Recherche – Detailansicht






Dogmen- und Theologiegeschichte


Beintker, Michael [Hrsg.]


Barth Handbuch.


Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2016. XVIII, 538 S. = Handbücher Theologie. Kart. EUR 49,00. ISBN 978-3-16-150076-3.


Christophe Chalamet

This is a splendid textbook, written for people who are new to Barth as well as for those who are already acquainted with him and his works. Accessibility and readability were key requirements for all contributors. The book is meant for all interested readers and is written, as can be expected, by seasoned scholars.
The structure of the book is clear: after a brief orientation about various editions of Barth’s works and other useful resources, and some words on current scholarship, the book contains two major parts. The first, 160 pages long, focuses on Barth himself (Person) and his relation to other scholars, traditions or movements. The second, and longest one (240 pages), centers on his work (Werk). A final section (45 pages) presents his impact and the ways in which he has been read and received (Wirkung und Rezeption).
From beginning to end, the Barth Handbuch is filled with compact, clear and insightful presentations and analyses. The average length for each entry is 5–6 pages.
On Barth himself, even well-acquainted readers will learn something when reading Eberhard Busch’s presentation of Barth’s early life, Friedrich Lohmann’s remarks on Kant’s, neo-Kantianism’s, and Kierkegaard’s influence, or Hinrich Stoevesandt’s presentation of Eduard Thurneysen and Charlotte von Kirschbaum (the fact that Stoevesandt is able to confirm certain aspects by invoking his own experience of the people he is writing about is valuable).
The part dedicated to Barth’s works (Werk; 183–422) is the core of the textbook. It is divided into four sections which present the main phases of his career as a theologian (Stadien; 50 pages), the main literary genres of his literary production (Gattungen; 40 pages), the central theological topics he addressed (Themen; 130 pages), and, finally, his way of seeing theology (Profile), i. e. theology as a joyous, critical and creative science (20 pages). This long part dedicated to Barth’s work begins with a rather dense presentation of his earliest writings, by Georg Pfleiderer, who at a few points writes in a rather convoluted and elliptic style (see for instance, on p. 188: »Manuskripte von Vorträgen im Safenwiler Arbeiterverein zeigen jedoch, dass Barth die religiös-sozialistische Geschichtssynthese von ›Jesus Christus und [der] sozialen Bewegung‹ in einer von den historischen Tatsächlichkeiten von Kirche und Sozialdemokratie bewusst abstrahierenden ethisch-normativen und darum wiederum nur appellativ-performativ entwickelbaren Weise, mithin in der Form der theoretischen Konstituierung eines ›Doppelagenten‹ (Pfleiderer 2000, 230), vor Augen steht.« Will the average newcomer to Barth understand a sentence such as this one? I doubt it. But this sentence is, thankfully, an exception. Cornelis van der Kooi’s pages on the two editions of the Römerbrief are excellent. Among the factors which led Barth to consider a revision of the first edition, a reference to Friedrich Gogarten should have been made (195–197). Dietrich Korsch’s introduction to the main topics of Barth’s theology (276–281) requires the full concentration of the reader, but it is a highlight of the book, thanks to its precision and insightfulness. The Anselmbuch is described with great acumen by Michael Beintker. Wolf Krötke’s contributions are the highlight of the book: his analysis of Barth’s mature doctrine of election as a highly significant phase in Barth’s development stands out. Krötke’s way of pointing out shifts within the Kirchliche Dogmatik is magisterial (223–225). The same is true of his pages on God’s sovereignty and humaneness (Gottes Souveränität und Menschlichkeit; 301–307). Michael Weinrich’s comments on the notion of »alliance« (Bund) are en­lightening and indeed point out a relative lacuna in Barth studies (313–314). J. Christine Janowski states, perhaps a bit rashly, that Barth’s stance on the final universal reconciliation is »inconsistent and self-contradictory« (327).
The Barth Handbuch steers clear of hagiography and Barthian apologetic, even if the general tone is one of sympathy. Weaknesses in Barth’s thoughts, as well as critical questions which have been raised in the secondary literature, are not obfuscated. Cornelis van der Kooi mentions the »scandal« which Barth’s views on religion, in KD I/2, § 13.7, provoked (287). Wolf Krötke, in particular, must be commended for pointing out what may appear as problematic pronouncements by Barth regarding God’s absoluteness and »total claim« ( Totalitätsanspruch) on human beings, regarding the idea (an »irreal possibility«, according to Krötke) that God would be »whole« even if God were not in relation with creation (304), and also concerning the interpretation of »nothingness«, which Barth locates and grounds perhaps too directly in God’s creative act (344). If certain possible weaknesses in Barth’s theology are acknowl-edged, certain unwarranted critiques of Barth are also called for what they are, namely (in Colin Gunton’s words) »complete nonsense« (352, on the idea that Barth’s theology suppresses the human).
There are some repetitions. Barth’s statement about theology’s scientificity not being a »vital question«, is quoted by three differ-ent contributors on p. 409, 415, and 417. But this is a manual; not many people, besides the editor and the reviewers (there is no guar-antee that even they will do so), will read this book from cover to cover. More problematic is Hans-Peter Großhans’s claim that, according to Barth, the Church »prolongs« (fortsetzt) Jesus Christ’s work (Werk) (373, twice). As I see it, this amounts to a stark overemphasis of the continuity and identity between Christ’s reconcilia-tory work and the Church’s specific vocation. This overemphasis is corrected by Michael Weinrich not many pages later in conjunc-tion with the doctrine of the sacraments (377–380), and by Eberhard Busch in relation with Barth’s teaching on baptism (385). Is it really the case that the Church, for Barth, is »necessary for salvation« ( heilsnotwendig), as Großhans puts it (372)? And if yes, in what sense? In that the community effects or accomplishes, even partly, salvation – or in that it signals it? Certainly not in the former sense, i. e. as the completing of something which was left unaccomplished, but rather in that it mirrors it, i. e. in that it renders witness to it. Characterizing the work of the community as heilsnotwendig may not be an accurate interpretation of Barth’s ecclesiology.
The presentation of Barth’s writings on ethics by Torsten Meireis (251–257) is conscientious and sound, but does not convey Barth’s view that the problem of ethics runs through dogmatics »from the very first« (KD III/4, 1). There is a section on the Trinity, but I missed a section on God’s attributes and on the knowledge of God.
This is a very German book, written mostly by German, senior scholars (only 2 of the 39 authors were born after 1970). The section on current Barth scholarship (7–11) is so centered on German schol-arship that it almost omits to mention the flood of books which are being published in English these days. Certain foreign words, in French and English, are misspelled. Faith, hope and love are not »cardinal« but »theological« virtues (391). The text is, otherwise, almost free of errors. The indices and the chronological timetable of Barth’s life are very useful.
All in all, the Barth Handbuch will render great services to students and other interested readers.