Why Karl Barth?
You knew this was coming. Forgive my waxing eloquently about my good—and deceased—friend. He's like the habit I can't quit. And frankly, I haven't given it a good try. I recently did a brief review on An Explorer's Guide to Karl Barth by David Guretzki.
The book does not contain much deep interaction with Barth's theology. Instead, it does a great job of simply presenting Barth with as minimal interpretation as possible. This makes for a great introduction to Barth for evangelicals who have yet to decide if Barth is too conservative or liberal for their liking. So the opening question is obvious, why should anyone be persuaded to study Karl Barth? I'm going to let Guretzki answer that for us with a little interaction.
"I hope you will see that my argument for reading Barth is not just a matter of theological preference or style. There are substantial reasons for why Barth must be engaged, even if in the end we may come to radically different conclusions on various issues or even on the value of Barth himself." (6)
Contra the obvious implications, Barth's importance is not tied to his correctness. In a world of only studying what is right, we open ourselves to not recognizing what we disagree with or even what is challenging. Barth does all of this in spades. Contra all the conservative negativity, Guretzki notes some of the problems even liberals have with Barth:
"It seemed as if Karl Barth was simply too theologically and exegetically naive. Although Barth was plainly aware of the findings of the critical biblical scholarship of his day, he often either rejected those conclusions out of hand or wrote as if those findings simply didn't exist." (7-8)
Barth is a challenge to both sides because of his dedicated return to Scripture and the revealed Christ as the primary sources of Christian faith. Barth's confessional adherence can be a deterrent to liberals. His willingness to re-evaluate Reformed articulations are deterrents to conservatives. As Guretzki so deftly puts:
"Jesus is not only the answer for Barth but also the question that calls into question all our presumed answers to what we think we already know about God and the world." (13)
This gets to the center of "Why Karl Barth" — Jesus Christ. For any honest theologian, it is the study of Jesus Christ that furthers the church in its mission. And whether correct or not on any particular issue, Barth calls us back to our Savior. I can't conclude this post better than Guretzki concludes his first chapter:
"As much as Barth probably was not always the most authentic model follower of Jesus Christ, he most certainly has repeatedly forced me to consider whether I am truly a follower and witness of the Lord Jesus Christ. If for not other reason than this latter one, I will continue to read and teach Karl Barth." (14-15)
If you are seeking friends who point you to Christ, you could do a lot worse than Karl Barth. For me, he is and has been a dear friend.