Karl Barth was born May 10, 1886 in Basil, Switzerland. He is arguably the most significant Christian thinker of the twentieth century, and is lauded as a theologian who almost single-handedly ripped Protestant theology from the liberal grasp of German theologians, and helped push the church back towards a more biblical and Christological center. Although the product of 19th Century Protestant Liberalism, he rejected this path after watching most of his esteemed teachers endorse the new German Nazi Regime. During this time Barth helped to author the Barmen Declaration, which emphatically stated that the Church’s primary allegiance was to Christ, not the Nazi regime. He mailed a copy of the declaration to Hitler himself, and fled to Switzerland in 1935 because he would not swear allegiance to him. After the Second World War, Barth was one of the first who worked the reconciliation and rebuilding of churches within Germany.
His magnum opus is the daunting work, Church Dogmatics. Reading through it would require a great deal of time. Understanding it requires even more. It is praised for its emphasis on the person and work of Jesus Christ, who is always the central figure in Barth’s theology. He loved Jesus! Conservatives have criticized, however, his views on election and revelation. He does not share a definition of biblical inerrancy that most conservatives are comfortable with. Indeed, there are issues of Barth’s theology that I simply cannot follow him in. Nonetheless, Protestant theologians today who submit to the authority of Scripture and leave room for the miraculous within their theologies owe Barth a great deal of gratitude. Happy Birthday Mr. Barth.
“The theologian who labors without joy is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this field.”
— Karl Barth