"By trying to resist and conquer other religions, we put ourselves on the same level. They, too, appeal to this or that immanent truth in them. They, too, can triumph in the power of the religious self-consciousness, and sometimes they have been astonishingly successful over wide areas. Christianity can take part in this fight. There is no doubt that it does not lack the necessary equipment, and can give a good account of itself alongside the other religions. But do not forget that if it does this it has renounced its birthright. It has renounced the unique power which it has as the religion of revelation.
This power dwells only in weakness. ... [Regarding the apologists of the early church] It was a real temptation, not merely to validate Jesus Christ against or for the sinful men of heathen religion, as the sacred books of the Church, the Old Testament and New Testament, demanded, but at the same time (and very quickly on a fairly broad front) to play off the Christian religion as better than the heathen, to contrast Christian possession ... with heathen poverty.
When we read the apologetics of the second and third centuries, can we altogether avoid the painful impression that what we have here ... is, on the whole, a not very happy, a rather self-righteous, and at any rate a not very perspicacious boasting about all those advantages of Christianity over heathen religion which were in themselves incontestable but not ultimately decisive? In these early self-commendations of Christianity a remarkably small part is played by the fact that grace is the truth of Christianity, that the Christian is justified when he is without God, like Abraham, that he is like the publican in the temple, the prodigal son, wretched Lazarus, the guilty thief crucified with Jesus Christ. Instead, we have the -- admittedly successful -- rivalry of one way of salvation, one wisdom and morality with others." (The Doctrine of the Word of God, Volume 1, Part 2, pp. 332-333. The Revelation of God; Holy Scripture: The Proclamation of the Church)
About the Author: (Excerpted from the Columbia Encyclopedia)
Barth, Karl (bärt), 1886–1968, Swiss Protestant theologian, one of the leading thinkers of 20th-century Protestantism. He helped to found the Confessing Church and his thinking formed the theological framework for the Barmen Declaration. He taught in Germany, where he early opposed the Nazi regime. In 1935 when he refused to take the oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler, he was retired from his position at the Univ. of Bonn and deported to Switzerland. There he continued to expound his views, known as dialectical theology or theology of the word.
Barth’s primary object was to lead theology back to the principles of the Reformation (called neo-orthodoxy). For Barth, modern theology with its assent to science, immanent philosophy, and general culture and with its stress on feeling, was marked by indifference to the word of God and to the revelation of God in Jesus, which he thought should be the central concern of theology.
In the confrontation between humanity and God, which was Barth’s fundamental concern, the word of God and God’s revelation in Christ are the only means God has for Self-revelation; Barth argued that people must listen in an attitude of awe, trust, and obedience.
Barth’s writings include The Epistle to the Romans (tr. 1933), The Word of God and the Word of Man (tr. 1928), Credo (tr. 1936), and Church Dogmatics (Vol. I-IV, tr. 1936-62).
- Center for Barth Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary
- Conversational Theology: The Wit and Wisdom of Karl Barth by George Hunsinger
- Transcript of a biographical lecture on Karl Barth
- God Hidden and Wholly Revealed: Karl Barth, postmodernity, and evangelical theology (Books & Culture archive, fee required)