The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.
Karl Barth (1886-1968) was a 20th century Swiss Protestant theologian within the Reformed tradition who has come to be referred to as the Father of Neo-Orthodoxy. His father was a minister, and his mother was a minister’s daughter. In his early education, he studied within the theology of German liberalism, yet when introduced to Immanuel Kant, and leaned away from his father’s influence.
However, in his early pastoral career, he saw that the political conditions surrounding him contradicted many ideas that he was learning and teaching. Within his church, the factory owners were exploiting many of the industrial workers and Barth encouraged the workers to unionize. When World War I broke out and many of his theological peers and mentors supported the German war effort, Barth was struck by what he deemed as a lack of strong theological foundation to separate a nation’s action from the church.
In this context, he authored his commentary on Romans in which he tried to articulate what he saw as Paul’s vision of Rome turned upside down and to counter the theology of his contemporaries.
The descriptively thorough essence of Barth’s theology is the person of Jesus Christ. This forms the center of Barth’s theology which is expounded in his infamous tome, Church Dogmatics. (Click here for Reading the Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth: A Primer, by David Guretzki, PhD). This emphasis upon the person of Christ is seen in his work, The Humanity of God:
This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before.
Thus in this oneness Jesus Christ is the Mediator, the Reconciler, between God and man. Thus He comes forward to man on behalf of God calling for and awakening faith, love and hope, and to God on behalf of man, representing man, making satisfaction and interceding. Thus he attests and guarantees to God’s free grace and at the same time attests and guarantees to God man’s free gratitude.
[Editor's note: Gender-exclusive language expressed in the quotation is consistent with the source material.]
Phillip Sturgeon is a graduate of Chapman University. He writes at his personal blog, phillipotamus.com and lives in Southern CA, where he almost always drives with the windows down.