Karl Barth's Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology: Its Genesis and Development, 1909-1936

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Oxford University Press, 1997 - Biography & Autobiography - 499 pages
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`McCormack is master of this voluminous material. He is scrupulously at home in the intricate, dramatic background of Swiss socialist politics ...The result is a masterly study, often as compelling as its theme.' George Steiner, Times Literary Supplement `This meticulous and definitive study ... supersedes most previous interpretations.' Colin Gunton, Theological Book Review `it should quickly attain classic status. It is an exceptionally fine and erudite piece of work....The results of this painstaking attention to detail are truly ground-breaking. This is a major intellectual achievement, an interpretative act of great courage, and Barth studies will never look thesame.' Graham Ward, Expository Times This book is a new, major intellectual biography of perhaps the most influential theologian of the twentieth century, Karl Barth. It offers the first full-scale revision of the well-known theologian Hans Urs Balthasar's seminal interpretation of Barth, which was first published in 1951. Drawing ona wealth of material, much of it unpublished during Barth's lifetime, as well as a thorough acquaintance with the best of recent German scholarship, Professor McCormack demonstrates that the fundamental decision which would control the whole of Barth's development - the turn to a new, criticallyrealistic form of theological objectivism - was already made during the years in which Barth was at work on his first commentary on Romans. Professor McCormack further argues that the most significant subsequent decisions - both material and methodological - were made in Barth's Gottingen Dogmaticsof 1924/5, and not later in the 1931 book on Anselm, as has often been alleged. Finally, he seeks to show that von Balthasar's description of a turn from dialectic to analogy, which provided the foundation for the neo-orthodox reading of Barth in the English-speaking world, fails to take seriouslyenough the extent to which dialectic remained a constitutive feature of Barth's outlook in the Church Dogmatics. This unique and important work provides not simply a fresh interpretation of Barth's development, but also a new paradigm for understanding the whole of Barth's theology.

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This book is worth the work the reading requires. The occasional dryness is overcome with the value of following Barth's theological shifts in such a tumultuous period of German history. The dialectical process is easy to situate in his milieu, with ample worth for modern theological constructions. 

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About the author (1997)

Bruce L. McCormack is a Frederick and Margaret L. Weyerhaeuser Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary.

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