Karl Barth's Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology: Its Genesis and Development, 1909-1936
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 von Balthasar's seminal interpretation of Barth, which was first published in 1951. Drawing on a wealth of material, much of it unpublished during Barth's lifetime, as well as a thorough acquaintance with the best of recent German scholarship, Professor McCormack demonstrates that the fundamental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, critically realistic 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 Dogmatics of 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 seriously enough 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.