Post-modern Barthian primer?


I’ve been reading a survey of Karl Barth’s thinking over the past week.

The seminary I attended (Yale) was heavily influenced by Barthian thought and many of faculty at the time I attended considered themselves “Barthians”.

Most of them saw Barth as the foundational theologian for the Neo-orthodox movement and at the time I was very taken by that view myself. Barth’s writings when viewed in the Neo-orthodox school seem to emphasize his focus on the giveness of revelation and the weakness and danger of the natural theological enterprise. (I suppose that’s in part the reason that people with Anglicanism are being divided into reasserters (of the original revelation) and reappraisers (who argue that we can trust our senses well enough that we must modify our understanding of fundamental revelation in the light of new knowledge.))

NB: I’ve never felt comfortable being labeled as either because I do believe that we must seriously consider the implications of a developing and maturing understanding of Creation (since it is from God) as a lens to help understand revelation. (Dividing Creation explicitly from Revelation strikes me as sailing too near the shores of Manicheaism. In my mind at least the two are totally entangled with each other as far as we finite creatures can discern.) Yet I’m uncomfortable with the appellation of reappraiser because I’m pretty pessimistic that human beings contain within them sufficient insight to be able to fully understand the meaning of reality (assuming that they could “know” it well enough to try) apart from the lens of Jesus Christ.

So in my reading today I’ve been delighted to discover that Barth is now being examined as a possible light for the creation of a postmodern theology – where the emphasis is more on the Otherness of God and the surprising nature of revelation than it is on the giveness. (In other words the Revelation is given, but we must ever hold before us the possibility that we don’t understand its implications yet. A possibility which warms my post-positivist heart.)

So can any of you suggest a decent book that attempts to find a path in Barth to lead us fully into the “post-modern” enterprise? Clearly there’s a great deal for me to learn here.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. Don’t let’s all post at once!
    (Sorry, Fr. Nick. Theology ain’t really my strong suit….)

  2. No problem bls. No problem at all. I’ve got a couple of suggestions in hand already. I just thought I’d throw it open. A year ago I had some great ideas passed along for a good Commentary on Galatians. I was preparing to teach a class on the book. (That class went so well that one of our artists was inspired by the imagery in Galatians to make a baptismal font/easter fire brazier for the cathedral that we’ve been using ever since.)

  3. There is “Karl Barth: A Future For Postmodern Theology?” by Christian Mostert and Geoff Thompson.
    Sadly, I can’t make any personal claims about the book, other than it being recommended to me.

  4. Christopher says

    I have offered a post in response. I find this another example of the reductionism currently hounding Anglicanism.

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