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Why and How Karl Barth Argue Against Theology from Below and for Theology from Above

  • Date Submitted: 09/11/2013 11:45 AM
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WHY AND HOW DOES BARTH ARGUE AGAINST A “THEOLOGY FROM BELOW” AND FOR A “THEOLOGY FROM ABOVE?”

Introduction Karl Barth, one of the most influential theological mind of the twentieth century, widely recognized as a modern church father during his own life time, often classed together with Augustine , Aquinas, Luther, Calvin and Schleiermacher because of his massive, original contribution to theology,1 argue strongly against a “theology from below,” and argue in support for “theology from above.”2 He grew up under the renowned liberal theologians as Adolph Von Harnack and Wilhelm Hermann. He was attracted to the teaching of Harnack and became particularly interested in Schleiermacher’s theology of experience in spite of his father’s opposition. But finally, it is he again who initiated the theological shift from the nineteenth to the twentieth-century when he launched his sustained attack against Protestant Liberalism, exemplified by Friedrich Schleiermacher, Albrecht Ritschl, and Adolf von Harnack. In fact, it is with “Der Romerbrief”,3 that many scholars date the end of the nineteenth and the start of the twentieth-century of theology. One of Barth's most notable students, Eberhard Jungel, says that,
Karl Barth is the most significant Protestant theologian since Schleiermacher, (and his) personal and literary influence profoundly changed the shape of Christian theology across confessional boundaries, significantly altered the direction of the Protestant church, and also left an unmistakable imprint on the politics and cultural life of the twentieth century.”4
Stanley I. Grenz and Roger E. Olson, 20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age (Downers Grove: IVP Press, 1992), 64. 2 These terms, “Theology from above,” and “Theology from below,” were not necessarily the words used by Karl Barth in his writings, but the concepts are very much there in his works or writings. Therefore these words are coined by the later readers to explain Barth’s view...

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