Opinions on Karl Barth?

How many of you are familiar with Barth. I have been learning about him recently in a class I am taking and his interpretation of the Bible seems pretty interesting. I don’t think it is completely in line with Catholic teachings though. What do you guys think of him?

Springtime for Luther and Germany!
Protestant scholar Robert McAfee Brown, wrote in Kairos: Three Prophetic Challenges to the Church, (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1990):

“Almost immediately after Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933, Protestant Christians faced pressure to “aryanize” the Church, expel Jewish Christians from the ordained ministry and adopt the Nazi “Führer Principle” as the organizing principle of church government. In general, the churches succumbed to these pressures, and some Christians embraced them willingly. The pro-Nazi “German Christian” movement became a force in the church. They glorified Adolf Hitler as a “German prophet” and preached that racial consciousness was a source of revelation alongside the Bible. But many Christians in Germany—including Lutheran and Reformed, liberal and neo-orthodox—opposed the encroachment of Nazi ideology on the Church’s proclamation. At Barmen, this emerging “Confessing Church” adopted a declaration drafted by Reformed theologian Karl Barth and Lutheran theologian Hans Asmussen, which expressly repudiated the claim that other powers apart from Christ could be sources of God’s revelation. Not all Christians courageously resisted the regime, but many who did—like the Protestant pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Roman Catholic priest Bernhard Lichtenberg—were arrested and executed in concentration camps.”Karl Barth argued that the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Swords made German Lutherans more susceptable to totalitarian takeovers and more passive towards unjust actions by the state. This doctrine originated with Luther himself. During the Reformation, political passivity and absolute support of the Prince/state to keep order was one of the prices that Lutherans had to pay in order to win the nobility away from Catholicism. By saying that Church and State wielded separate “swords” and that the Church should not interfere in state matters desensitized many Lutherans towards the horrors of the Nazi system. Around 85% of Lutheran ministers joined the pro-Nazi German Christian movement and large numbers of them wore Nazi regalia in the pulpit while preaching on Sunday.

For a balanced view of this complex historical issue see:


I have to say that it was quite noble of him to stand up to Hitler.

One thing that I was thinking about was his opinion on the Bible and it being divine revelation. In his opinion, the Bible was not divine revelation, but human witness to it. Jesus Christ was divine revelation, and the writers of the Bible were witnesses to this, so we end up with a human account of the divine revelation. This means that the Bible is not inerrant or the word of God, but it is humans describing the witness of this divine revelation.

I kind of like this view of the Bible. In my mind it actually makes a lot of sense.

Karl Barth is a heretic. Look at what he has said about Holy Mother Church (Church Dogmatics):

*]“Wherever Mary is venerated, and devotion to her takes place, there the Church of Christ does not exist.”
*]“Catholic mariology is a cancer, a sick theological development, and cancers should be cut out.”
*]“The heresy of the Catholic Church is its mariology and Marian cult.”
He also called the uniquely Catholic doctrine of analogia entis—that we can understand God in analogy to created material things {viz., that we can only know God here below on earth with analogical knowledge (cognitio analoga or analogica), not proper (cognitio propria) knowledge}—the “invention of anti-Christ” (cf. Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma pg. 19 and K. J. Johnson’s Analogia Entis*Karl Barth and the *), opposing, e.g., Dz. 1785. Barth also opposed child-Baptism (cf. Ott’s idem pg. 359).

Pope Pius XII called him “the greatest theologian since Thomas Aquinas.”

Without a doubt the most important theologian since the Reformation period. On the whole a great man and a great theologian, although others have noted some heterodoxies, such as a denial of paedobaptism.

Barth’s view of Scripture is flawed, but he didn’t see it just as the human response to God’s Word. He believed that when viewed in light of Christ, it “becomes” God’s Word by God’s sovereign act. Very similar to the Reformed attitude to the sacraments. As I see it, Barth applied the Protestant fear of “idolatry” consistently to Scripture, which conservative Protestants don’t. So where Barth is wrong is in his suspicion of means of grace in general (whether the Church or Scripture or Mary or the sacraments). But his radical Christocentrism was a healthy shock to both Protestants and Catholics. Hans Urs von Balthasar and others have “Catholicized” Barth’s ideas. Fr. Robert Barron would be someone today who represents that kind of Catholic theology.


Have you read the Dogmatics in Outline? I’d go as far as to say that it’s one of the best theological books ever written. It’s an exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, and he just goes through it step by step. Again, not 100% Catholic, but if you want a truly great thinker to make you stop and think about a text you know well, then it’s a great read!

(As the name suggests, it serves as kind of quick glance at the theology of his *Church *Dogmatics, but it’s also worth reading in its own right)

Edit: have just realised how old this thread is.

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