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Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences [Paperback]

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Item description for Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences by Sung Chung...

Presents a balanced appraisal of Karl Barth's theology from a solidly evangelical perspective, exploring points of convergence with and divergence from historic evangelical faith.

Community Description
Featuring contributions by Alister McGrath, Kevin Vanhoozer, Gabriel Fackre, Henri Blocher, and other leading Christian scholars, Dr. Chung's balanced appraisal of Barth's theology explores the parallels and differences seen in the theories of this leading 20th-century church scholar and the historic beliefs of the evangelical faith. 352 pages, softcover from Baker.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Baker Academic
Pages   302
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 6" Height: 0.8"
Weight:   1.05 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 2008
Publisher   Baker Publishing Group
ISBN  0801031273  
ISBN13  9780801031274  

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Evangelism > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Protestant

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Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences?

A disappointment overall, with some excellent essays mixed in  Feb 14, 2007
I had been looking forward to reading this book, and so I find it disappointing to say that it did not meet my expectations. Part of the reason lies in the uneven quality of the essays.

The are several good essays in the book. The piece by Kevin Vanhoozer on Barth's doctrine of scripture is a masterpiece--one of the best treatments of the subject from an evangelical perspective to date. He single-handedly unmasks two generations of misinterpretation about Barth's understanding of scripture and offers a fresh reading of Barth's thought. I found it fair, thoughtful, and provocative. Alister McGrath, and Timothy George also stand out as solid contributions, and there are other good pieces.

Several other essays, however, fail to measure up. To illustrate my concerns--and to make them specific instead of general--I will focus on the essay by the editor of the volume, Sung Wook Chung. I think he demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of Barth's theology that stems from a failure to truly engage his work.

One of Chung's primary criticisms has to do with Barth's actualism. He argues that this motif is one that Barth has created on his own (63), and that it is a "pattern of thought that the Bible does not endorse explicitly or implicitly" (64). He concludes, "I cannot help thinking that he started his theological construction of a doctrine of God with his unique `philosophical' presuppositions that could not be verified by the Scriptural witness or any traditional theological sources" (64).

Those criticisms should be confusing to someone who has actually read Barth, because Barth clearly lays out the reasons for his actualism--and they come straight from Scripture. Chung, however, does not seem to acknowledge or consider Barth's arguments. To summarize: Barth's actualism is derived from the basic theological affirmation of the Bible and the Christian tradition: Jesus Christ is God. Barth believes with the Nicene Creed that this confession means that Jesus Christ is not a partial image of God or a God-like being, but God himself. For this reason, Barth believes that if we affirm that Jesus Christ is God, we must answer questions about what God's being is like by starting with God's act of self-revelation in Jesus Christ. In short, anything we say about God must be under the control of this concrete and particular divine act of self-revelation. Jesus Christ shows us what God's being is, because Jesus Christ is God.

Barth's actualism, therefore, does not arise out of philosophical presuppositions, as Chung thinks. It's exactly the opposite! It comes straight from the basic affirmation that Jesus Christ is God. The Bible does not just implicitly endorse this idea, but makes it explicit inasmuch as it affirms that "the Word was God" and the "Word became flesh and dwelt among us" and this Word was the one who John testified was Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1, 14, 17).

Regardless of whether one agrees with Barth about this issue, it is important to understand why he holds the position he does. Chung's criticism reveals that he has simply failed to acknowledge Barth's own explanations for his views, and the result is that he dismisses much of Barth's thought without ever truly understanding it. This is seen again in a criticism he makes of Barth's idea that God is the one who loves in freedom. He notes that Barth "identifies the essence of God with God's specific act--the act of loving," but he criticizes this as "reductionism" because he thinks that Barth has identified God with a generic notion of "love." But the very text he cites from Barth demonstrates that this is not the case. In the passage he cites, Barth says, "The Love of God, or God as love, is therefore interpreted in 1 John 4 as the completed act of divine loving in sending Jesus Christ" (quoted on p. 66). Barth uses this to say that God's love IS the act of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Barth is not reducing God to love in some generic sense of the word. He is saying that "love" has a specific name: Jesus Christ. He's not reducing God to some presupposed idea of love--he's defining love in Biblical terms. Chung simply fails to see this, even though it is in the text he himself cites. What's more, he says that evangelicals "may disagree with Barth that love is God!" (66). After reading the section he cites from Barth over and over, I can't find that quote or idea anywhere. In fact, Barth would say exactly the opposite!

These are just some examples the conclusions found in this essay. You could write separate pieces about Chung's charge that Barth is "leaning toward" Sabellianism and his incredible claim that Barth's doctrine of election has both Arminian and universalistic tendencies (don't those claims contradict one another?). Such charges arise from a basic misreading of Barth's work, and they are symptomatic of a larger problem in the book. Many of the authors seem to have approached Barth with preconceptions about him that do not correspond to Barth's actual views. As a result, they end up dismissing his theology at precisely the points when they should have engaged with it. There is much for evangelicals to learn from Barth, even when they disagree with him, and it's disappointing when some fail to truly listen to him.

Regardless of these critiques, this is a worthwhile volume to read--if only for the Vanhoozer essay alone. In and of itself, it is worth the price of the book.
Looks great, but no index?  Jan 23, 2007
I apologize for this not being a review, but I thought I would at least alert buyers/readers that Baker decided to not include an index (they confirmed this over the phone for me). This book can still be used as a reference, but it will involve more time since there isn't an index. Hence, the book is only 282 pages (302 if you count the intro pages). There are also various typos on pgs 1, 4, 30, 34, and 72. Just a heads up.

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