Going Paperback: Karl Barth’s Christology
We’ve known each other long enough now that you shouldn’t be surprised to know that I have no qualms whatsoever about shameless shilling for my book. I’ve been forced to hold back since it was first published a little over a year ago, thanks to the price tag putting the book out of reach of the average reader.
Well, those days are over.
The book puts the twentieth-century Swiss Reformed theologian in dialogue with the classical tradition with respect to the doctrine of the incarnation. Chapter 1 traces the development of the doctrine of Christ’s person from the fourth century to the eighth century and beyond (with particular attention given to Athanasius, Cyril, and John of Damascus), suggesting that the tradition has rendered a Christology that in places stands in tension with itself. Four problems in particular are diagnosed with respect to God’s immutability, impassibility, kenosis, and identity.
Chapter 2 surveys Barth’s response to this so-called “Logos Christology” of the ancient and medieval church, with a focus on his lectures at Göttingen and Münster in the 1920s, and Volume I of the Church Dogmatics (published in the early 1930s). Chapter 3 then examines the Christology of CD Volume IV, drawing out several thematic pairs that help us to understand what Barth was doing in his Christology – and why this ended up being so foundational to his theological project taken as a whole. (Those pairs are covenant and election, time and eternity, the divine and human essences, and humiliation and exaltation.)
The fourth chapter takes up the somewhat controverted question of whether Barth’s understanding of Christ’s person – which is in many respects creative and distinctly modern – qualifies as orthodox or “Chalcedonian.” I affirm that it most certainly is, and along the way explore Barth’s vital understanding of the nature of confessions, ecclesial authority, and metaphysical language.
Chapter 5 puts all these pieces together by returning to the four problems identified in Chapter 1, bringing the christological themes from Chapter 3 to bear on the topics of divine immutability, impassibility, kenosis, and the identity of the incarnate Christ. The book advocates, finally, that Barth’s Christology is a rich and rewarding help to Christians seeking to think critically yet faithfully about the person of Christ in the modern world. Along the way it carefully engages a number of ongoing controversies within Barth studies.
I do hope you’ll give the book a look now that it isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg!