Professor in Münster.

1925 – Rösy Munger dies of leukemia. Barth spends a day in his study grieving for her. He carries a photo of her in his suit pocket for the rest of his life. He sometimes takes it out and weeps, even into his old age.

1926 – Charlotte visits Münster and begins secretarial work for Barth. They soon realize, in joy and anguish, that they have fallen in love.

1929 – Charlotte moves in with Nelly and Karl Barth and their five children in Münster. She lives in the household with them for 35 years.

1930–1935 – Professor in Bonn.

1931 – Barth begins the Church Dogmatics.

1933 – Theologische Existenz heute!

1934 – Barth writes the Barmen Declaration.

1935 – Barth returns to Basel in July, after the Confessing Church fails to support him with a teaching post. He is officially expelled from Germany by the police in October. Charlotte follows the family into Switzerland. From there they support the German Resistance and the Confessing Church.

1935–1962 – Professor in Basel.

Early 1960s – Charlotte becomes ill, possibly with Alzheimer's disease. In 1965 she moves to a nursing home in Riehen, where she dies 10 years later. Barth visits her every Sunday, often accompanied by Nelly. Nelly continues to visit Charlotte after Karl is gone.

1968 – Barth dies in his sleep on 10 December at the age of 82.

1975 – Charlotte dies at the age of 76. Nelly honors Karl's request that Charlotte be buried in the family plot.

1976 – Nelly dies at the age of 83. All three names appear on one gravestone.

Barth is honored with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on 10 December.