Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bp. Steve Wood: Reformation Day 2012

Reformation Day
By Bishop Steve Wood
October 31, 2012

Today is Reformation Day - the day, according to Philipp Melanchthon, writing in 1546, Luther "wrote theses on indulgences and posted them on the church of All Saints on 31 October 1517," the event now seen as sparking the Protestant Reformation.

And so, we remember the great reformer with the following selections:

First on the list is the famous speech at the Diet of Worms. Joseph Fiennes' portrayal of Luther is brilliant:

Next, a few of my favorite quotes from Luther:

We should preach the Word, but the results must be left solely to God's good pleasure . . . I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached, and wrote God's Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything. (Luther's Works 51:77)

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides. We, however, says Peter (2. Peter 3:13) are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth where justice will reign. It suffices that through God's glory we have recognized the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day. Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner. (Let Your Sins Be Strong: A Letter From Luther to Melanchthon Letter no. 99, 1 August 1521)

Your home, once the holiest of all, has become the most licentious den of thieves, the most shameless of all brothels, the kingdom of sin, death, and hell. It is so bad that even Antichrist himself, if he should come, could think of nothing to add to its wickedness. (Luther's Works 31:336)

You are the head of all the worst scoundrels on earth, a vicar of the devil, an enemy of God, an adversary of Christ, a destroyer of Christ's churches; a teacher of lies, blasphemies, and idolatries; an arch-thief and robber; a murderer of kings and inciter to all kinds of bloodshed; a brothel-keeper over all brothel-keepers and all vermin, even that which cannot be named; an Antichrist, a person of sin and child of perdition; a true werewolf. (Luther's Works 41:357)

You have everything, all of it free of charge; yet you show not a particle of gratitude. Instead you let God's kingdom and the salvation of people's souls go to ruin; you even help to destroy them. Ought not God to be angry over this? Ought not famine to come? Ought not pestilence, flu, and syphilis find us out? Ought not blind, fierce, and savage tyrants come to power? Ought not war and contention arise? Ought not evil regimes appear in our lands? Ought not our enemies plunder us? Indeed, it would not be surprising if God were to open the doors and windows of hell and pelt and shower us with nothing but devils, or let brimstone and hell-fire rain down from heaven and inundate us one and all in the abyss of hell, like Sodom and Gomorrah. (Luther's Works 46:254)

And finally the infamous 95 Theses (from here). If you've never read them, you probably ought to:

Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward repentance) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.

6. The pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.

7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making him humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.

8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.

9. Accordingly, the Holy Spirit, acting in the person of the pope, manifests grace to us, by the fact that the papal regulations always cease to apply at death, or in any hard case.

10. It is a wrongful act, due to ignorance, when priests retain the canonical penalties on the dead in purgatory.

11. When canonical penalties were changed and made to apply to purgatory, surely it would seem that tares were sown while the bishops were asleep.

12. In former days, the canonical penalties were imposed, not after, but before absolution was pronounced; and were intended to be tests of true contrition.

13. Death puts an end to all the claims of the Church; even the dying are already dead to the canon laws, and are no longer bound by them.

14. Defective piety or love in a dying person is necessarily accompanied by great fear, which is greatest where the piety or love is least.

15. This fear or horror is sufficient in itself, whatever else might be said, to constitute the pain of purgatory, since it approaches very closely to the horror of despair.

16. There seems to be the same difference between hell, purgatory, and heaven as between despair, uncertainty, and assurance.

17. Of a truth, the pains of souls in purgatory ought to be abated, and charity ought to be proportionately increased.

18. Moreover, it does not seem proved, on any grounds of reason or Scripture, that these souls are outside the state of merit, or unable to grow in grace.

19. Nor does it seem proved to be always the case that they are certain and assured of salvation, even if we are very certain ourselves.

20. Therefore the pope, in speaking of the plenary remission of all penalties, does not mean "all" in the strict sense, but only those imposed by himself.

21. Hence those who preach indulgences are in error when they say that a man is absolved and saved from every penalty by the pope's indulgences.

22. Indeed, he cannot remit to souls in purgatory any penalty which canon law declares should be suffered in the present life.

23. If plenary remission could be granted to anyone at all, it would be only in the cases of the most perfect, i.e. to very few.

24. It must therefore be the case that the major part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and high-sounding promise of relief from penalty.

25. The same power as the pope exercises in general over purgatory is exercised in particular by every single bishop in his bishopric and priest in his parish.

26. The pope does excellently when he grants remission to the souls in purgatory on account of intercessions made on their behalf, and not by the power of the keys (which he cannot exercise for them).

27. There is no divine authority for preaching that the soul flies out of the purgatory immediately the money clinks in the bottom of the chest.

28. It is certainly possible that when the money clinks in the bottom of the chest avarice and greed increase; but when the church offers intercession, all depends in the will of God.

29. Who knows whether all souls in purgatory wish to be redeemed in view of what is said of St. Severinus and St. Pascal? (Note: Paschal I, pope 817-24. The legend is that he and Severinus were willing to endure the pains of purgatory for the benefit of the faithful).

30. No one is sure of the reality of his own contrition, much less of receiving plenary forgiveness.

31. One who bona fide buys indulgence is a rare as a bona fide penitent man, i.e. very rare indeed.

32. All those who believe themselves certain of their own salvation by means of letters of indulgence, will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. We should be most carefully on our guard against those who say that the papal indulgences are an inestimable divine gift, and that a man is reconciled to God by them.

34. For the grace conveyed by these indulgences relates simply to the penalties of the sacramental "satisfactions" decreed merely by man.

35. It is not in accordance with Christian doctrines to preach and teach that those who buy off souls, or purchase confessional licenses, have no need to repent of their own sins.

36. Any Christian whatsoever, who is truly repentant, enjoys plenary remission from penalty and guilt, and this is given him without letters of indulgence.

37. Any true Christian whatsoever, living or dead, participates in all the benefits of Christ and the Church; and this participation is granted to him by God without letters of indulgence.

38. Yet the pope's remission and dispensation are in no way to be despised, for, as already said, they proclaim the divine remission.

39. It is very difficult, even for the most learned theologians, to extol to the people the great bounty contained in the indulgences, while, at the same time, praising contrition as a virtue.

40. A truly contrite sinner seeks out, and loves to pay, the penalties of his sins; whereas the very multitude of indulgences dulls men's consciences, and tends to make them hate the penalties.

41. Papal indulgences should only be preached with caution, lest people gain a wrong understanding, and think that they are preferable to other good works: those of love.

42. Christians should be taught that the pope does not at all intend that the purchase of indulgences should be understood as at all comparable with the works of mercy.

43. Christians should be taught that one who gives to the poor, or lends to the needy, does a better action than if he purchases indulgences.

44. Because, by works of love, love grows and a man becomes a better man; whereas, by indulgences, he does not become a better man, but only escapes certain penalties.

45. Christians should be taught that he who sees a needy person, but passes him by although he gives money for indulgences, gains no benefit from the pope's pardon, but only incurs the wrath of God.

46. Christians should be taught that, unless they have more than they need, they are bound to retain what is only necessary for the upkeep of their home, and should in no way squander it on indulgences.'

47. Christians should be taught that they purchase indulgences voluntarily, and are not under obligation to do so.

48. Christians should be taught that, in granting indulgences, the pope has more need, and more desire, for devout prayer on his own behalf than for ready money.

49. Christians should be taught that the pope's indulgences are useful only if one does not rely on them, but most harmful if one loses the fear of God through them.

50. Christians should be taught that, if the pope knew the exactions of the indulgence-preachers, he would rather the church of St. Peter were reduced to ashes than be built with the skin, flesh, and bones of the sheep.

51.Christians should be taught that the pope would be willing, as he ought if necessity should arise, to sell the church of St. Peter, and give, too, his own money to many of those from whom the pardon-merchants conjure money.

52. It is vain to rely on salvation by letters of indulgence, even if the commissary, or indeed the pope himself, were to pledge his own soul for their validity.

53. Those are enemies of Christ and the pope who forbid the word of God to be preached at all in some churches, in order that indulgences may be preached in others.

54. The word of God suffers injury if, in the same sermon, an equal or longer time is devoted to indulgences than to that word.

55. The pope cannot help taking the view that if indulgences (very small matters) are celebrated by one bell, one pageant, or one ceremony, the gospel (a very great matter) should be preached to the accompaniment of a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The treasures of the church, out of which the pope dispenses indulgences, are not sufficiently spoken of or known among the people of Christ.

57. That these treasures are not temporal are clear from the fact that many of the merchants do not grant them freely, but only collect them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the saints, because, even apart from the pope, these merits are always working grace in the inner man, and working the cross, death, and hell in the outer man.

59. St. Laurence said that the poor were the treasures of the church, but he used the term in accordance with the custom of his own time.

60. We do not speak rashly in saying that the treasures of the church are the keys of the church, and are bestowed by the merits of Christ.

61. For it is clear that the power of the pope suffices, by itself, for the remission of penalties and reserved cases.

62. The true treasure of the church is the Holy gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

63. It is right to regard this treasure as most odious, for it makes the first to be the last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is most acceptable, for it makes the last to be the first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the gospel are nets which, in former times, they used to fish for men of wealth.

66. The treasures of the indulgences are the nets which to-day they use to fish for the wealth of men.

67. The indulgences, which the merchants extol as the greatest of favours, are seen to be, in fact, a favourite means for money-getting.

68. Nevertheless, they are not to be compared with the grace of God and the compassion shown in the Cross.

69. Bishops and curates, in duty bound, must receive the commissaries of the papal indulgences with all reverence.

70. But they are under a much greater obligation to watch closely and attend carefully lest these men preach their own fancies instead of what the pope commissioned.

71. Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.

72. On the other hand, let him be blessed who is on his guard against the wantonness and license of the pardon-merchant's words.

73. In the same way, the pope rightly excommunicates those who make any plans to the detriment of the trade in indulgences.

74. It is much more in keeping with his views to excommunicate those who use the pretext of indulgences to plot anything to the detriment of holy love and truth.

75. It is foolish to think that papal indulgences have so much power that they can absolve a man even if he has done the impossible and violated the mother of God.

76. We assert the contrary, and say that the pope's pardons are not able to remove the least venial of sins as far as their guilt is concerned.

77. When it is said that not even St. Peter, if he were now pope, could grant a greater grace, it is blasphemy against St. Peter and the pope.

78.We assert the contrary, and say that he, and any pope whatever, possesses greater graces, viz., the gospel, spiritual powers, gifts of healing, etc., as is declared in I Corinthians 12 [:28].

79. It is blasphemy to say that the insignia of the cross with the papal arms are of equal value to the cross on which Christ died.

80. The bishops, curates, and theologians, who permit assertions of that kind to be made to the people without let or hindrance, will have to answer for it.

81. This unbridled preaching of indulgences makes it difficult for learned men to guard the respect due to the pope against false accusations, or at least from the keen criticisms of the laity.

82. They ask, e.g.: Why does not the pope liberate everyone from purgatory for the sake of love (a most holy thing) and because of the supreme necessity of their souls? This would be morally the best of all reasons. Meanwhile he redeems innumerable souls for money, a most perishable thing, with which to build St. Peter's church, a very minor purpose.

83. Again: Why should funeral and anniversary masses for the dead continue to be said? And why does not the pope repay, or permit to be repaid, the benefactions instituted for these purposes, since it is wrong to pray for those souls who are now redeemed?

84. Again: Surely this is a new sort of compassion, on the part of God and the pope, when an impious man, an enemy of God, is allowed to pay money to redeem a devout soul, a friend of God; while yet that devout and beloved soul is not allowed to be redeemed without payment, for love's sake, and just because of its need of redemption.

85. Again: Why are the penitential canon laws, which in fact, if not in practice, have long been obsolete and dead in themselves,-why are they, to-day, still used in imposing fines in money, through the granting of indulgences, as if all the penitential canons were fully operative?

86. Again: since the pope's income to-day is larger than that of the wealthiest of wealthy men, why does he not build this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of indigent believers?

87. Again: What does the pope remit or dispense to people who, by their perfect repentance, have a right to plenary remission or dispensation?

88. Again: Surely a greater good could be done to the church if the pope were to bestow these remissions and dispensations, not once, as now, but a hundred times a day, for the benefit of any believer whatever.

89. What the pope seeks by indulgences is not money, but rather the salvation of souls; why then does he suspend the letters and indulgences formerly conceded, and still as efficacious as ever?

90. These questions are serious matters of conscience to the laity. To suppress them by force alone, and not to refute them by giving reasons, is to expose the church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christian people unhappy.

91. If therefore, indulgences were preached in accordance with the spirit and mind of the pope, all these difficulties would be easily overcome, and indeed, cease to exist.

92. Away, then, with those prophets who say to Christ's people, "Peace, peace," where in there is no peace.

93. Hail, hail to all those prophets who say to Christ's people, "The cross, the cross," where there is no cross.

94. Christians should be exhorted to be zealous to follow Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hells.

95. And let them thus be more confident of entering heaven through many tribulations rather than through a false assurance of peace.


31 Oct 2012, Reformation Day: Martin Luther and the Reformation

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dennis Canon dead in Virgina | Anglican Ink

Dennis Canon dead in Virgina | Anglican Ink

Dennis Canon dead in Virgina
Supreme Court lets stand ruling voiding the power of denominational property trusts
The Falls Church
The Virginia Supreme Court has let stand a lower court ruling that held the Dennis Canon has no legal effect in property disputes in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

In an order released last week, a three-judge writ panel of the Supreme Court refused to hear the Diocese of Virginia’s cross-appeal in the case of The Episcopal Church v. The Falls Church and left standing Fairfax County District Court Judge Randy Bellows ruling the Episcopal Church’s national property canon is not binding on the civil courts of Virginia.

In legal documents filed in response to the appeal by The Falls Church following the March 2012 ruling by Judge Bellows, the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia asked the Supreme Court to overturn a portion of the judge’s ruling. It argued the “Circuit Court erred by holding that Va. Code § 57-7.1 does not validate trusts for the benefit of a hierarchical church and by rejecting a constitutional challenge to that interpretation.”

In its pleading, the national church and the diocese argued Judge Bellows had made a legal error in his interpretation of Va. Code § 57-7.1 – the law governing the trusteeship of church properties.
The argued that Judge Bellows had “construed § 57-7 as not validating trusts for the benefit of hierarchical churches, for reasons that do not apply to § 57-7.1. Section 57-7.1 provides, in language too plain to require interpretation, that “[e]very conveyance or transfer of real or personal property … to or for the benefit of anychurch, church diocese, religious congregation or religious society … shall be valid.”

The brief noted the court had ruled that § 57-7.1 “‘did not change the policy in Virginia, which is that church property may be held by trustees for the local congregation, not for the general church.’”

“That was error,” the national church and diocese argued, stating “If § 57-7.1 does notvalidate trusts for the benefit of hierarchical churches, it violates constitutional guarantees of free exercise of religion and unconstitutionally discriminates against such churches by denying them rights granted local churches and secular organizations.”

The Supreme Court panel was unpersuaded by this argument however and refused to hear the national church and diocese’s appeal.

Canon lawyer Allan Haley writing at Anglican Curmudgeon noted that by their appeal the national church and diocese wanted the Supreme Court to read § 57-7.1 so as to give legal effect to the Dennis Canon and other denominational property trusts. However he noted that “Judge Bellows ruled that the legislature had not intended to change pre-existing Virginia law against general denominational trusts when it adopted the new statute.

“By its order, the writ panel expressly refused to consider the Diocese's and ECUSA's cross-assignments of this claimed error, so Judge Bellows' ruling on that specific point will stand,” Mr. Haley noted, adding that “means that the Dennis Canon has no effect in Virginia. Instead, according to Judge Bellows, Virginia courts will look to other indicia of ‘proprietary interests in’," such as actual ownership and control over parish property in adjudicating these claims.

In a statement released on 30 Oct 2012, a spokesman for the Diocese of Virginia said they were disappointed by the court’s decision not to hear their “cross-appeal which sought to confirm that the Diocese of Virginia and the Episcopal Church also have a trust interest in the property.

"Regardless of this development, this diocese looks toward the future with hope as we continue to serve this world in need," said diocesan secretary Henry Burt.

"We will continue to support the Falls Church Episcopal as they face this uncertainty with the same faithfulness they have faced so many others. We remain confident in our legal position and we look forward to the successful conclusion of this litigation."

(Wikipedia): Karl Barth (1886-1968)

Karl Barth

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Karl Barth

(1886-05-10)May 10, 1886
Basel, Switzerland
DiedDecember 10, 1968(1968-12-10) (aged 82)
Basel, Switzerland
OccupationTheologian; Author
Notable work(s)The Epistle to the Romans; Church Dogmatics
Influenced byAthanasius of Alexandria, Augustine of Hippo, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Hermann Kutter, Christoph Blumhardt, Franz Overbeck, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Martin Heidegger, Wilhelm Herrmann, Hermann Cohen
InfluencedNeoorthodoxy, Barthianism, Thomas Torrance, Hans Wilhelm Frei, Eberhard Jüngel, Jacques Ellul, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder

Theological work
Tradition or movementReformed
Notable ideasDialectical theology

Karl Barth ((1886-05-10)May 10, 1886 – December 10, 1968(1968-12-10)) (pronounced "Bart") was a Swiss Reformed theologian whom many scholars hold to be among the most important thinkers of the 20th century; Pope Pius XII described him as the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas.[1] Barth's influence expanded well beyond the academic realm to mainstream culture, leading him to be featured on the cover of Time on April 20, 1962.[2]

Beginning with his experience as a pastor, he rejected his training in the predominant liberal theology typical of 19th-century European Protestantism.[3] Instead he embarked on a new theological path initially called dialectical theology, due to its stress on the paradoxical nature of divine truth (e.g., God's relationship to humanity embodies both grace and judgment).[4] Other critics have referred to Barth as the father of neo-orthodoxy[3] — a term emphatically rejected by Barth himself.[5] The most accurate description of his work might be "a theology of the Word."[6][7] Barth's theological thought emphasized the sovereignty of God, particularly through his interpretation of the Calvinistic doctrine of election. His most famous works are his The Epistle to the Romans, which marked a clear break from his earlier thinking; and his massive thirteen-volume work Church Dogmatics, one of the largest works of systematic theology ever written.[8]




Early life and education

Born on 10 May 1886 in Basel, Switzerland, to Johann Friedrich "Fritz" Barth and Anna Katharina (Sartorius) Barth. Fritz Barth was a theology professor and pastor who would greatly influence his son’s life. In particular, Fritz Barth was fascinated by philosophy, especially the implications of Friedrich Nietzsche’s theories on free will. Barth spent his childhood years in Bern. From 1911 to 1921 he served as a Reformed pastor in the village of Safenwil in the canton Aargau. In 1913 he married Nelly Hoffmann, a talented violinist. They had a daughter and four sons, one of whom was the New Testament scholar Markus Barth (6 October 1915 – 1 July 1994). Later he was professor of theology in Göttingen (1921–1925), Münster (1925–1930) and Bonn (1930–1935) (Germany). While serving at Göttingen he met Charlotte von Kirschbaum, who became his long-time secretary and assistant; she played a large role in the writing of his epic, the Church Dogmatics.[9] He had to leave Germany in 1935 after he refused to swear allegiance to Adolf Hitler and went back to Switzerland and became a professor in Basel (1935–1962).

Barth was originally trained in German Protestant Liberalism under such teachers as Wilhelm Herrmann, but reacted against this theology at the time of the First World War. His reaction was fed by several factors, including his commitment to the German and Swiss Religious Socialist movement surrounding men such as Hermann Kutter, the influence of the Biblical Realism movement surrounding men such as Christoph Blumhardt and Søren Kierkegaard, and the effect of the skeptical philosophy of Franz Overbeck.

The most important catalyst was, however, Barth's reaction to the support most of his liberal teachers had for German war aims. The 1914 "Manifesto of the Ninety-Three German Intellectuals to the Civilized World"[10] carried the signature of his former teacher Adolf von Harnack. Barth believed that his teachers had been misled by a theology which tied God too closely to the finest, deepest expressions and experiences of cultured human beings, into claiming divine support for a war which they believed was waged in support of that culture–the initial experience of which appeared to increase people's love of and commitment to that culture. Much of Barth's early theology can be seen as a reaction to the theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher.

The Epistle to the Romans

In his commentary The Epistle to the Romans (Ger. Der Römerbrief), particularly in the thoroughly re-written second edition of 1922, Barth argued that the God who is revealed in the cross of Jesus challenges and overthrows any attempt to ally God with human cultures, achievements, or possessions. Many theologians and religious historians[who?] believe this work to be the most important theological treatise since Friedrich Schleiermacher's On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers.

In the decade following the First World War, Barth was linked with a number of other theologians–actually very diverse in outlook–who had reacted against their teachers' liberalism, in a movement known as "Dialectical Theology" (Ger. Dialektische Theologie). The members of the movement included Rudolf Bultmann, Eduard Thurneysen, Emil Brunner, and Friedrich Gogarten.

Barmen Declaration

In 1934, as the Protestant Church attempted to come to terms with the Third Reich, Barth was largely responsible for the writing of the Barmen declaration (Ger. Barmer Erklärung) which rejected the influence of Nazism on German Christianity–arguing that the Church's allegiance to the God of Jesus Christ should give it the impetus and resources to resist the influence of other 'lords'–such as the German Führer, Adolf Hitler. Barth mailed this declaration to Hitler personally. This was one of the founding documents of the Confessing Church and Barth was elected a member of its leadership council, the Bruderrat.

He was forced to resign from his professorship at the University of Bonn in 1935 for refusing to swear an oath to Hitler. Barth then returned to his native Switzerland, where he assumed a chair in systematic theology at the University of Basel. In the course of his appointment he was required to answer a routine question asked of all Swiss civil servants: whether he supported the national defense. His answer was, "Yes, especially on the northern border!" In 1938 he wrote a letter to a Czech colleague, Josef Hromádka, in which he declared that soldiers who fought against the Third Reich were serving a Christian cause.

Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics

Church Dogmatics

Barth's theology found its most sustained and compelling expression through his thirteen-volume magnum opus, the Church Dogmatics (Ger. "Kirchliche Dogmatik"). Widely regarded as one of the most important theological works of the century, if not ever, the Church Dogmatics represents the pinnacle of Barth's achievement as a theologian. Church dogmatics, which stands at over six million words and eight thousand pages in length, is one of the longest works of systematic theology ever written.[11][12][13]

The Church Dogmatics address four major doctrines: Revelation, God, Creation, and Atonement or Reconciliation. Barth had initially also intended to complete his dogmatics addressing the doctrines of Redemption and eschatology, but decided not to complete the project in the later years of his life.[14]

Later life

After the end of the Second World War, Barth became an important voice in support both of German penitence and of reconciliation with churches abroad. Together with Hans-Joachim Iwand, he authored the Darmstadt Statement in 1947–a more concrete statement of German guilt and responsibility for the Third Reich and Second World War than the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt of 1945. In it, he made the point that the Church's willingness to side with anti-socialist and conservative forces had led to its susceptibility for National Socialist ideology. In the context of the developing Cold War, that controversial statement was rejected by anti-Communists in the West who supported the CDU course of re-militarization, as well as by East German dissidents, who believed that it did not sufficiently depict the dangers of Communism. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1950.[15] In the 1950s, Barth sympathized with the peace movement and opposed German rearmament.

Karl Barth in 1956.
Barth wrote a 1960 article for The Christian Century regarding the "East-West question", in which he denied any inclination toward Eastern communism and stated he did not wish to live under Communism or wish anyone to be forced to do so; he acknowledged a fundamental disagreement with most of those around him, writing: "I do not comprehend how either politics or Christianity require or even permit such a disinclination to lead to the conclusions which the West has drawn with increasing sharpness in the past 15 years. I regard anticommunism as a matter of principle an evil even greater than communism itself."[16]

In 1962, Barth visited the United States and lectured at Princeton Theological Seminary, University of Chicago, Union Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He was invited to be a guest at the Second Vatican Council, after which he wrote a small volume, Ad Limina Apostolorum [At the Threshold of the Apostles].[17]

Also in 1962, Barth was featured on the cover of the April 20 issue of Time, showing that his influence reached out of academic and ecclesiastical circles and into mainstream American religious culture.[18]


One major objective of Barth is to recover the doctrine of the Trinity in theology from its putative loss in liberalism. His argument follows from the idea that God is the object of God’s own self-knowledge, and revelation in the Bible means the self-unveiling to humanity of the God who cannot be discovered by humanity simply through its own intuition.


One of the most influential and controversial features of Barth's Dogmatics was his doctrine of election (Church Dogmatics II/2). Barth's theology entails a rejection of the idea that God chose each person to either be saved or damned based on purposes of the Divine will, and it was impossible to know why God chose some and not others.

Barth's doctrine of election involves a firm rejection of the notion of an eternal, hidden decree. In keeping with his Christo-centric methodology, Barth argues that to ascribe the salvation or damnation of humanity to an abstract absolute decree is to make some part of God more final and definitive than God's saving act in Jesus Christ. God's absolute decree, if one may speak of such a thing, is God's gracious decision to be for humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. Drawing from the earlier Reformed tradition, Barth retains the notion of double predestination but makes Jesus himself the object of both divine election and reprobation simultaneously; Jesus embodies both God's election of humanity and God's rejection of human sin. While some regard this revision of the doctrine of election as an improvement[19] on the Augustinian-Calvinist doctrine of the predestination of individuals, critics, namely Brunner,[20] have charged that Barth's view amounts to a soft universalism.

Barth, liberals and fundamentalists

Karl Barth's desk with painting of Matthias Grunewald’s crucifixion scene.

Although Barth's theology rejected German Protestant liberalism, his theology has usually not found favour with those at the other end of the theological spectrum: confessionalists and fundamentalists. His doctrine of the Word of God, for instance, holds that Christ is the Word of God, and does not proceed by arguing or proclaiming that the Bible must be uniformly historically and scientifically accurate, and then establishing other theological claims on that foundation.

Some fundamentalist critics have joined liberal counterparts in referring to Barth as "neo-orthodox" because, while his theology retains most or all of the tenets of their understanding of Christianity, he is seen as rejecting the belief which is a linchpin of their theological system: biblical inerrancy. Such critics believe the written text must be considered to be historically accurate and verifiable and see Barth's view as a separation of theological truth from historical truth.[21] Barth could respond by saying that the claim that the foundation of theology is biblical inerrancy is to use a foundation other than Jesus Christ, and that our understanding of Scripture's accuracy and worth can only properly emerge from consideration of what it means for it to be a true witness to the incarnate Word, Jesus.
The relationship between Barth, liberalism, and fundamentalism goes far beyond the issue of inerrancy, however. From Barth's perspective, liberalism, as understood in the sense of the 19th century with Friedrich Schleiermacher and Hegel as its leading exponents and not necessarily expressed in any particular political ideology, is the divinization of human thinking. This, to him, inevitably leads one or more philosophical concepts to become the false God, thus attempting to block the true voice of the living God. This, in turn, leads to the captivity of theology by human ideology. In Barth's theology, he emphasizes again and again that human concepts of any kind, breadth or narrowness quite beside the point, can never be considered as identical to God's revelation. In this aspect, Scripture is also written human language, which bears witness to the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Scripture cannot be considered as identical to God's self-revelation, which is properly only Jesus Christ. However, in his freedom and love, God truly reveals himself through human language and concepts, with a view toward their necessity in reaching fallen humanity. Thus Barth claims that Christ is truly presented in Scripture and the preaching of the church, echoing a stand expressed in his native Swiss Reformed Church's Helvetic Confession of the 16th century.
He opposes any attempts to closely relate theology and philosophy. His approach in that respect is predominantly Christocentric, and is thus termed "kerygmatic," as opposed to "apologetic".

Influence on Christian Ethics

Among many other areas, Barth has also had a profound influence on modern Christian ethics.[22][23][24][25] He has influenced the work of ethicists such as Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, Jacques Ellul and Oliver O'Donovan.[26][22][27]

Relationship with Charlotte von Kirschbaum

Charlotte von Kirschbaum was Barth's secretary and theological assistant for more than three decades.[28] When Barth first met Charlotte von Kirschbaum in 1924 he had already been married for 12 years and in 1929, von Kirschbaum moved into the Barth family household which included Nelly and five children.[28] George Hunsinger summarizes the influence of von Kirschbaum on Barth's work: "As his unique student, critic, researcher, adviser, collaborator, companion, assistant, spokesperson, and confidant, Charlotte von Kirschbaum was indispensable to him. He could not have been what he was, or have done what he did, without her.[29]

German stamp depicting Barth.

The long-standing work relationship was not without its difficulties.[30] Which caused offense among some of Barth's friends, as well as his mother.[31] While Nelly supplied the household and the children, von Kirschbaum and Barth shared an academic relationship. The feminist scholar, Suzanne Selinger, in response to the failing of Von Kirshchbaum in receiving the credit she deserves for her work with Barth says "Part of any realistic response to the subject of Barth and von Kirschbaum must be anger." because she has been forgotten by Barthian scholars.[32] Barth lauds von Kirschbaum for her assistance in the preface of Church Dogmatics: Volume 3 - The Doctrine of Creation Part 3.[33]

In literature

In John Updike's Roger's Version, Roger Lambert is a professor of religion. Lambert is influenced by the works of Karl Barth. That is the primary reason that he rejects his student's attempt to use computational methods to understand God. Harry Mulisch's The Discovery of Heaven makes mentions of Barth's Church Dogmatics, as does David Markson's The Last Novel. In the case of Mulisch and Markson, it is the ambitious nature of the Church Dogmatics that seems to be of significance. In the case of Updike, it is the emphasis on the idea of God as "Wholly Other" that is emphasized.

In Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, the preacher John Ames reveres Barth's "Epistle to the Romans" and refers to it as his favorite book other than the Bible.

Whittaker Chambers cites Barth in nearly all his books: Witness (p. 507), Cold Friday (p. 194), and Odyssey of a Friend (pp. 201, 231).

Center for Barth Studies

Princeton Theological Seminary, where Barth lectured in 1962, houses the Center for Barth Studies, which is dedicated to supporting scholarship related to the work of Karl Barth. The center was established in 1997 and sponsors seminars, conferences, and other events. It also holds the Karl Barth Research Collection, which contains nearly all of Barth's works in English and German, several first editions of his works, and an original handwritten manuscript by Barth.[34]


  • Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is Himself the way.
  • The best theology would need no advocates: it would prove itself.
  • Belief cannot argue with unbelief, it can only preach to it.
  • There is a notion that complete impartiality is the most fitting and indeed the normal disposition for true exegesis, because it guarantees complete absence of prejudice. For a short time, around 1910, this idea threatened to achieve almost a canonical status in Protestant theology. But now, we can quite calmly describe it as merely comical.
    • Church Dogmatics 1:2, 469
  • The center is not something which is under our control, but something that controls us.
    • Church Dogmatics
  • Barth’s dedication to the sole authority and power of the Word of God was illustrated for us… while we were in Basel. Barth was engaged in a dispute over the stained glass windows in the Basel Münster. The windows had been removed during World War II for fear they would be destroyed by bombs, and Barth was resisting the attempt to restore them to the church. His contention was that the church did not need portrayals of the gospel story given by stained glass windows. The gospel came to the church only through the Word proclaimed. …the incident was typical of Barth’s sole dedication to the Word.
    • Elizabeth Achtemeier, writing about Barth
  • To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.
  • In the Resurrection the new world of the Holy Spirit touches the old world of the flesh, but touches it as a tangent touches a circle, that is, without touching it.
    • Barth 1933, p. 30
  • What expressions we used — in part taken over and in part newly invented! — above all, the famous ‘wholly other’ breaking in upon us ‘perpendicularly from above,’ the not less famous ‘infinite qualitative distinction’ between God and man, the vacuum, the mathematical point, and the tangent in which alone they must meet.
    • Barth 1960, p. 42
  • It may be that when the angels go about their task of praising God, they play only Bach. I am sure, however, that when they are together en famille they play Mozart and that then too our dear Lord listens with special pleasure.
  • His groundbreaking 1919 commentary on Romans “fell like a bombshell on the playground of the theologians."
    • Karl Adam (in Das Hochland (June 1926), 276–7)
  • I haven't even read everything I wrote.
    • (possibly apocryphal response to a student who claimed to have read everything Professor Barth had written)

See also


The Church Dogmatics in English translation

  • On Religion. Edited and translated by Garrett Green. London: T & T Clark, 2006.


Secondary bibliography


  1. ^ Church Dogmatics IV.1, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2004.
  2. ^ Barth in Retirement. TIME (1963-05-31). Retrieved on 2012-07-15.
  3. ^ a b Ian Barbour (1966), Issues in Science and Religion, Prentice-Hall pp. 116–119, 229, 292, 422–25, 456, 459
  4. ^ Donald K. McKim (1996). Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms. Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 76–77. ISBN 978-0-664-25511-4. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  5. ^ Church Dogmatics III/3, xii.
  6. ^ Thomas Forsyth Torrance (1 December 2000). Karl Barth: An Introduction to His Early Theology, 1910–1931. T & T Clark. ISBN 978-0-567-08762-1. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  7. ^ Thomas Forsyth Torrance (1990). Karl Barth, Biblical and Evangelical Theologian. T & T Clark. ISBN 978-0-567-09572-5. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  8. ^ Name (Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology). Retrieved on 2012-07-15.
  9. ^ Church Dogmatics, ed. T. F. Torrance and G. W. Bromiley (1932–67; ET Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1956–75).
  10. ^ Manifesto of the Ninety-Three German Intellectuals, 1914.
  11. ^ The T & T Clark Blog: Church Dogmatics. Retrieved on 2012-07-15.
  12. ^ Myers, Ben. (2005-11-27) Faith and Theology: Church Dogmatics in a week. Retrieved on 2012-07-15.
  13. ^ Grau, H. G. (1973). "The Barth-Bultmann Correspondence". Theology Today 30 (2): 138. doi:10.1177/004057367303000205. Archive.
  14. ^ Green, Garrett. "Introduction" to On Religion by Karl Barth, Trans. Garrett Green. (London: T&T Clark, 2006) p. 3
  15. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  16. ^ Barth, Karl. "No Angels of Darkness and Light", The Christian Century, 20 January 1960, pp. 72 ff.
  17. ^ Eberhard Jüngel (1986). Karl Barth, a Theological Legacy. Westminster Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-664-24031-8. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  18. ^ TIME Magazine Cover: Karl Barth – April 20, 1962 – Religion – Christianity. Retrieved on 2012-07-15.
  19. ^ Douglas Atchison Campbell (2005). The Quest For Paul's Gospel: A Suggested Strategy. T & T Clark International. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-567-08332-6. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  20. ^ Brunner, Emil, The Christian Doctrine of God: Dogmatics: Volume 1, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1950)
  21. ^ This was part of Cornelius Van Til's critique of Barth's doctrine of scripture. Van Til was one of Barth's earliest (American) conservative critics. See Van Til, Cornelius (May 1954). "Has Karl Barth Become Orthodox?". Westminster Theological Journal 16: 138ff.
  22. ^ a b Parsons, Michael (1987). "Man Encountered by the Command of God: the Ethics of Karl Barth". Vox Evangelica 17: 48–65.
  23. ^ Daniel L. Migliore (15 August 2010). Commanding Grace: Studies in Karl Barth's Ethics. W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-8028-6570-0. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  24. ^ Matthew J. Aragon-Bruce. Ethics in Crisis: Interpreting Barth’s Ethics (book review) Princeton Seminary Library. Retrieved on 2012-07-15.
  25. ^ Oxford University Press: The Hastening that Waits: Nigel Biggar. Retrieved on 2012-07-15.
  26. ^ Journal – The Influence of Karl Barth on Christian Ethics. (2011-04-07). Retrieved on 2012-07-15.
  27. ^ Choi Lim Ming, Andrew (2003). A Study on Jacques Ellul's Dialectical Approach to the Modern and Spiritual World.
  28. ^ a b Suzanne Selinger (1998). Charlotte Von Kirschbaum and Karl Barth: A Study in Biography and the History of Theology. Penn State Press. pp. 1–. ISBN 978-0-271-01864-5. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  29. ^ George Hunsinger's review of S. Seliger, Charlotte von Kirschbaum and Karl Barth: A Study in Biography and the History of Theology.
  30. ^ Eberhard Busch (2005). Karl Barths Lebenslauf: Nach seinen Briefen und autobiografischen Texten. Theologischer Verlag Zürich. pp. 177 ff. ISBN 978-3-290-17304-3. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  31. ^ Eberhard Busch; John Bowden, John (21 June 2005). Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts. Wipf & Stock. pp. 185–186. ISBN 978-1-59752-169-7. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
  32. ^ S. Seliger, Charlotte von Kirschbaum and Karl Barth; quoted in K. Sonderegger's review.
  33. ^ Karl Barth (8 May 2004). Church Dogmatics The Doctrine of Creation, Volume 3, Part 3: The Creator and His Creature. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 12–. ISBN 978-0-567-05099-1. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
  34. ^ About the Barth Center. Princeton Seminary Library. Retrieved on 2012-07-15.

External links