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Pre-Class Questions for my Barthian Teacher

Before class, Dave Guretzki (facebook, blog) asked us to prepare a few questions, to guide our class-discussions. I think I went a little over-board. I created and e-mailed the following questions to him. I also printed these questions and – although we did not have time to cover all of them – I jotted down the answers which I believe are appropriate under most of them. (You can see the word document Here) I will answer my own questions in an upcoming series of posts entitled, “Some questions for Barth”




Josiah Meyer


“Questions I have for Barth”

 1. Understand Barth’s central message. If Barthianism is a real system, I want to be able to comprehend it well enough to enunciate at least the basic tenets of it. If Barth wrote a gospel tract, what would it contain? When I go home, my pastor will ask me, “So, what does Barth teach?” In under five minutes, I want to be able to answer him.

2. Understand Barth’s Christology. Everybody always says it is all about Jesus. From hippies to fundamentalists, from Mormons to Liberals, from Marcionites to Muslims, everybody says they are “Christ-followers.” To say that one’s theology is “Christocentric” is about as useful as saying that it is “good.” I want an answer to the question of the ages: “Who does Barth say that Christ is?” I hope the answers are very specific, and get into the nitty-gritty details, where we all know the Devil is lurking.

 3. What in the world does Barth mean: “I have actualized Chalcedon”? It’d just be nice to know what he means by this phrase.


General Questions

What is “Dogmatics”? How does it differ from “Dogma” and from “Systematics”?

  1. Is Barth arguing for a minimalistic systematic theology, an open-ended systematic theology, a non-systematic theology or some other option…?


  1. If Scriptures do not deliver propositional information, how do they reveal Christ to us?

(e.g. no existential meeting of one person with another will be completely devoid of propositional information. Personhood is more, not less, than propositional information: generally, the more complex the individual, and the deeper the relationship, the more facts one will learn about the other)

  1. If Scriptures are not inerrant, by what cipher can we “edit” out the less “human” portions?

Doesn’t this editing demonstrate that some other filter (e.g. the human mind, science, “the scholarly consensus,” etc.) is the actual, normative norm to which we are forcing Scriptures to submit?

  1. If Scriptures are not inerrant, is it not arbitrary to say that Christ meets us only here?
  1. Did miracles happen: 1) in the events recorded, and/or 2) in the act of recording them?

(e.g. did Moses really see a real pillar of fire, which hovered over his camp, and did he really speak to God face to face, and receive real information about events long since past and some events yet to come – e.g. his death – and was he then guided by the Holy Spirit to write these events down inerrantly?)

  1. Or, conversely, did God in some way inspire the writing or redacting of various “opwards-questing” human authors?

(e.g. were the writings of the Pentateuch the result of some over-zealous Babylonian captive, desperate to create some sense of national identity, who pasted together Jewish, Palistinian and Babylonian myth, along with some fallible histories and folklore, thus creating the Pentateuch?)

  1. Is there a difference between the historicity of the OT and that of the NT?
  1. How does the OT testify to the NT?
  • Is it fluke? (I assume not)
  • Is it revelation? In that case: a) how can the OT be part of the upwards-questing religious attempt of Judaism? b) why did God reveal His will imperfectly?
  1. Where does Barth get his propositions from?

(e.g. How does he know the details of the Trinity? Also, where does “the command” come from, in his doctrine of gender? Gollwitzer, 194-229)

  1. Since Barth gets propositional information (from “somewhere”) why does he object so strongly to systematics?


  1. 1.      Barth often speaks of “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy:” against what concrete standard are heretics called out, since all Christian heretics (by definition) use Scriptures?


  1. Is there now any distinction between the “saved” and the “lost”?

(if not: 1) why does God through the prophets/apostles call people to repentance? 2) in what way is the Church called to be, and actually considered to be hagios? 3) in what way is the church given the keys of the kingdom, or actually made the agents of reconciliation in the world?

  1. Will there be, in the future, a distinction between the “saved” and the “lost”?

(If not: what is the point of all our costly and at times brutally disastrous missionary ventures? Also: 1) what do we make of all the “hell” and “wrath” passages, 2) what do we do with the reward passages? 3) in what way do we tell people that choosing God now will be a “good” choice, even if it means immediate torture and death in this life? 4) in what way will the righteous be “vindicated” over the unrighteous in the final judgment?

  1. Rob Bell seems to utilize Barthian concepts, and draws his line of distinction between Christian and non basically as a distinction of works: what would Barth say to that?

(Bell describes salvation as sitting in a restaurant and being told by the waitress that your bill has already been paid. One must not live in the reality of believing that the bill still must be paid: they must live in the new reality that it really is paid. How do they do so? Be a good person. Don’t be a bad person. As he summarizes: “Heaven & Hell are both full of people God loves and died for. The difference is how they lived their lives.” Because this system has no real place for repentance – and thus faith – the pull towards a works-based salvation seems to be virtually irresistible)


  1. 1.      If God did not redeem all mankind (as Barth repeatedly claims he does), would He still be just and loving? Barth seems to say that He would not be as loving, and perhaps not as just: but does this not imply that humanity is in some sense loveable and deserving of mercy?


  1. Yes, technically Barth is orthodox. But practically speaking, isn’t he saying that all will be saved in the end? Isn’t this universalism? Why, then, the run-around: “just come out and say it, why don’t you!”
  2. Isn’t Barth conflating and confusing the “two Adams”? Functionally, the first Adam seems to have been completely replaced. What is his real use or function today?


  1. What is “the Christ event”?
  1. Who was/is the historical Jesus?
  1. What is the relation between the Johannine doctrine of “Logos” and the Greek notion of “logos”?
  1. Who was/is the second member of the Trinity?
  1. Who was the first Adam? ______________ Who was the second Adam? ____________

How are the two related to: 1) each other, 2) the human race?

6. How are all these persons related to one another? Specifically:

  • In what manner was Christ pre-existent?
  • Did the man, Jesus, contribute a separate volitional mind, or only a physical container for the divine substance?
  • Where is Christ now?
  • How does Christ impact us/speak to us now?
  • What is the living Christ’s relationship with the Christ of paper?

On Preaching

  1. What does Barth do with the many conversion stories, of people who experience/hear from God only with Scriptures, without a preacher present?
  1. Doesn’t Barth place preaching/prophecy over Scriptures, rather than (as he should) placing prophecy/preaching under the scrutiny/power/norming influence of Scriptures?


  1. In God Here and Now, as well as in a few other quotes, Barth seems more than a little agnostic about the actual events of the eschaton, specifically on judgment, etc.:
  • Does this agnosticism flow (as Van Til posits) from a Kantian division between nominal and pneuminal (inherited through Kirkegaard, and thus through Hegel and Kant, and flowing ultimately from Descartes)?
  • Barth leaves the possibility of real shock and surprise open: do you think (this question is subjective) Barth has really wrestled with the question of “what if eternal, conscious torment is really meted out on all who make no profession of faith in this life?!” This question haunts my dreams, and ignites my prayers.
  • What does he do with the Scritures on Hell/fiery judgment?
  • What does he do with the passages motivating us to sanctity, perseverance and mission, based explicitly on the judgment? (e.g. 1 Pet. “since all these things will be consumed in this way, consider what lives you should live…”)

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