Monday, 2 February 2009

Meet Karl Barth

Karl Barth was one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. He was born in Switzerland, and grew up in the Reformed tradition (i.e. Protestant). He studied theology under some of the big names in liberal theology, and then started work as the pastor of a small church. Frustrated by his sense that everything he'd learnt at university was irrelevant to the lives of ordinary people (I know, it's hard to empathise), he came to the realisation that it was all about the Kingdom of God, and proceeded to write a range of impenetrable books, including the Church Dogmatics which, while not quite so monumental as Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, still ran to a hefty thirteen volumes (like the Summa, it was never finished as Barth died before completing it). Take that, academic elitism!

He didn't, to be fair, spend the rest of his life in an ivory tower. He was one of the founding members of the German Confessing Church, which tried to stand up to Hitler, and had to resign an academic post because he refused to swear an oath of allegiance to Hitler. After the end of WWII, he co-authored the Darmstadt Statement of Guilt on behalf of the Confessing Church, acknlowedging the responsibility of the German people and Church for the atrocities of the war and the rise of Hitler.

And y'know, he also had a whole range of interesting theological ideas, but we'll get into some of those some other time.

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