下面这篇文章是Gordon H. Clark 所著的《卡尔巴特的神学方法》《Karl Barth’s Theological Method》（1963年）一书的前言。（译注：书的作者 Gordon H. Clark 1902年出生，1985年离世。他是美国的哲学家和加尔文主义神学家，是前设护教学的主要人物之一，并曾担任巴特勒大学 Butler University 哲学系主任28年）
瑞士神学家卡尔·巴特（1886-1968）必须被评为20世纪最有影响力的神学家之一。 当然，这是一个不确定的划分，因为，希特勒，列宁，斯大林，毛泽东都必须跻身于二十世纪最有影响力的政治家之列； 最有影响力的音乐家包括约翰·凯奇（John Cage）和猫王（Elvis Presley）； 最有影响力的画家是巴勃罗·毕加索（Pablo Picasso）和安迪·沃霍尔（Andy Warhol）。 在本世纪中叶的几十年中，巴特一直是神学名利场里有吸引力的主要人物，如今他的影响力已减弱，但并没有消失。成立于1974年的北美卡尔·巴特学会在各个方面都在蓬勃发展，许多新福音派人士，其中一些属于（新）福音派神学学会，都在试图想让巴特和他的资料复兴。
尽管可能是因为他的工作量（他的未完成的《教会教义学》是加尔文的《基督教要义》的九倍，是托马斯的Summa 神学的两倍），巴特仍然让许多基督徒着迷的原因可能有好几个。 首先，他的神学观点在几年间里发生了变化，甚至在他撰写《教会教义学》的几十年中也在变化。 巴特受教于阿道夫·冯·哈纳克（Adolf von Harnack），威廉·赫尔曼（Wilhelm Herrmann），和德国可拉（Korah）神学团队的其他成员的，巴特的首次发声是现代主义。 用他自己的话来说：“我已经使自己成为’现代’学校的忠实门徒，该学校直到第一次世界大战仍占主导地位，被认为是唯一值得归属的学校。”
大学毕业后，巴特于1909年先是在日内瓦担任牧师，然后在1911年至1921年在阿尔高州的萨芬维尔（Safenwil）担任牧师。 第一次世界大战期间和之后，一场冲突粉碎了许多现代主义者和自由主义者的天真的乐观主义，尤其是巴特对他的现代主义老师的信仰瓦解了，巴特情急激昂地对现代主义做出了反应并发起了攻击。 在他的思想的第二个主要阶段，大约是1920年代，他从19世纪丹麦哲学家齐克果（Soren Kierkegaard）所得的帮助，超过从19世纪德国神学家施莱尔马赫（Friedrich Schleiermacher）那里所得到的。 在1930年代，巴特从1920年代的极端矛盾中退缩，提倡一种他认为与宗教改革更为契合的神学。
巴特在神学上的这些转折使读者感到困惑，当然还有其他更为重要的原因，那就是巴特的晦涩难懂。 其次，巴特的风格对基督徒来说仍然是个迷。巴特那些古怪的散文，由于翻译成英文时不清楚，这也让巴特不易被理解。 就像巴特对别人所说的那样，人们可能会这样说巴特的神学，“你的神学体系。。。既没有头也没有尾巴，中间还有黑暗。”
一个人的写作不清楚可能有三个主要的原因：（1）思想上的混乱，由混乱的写作表现出来。 （2）不真诚，正如乔治·奥威尔（George Orwell）在他的经典文章“政治与英语”中所解释的那样，不真诚会使作者通过模棱两可和颠覆性的方式掩饰其真实的意图和含义。 （3）指导哲学，主张相反乃至矛盾的命题是真正的哲学和神学。 这三方面的问题，卡尔·巴特（Karl Barth）似乎都有。
让我们首先处理不真诚的问题。巴特使用所有正确的语言来表达所有错误的事，他这方面的技巧是娴熟的，这是基督徒对巴特如此困惑的原因之一。巴特声称自己坚定地站在“宗教改革传统”中；他向加尔文提供了一些“纠正”，例如，他声称所有的人都在基督里被拣选得救，但却清楚地宣称自己是宗教改革的后裔。这种欺骗是诱人的，巴特可能同时也被这种欺骗所欺。 巴特经常书写恩典，G.C. Berkouwer的书的标题是《巴特神学中恩典的得胜》（巴特希望书名是《在耶稣基督里自由的得胜》）巴特无情地抨击现代主义，捍卫上帝启示的道；他甚至捍卫唯独圣经和唯独基督，但在他的口中，这些词语的意思已被改变，就像“拣选”的意思在他的口中已被改变那样。
在巴特的神学中，“上帝的道”不应该与圣经相提并论，因为圣经中包含错误和神话（或英雄故事）。巴特写道，圣经权威的含义“不是‘基要’的，‘基要’就意味着神圣的文本是知识真正和最终的根基。” 实际上，“ 用拉丁语（或希腊语或希伯来语）在语言和意思上以神圣的权威一劳永逸地给出命题，这在神学上是不可能的。” 巴特神学虽然一直强调“启示”，但他的神学使命题启示成为不可能。巴特认为启示不是命题，而是发生的事件。巴特写道：“上帝的道今天还在圣经里发生，除此之外，圣经并不是上帝的道，而是像其他书籍一样的书。” （读者应该理解，就像巴特的神学那样，1950年代和1960年代的披头族和嬉皮“事件”是19世纪和20世纪初的哲学和神学影响的后果）巴特认为“创造故事”是神话或诗歌，正如巴特在给侄孙女的信中解释的那样；巴特认为进化与创世纪并不矛盾，进化是科学地发生。巴特说，当基督从坟墓中复活时，如果有记者在场的话，并不会有新闻要报道。（译注：巴特不相信耶督基督的复活是真实的历史，他的意思是：基督并没有从坟墓里复活，所以，既使有记者在场，也不会真的看到基督复活，当然也就不会有基督复活的相关新闻报道）。
巴特附和路德和加尔文，他教导说称义唯独靠信心，但在巴特的口中，“称义”或“信心”（甚至可能连“唯独”）都不是路德和加尔文的意思。 1964年，托马斯·尼尔森（Thomas Nelson）和 Sons 出版了罗马天主教神学家汉斯·库恩（Hans Kueng）的书，《称义：卡尔·巴特的教义与天主教的反思》。 库恩写道：“ 巴特和天主教之间没有本质区别。” 巴特在致库恩的信中赞扬了库恩的书，该信印刷在书中，巴特写道，库恩理解他的称义教义，就像巴特希望被理解的那样。 那是什么样的理解呢？ 其实并不是什么新鲜事； 它是与19世纪英国安立甘主教约翰·亨利·纽曼（John Henry Newman）提出的称义教义相同。 用库恩自己的话来说：
上帝对义的宣告，在同一时间和同一行为中，使之成义。“称义”表示实际的义的宣告，不是内在的更新。神对义的宣告不意味着内在的更新吗？ 正相反。 一切都归结于此，这是神对义的宣告，而不是人的话：是主大能的话语。 与人的话不同，神的话成就所说的。 上帝说：“要有光”，就有了光。罪人的称义就像这样。 上帝宣布，“你是义的”。 罪人就是真正的、真实的、外在和内在的、完整和完全的义。 罪人的罪孽被赦免了，他的心也是义的。（译注：巴特把上帝宣告人称义等同于成圣，他认为在上帝宣告罪人是义的时候，罪人也成圣了。称义和成圣在正统的基督教信仰里是两个不同的概念，称义是即刻的，而成圣则是一生的过程）
巴特不仅不是站在宗教改革传统里，而是反对这一传统。 他拒绝唯独圣经，唯独恩典，唯独基督，唯独信心，但当这些术语出现在他口中时，他却是面带笑容。 正如他的许多拥护者所认为的那样，很难相信巴特会不知道自己在做什么。 他们称赞巴特对神学历史的掌握。 巴特当然知道他的称义教义的来源。 巴特的拥护者将此归咎于巴特的某种程度的愚蠢，这种程度的愚蠢是神学史上从未有过的。 但是巴特并不像他的拥护者所认为的那么蠢。 巴特系统性的模棱两可的结果是一种福音派神秘主义。 尽管巴特使用许多基督教词语，但巴特的神学并不是基督教的。 就如现代主义那样，它是另一种宗教。 巴特是一只哀嚎的狼。
巴特的辩证神学使他能够使用圣经中的术语，同时赋予它们新的和非常不符合圣经的意思。就如自由主义者使用诸如“基督的神性”之类的术语，罗马天主教徒使用诸如“称义”，“教会”，“圣人”和“恩典”之类的术语，巴特也能够使用整个宗教改革的神学论述。 巴特的模棱两可并不像自由主义那样是偶然的和部分的，而是彻底和完整的。 巴特把新教神学的模糊用语系统化，形成了一个体系。
尽管巴特的神学是别有用意地不一致，但巴特的行为却显示出其内在的一致性。巴特想在教会和世界上为非理性和社会主义争得一席之地。巴特认为基督是“上帝的道的一种形式”，他强调基督论是理解“启示”的关键。但是巴特也在《教会教义学》（Church Dogmatics）中写道：“上帝可以通过俄罗斯共产主义，通过长笛协奏曲，通过盛开的灌木丛，或通过死狗向我们说话。如果上帝真的如此做，我们就可以好好地聆听他说的话。” 根据这样的说法，有人会奇怪为什么巴特在1934年的《巴门宣言》（Barmen Declaration）中否认上帝可以通过阿道夫·希特勒（Adolf Hitler）对我们说话。可能的答案并不是他的神学，而是他的政治哲学：巴特的一生都是社会主义者和马克思主义者。这个答案解释了为什么巴特在1930年代对纳粹主义的强烈谴责，以及他蓄意终身拒绝谴责共产主义，甚至还赞扬共产主义。
尽管在几十年里，巴特的神学观点发生了变化，但巴特的政治观点并未改变。巴特的神学带着社会主义的色彩，这是许多读者并不理解的。 1956年，巴特在一采访时解释说：“我之所以选择神学，是因为我觉得有必要为自己的社会行动找到更好的基础。”他的神学是发展他的社会主义的工具，是为悍卫他的政治观点。根据巴特的传记作者说，巴特在萨夫恩维尔（Safenwil）时是“牧师战友”。巴特说：“社会主义是福音非常重要和必要的应用。” 在1916年，巴特写道：“资本主义秩序和战争是生命的两大暴行。” 巴特在第一次世界大战期间撰写的罗马书注释的第一版中，他宣布一个时刻即将到来，“当正在消亡的马克思主义信条的余烬作为世界的真理重新燃起时，在变成社会主义的世界中，社会主义的教会将从死里复活。” 巴特在1911年发表的论文《耶稣基督与社会公义运动》中，解释了耶稣与社会主义之间的关系：
如果你了解作为人的耶稣与你的社会主义信念之间的联系，并且如果你现在想安排自己的生活以使其与这种联系相对应，这根本不意味着你必须“相信”或接受这一点或别的事。 耶稣带给我们的不是理念，而是一种生活方式。 一个人可以有上帝、世界、人类救赎、以及所有的基督教观念，但仍然是个彻底的异教徒。 无神论者，唯物主义者，和达尔文主义者，也可以是耶稣的真正的跟随者和门徒。 耶稣不是基督教的世界观，基督教的世界观也不是耶稣。
不论巴特的神学以何种形式出现，巴特在一生中都保持着“耶稣”和观念之间的这种分离。他从未摆脱施莱尔马赫（Friedrich Schleiermacher）对他的影响。 巴特认为启示是“事件”或“正在发生的”，而不是信息或理念，他这样的看法可以追溯到他所引用的文章中的陈述。
社会主义说，阶级矛盾是资本主义的日常罪恶。 因此，这种生产体系必然跨台，特别是其基本原则：私有财产（通常不是私有财产，而是生产资料的私有权），个体生产者之间的无限竞争必然跨台。 国家整体必须本身成为生产者，因此也成为生产资料的所有者。 耶稣比社会主义者更加社会主义。耶稣对财产的看法是：财产是罪，因为财产是追求自我。
往前约40年，人们发现巴特赞扬共产主义，甚至赞扬刽子手斯大林（Joseph Stalin）等共产主义独裁者的良好意愿。 巴特在1949年的《东西方教会间》（The Church between East and West）中，捍卫了他对反对共产主义的反对：
在我们对当代共产主义的看法中，不该忽略共产主义极权暴行和其背后积极意图之间的区别。 而且，如果有人试图做到这一点，就不会说共产主义的意思和意图是纯属无理，是疯狂和犯罪的产物，10年前人们曾被迫这样说过纳粹。 把马克思主义哲学和第三帝国的“意识形态”相提并论，把斯大林和诸如希特勒等流氓相提并论， 那是非常荒谬的。 在苏联，尽管是用肮脏和血腥的手段，并且让我们感到震惊，但那毕竟是建设性的想法，是解决问题的方法，这种问题对于我们来说，也是同样的严重和紧迫，但我们用干净的双手，就还没能足够积极地处理这个社会问题。
最后，1963年在写给他的朋友捷克斯洛伐克共产主义者和神学家约瑟夫·赫罗马德卡（Joseph Hromadka）的信中，巴特为被指控为亲共份子而表遗憾，甚至是卜仁纳（Emil Brunner）和尼布尔（Reinhold Niebuhr）这样的自由神学家在指控他。巴特悍卫他一生的社会主义：“然而，作为反对西方尤其是瑞士反共产主义的反对者，我一直始终如一地大声疾呼，反对冷战，原子军备，十年前反对西德的再军事化。。。”
尽管巴特的话看起来是正统的，但他的辩证神学体系始终是被他之前的和一生之久的对社会主义的信奉所塑造。 他选择神学作为他的社会行动的基础。 在巴特看来，十九世纪的神学无法做到这样，所以需要一种新的神学。
The following essay is the Foreword to Karl Barth’s Theological Method by Gordon H. Clark. Clark’s book – which is the best available on Barth。
Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) must be ranked as one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. That, of course, is a dubious distinction, since Adolf Hitler, V. I. Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Tse-Tung must be ranked among the most influential politicians of the twentieth century; John Cage and Elvis Presley among the most influential musicians; and Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol among the most influential painters. For several decades in the middle of the century, Barth was a main attraction in the theological vanity fair, and his influence, now diminished, has not disappeared. Indeed, the Karl Barth Society of North America, founded in 1974, is flourishing, from all accounts, and many neo-evangelicals, some of whom are in the (neo) Evangelical Theological Society, are trying to revive the Barthian corpse and corpus.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the volume of his work (his unfinished Church Dogmatics is nine times as long as Calvin’s Institutes and twice as long as Thomas’ Summa Theologcae), Barth remains an enigma to many Christians, for several reasons. First, his theological views changed over the years, even during the decades in which he wrote Church Dogmatics. Educated in modernism, liberalism, and the historical-critical method by Adolf von Harnack, Wilhelm Herrmann, and other members of the theological company of Korah in Germany, Barth’s first voice spoke modernism fluently. In his own words, “I had made myself a committed disciple of the ‘modern’ school, which was still dominant up to the time of the First World War, and was regarded as the only school worth belonging to.”
After leaving the university, in 1909 Barth served first as a pastor in Geneva, and then, from 1911 to 1921, in Safenwil, Canton Aargau. During and after World War I, a conflict that shattered, in general, the naive optimism of many modernists and liberals, and, in particular, Barth’s faith in his modernist teachers, Barth emotionally reacted against modernism and attacked it. During the second major phase of his thinking, roughly the 1920s, he was indebted less to the nineteenth century German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher than to the nineteenth century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. In the 1930s Barth retreated from the paradoxical extremes of the 1920s and advocated a theology that he said was more in line with the Reformation.
These turns in his theology are confusing enough for the reader, but there are other, far more important, reasons for Barth’s continuing opacity. A second reason that Barth remains a conundrum to Christians is his style. His turgid prose, not clarified by his English translators, does not lend itself easily to understanding; one might say of Barth’s own theology, as he said of someone else, “your enterprise… has neither head nor tail, and where one looks for the middle there is darkness.”
Now there are three principal reasons why one’s writing may be unclear: (1) confusion in one’s thought, which is exhibited by confusion in one’s writing; (2) insincerity, as George Orwell explained in his classic essay, “Politics and the English Language,” which motivates a writer to disguise his true intention and meaning by using words in equivocal and subversive ways; and (3) a guiding philosophy which holds that the assertion of contrary and even contradictory statements is genuine philosophy and theology. Karl Barth seems to have been guilty on all three counts.
Ambiguous Language, Insincere Thought
Let us address the matter of insincerity first. One of the things that makes Barth so puzzling to Christians is that he perfected the art of using all the right words to say all the wrong things. Barth claimed to be standing squarely in the “Reformation tradition”; he had offered some “correctives” to Calvin, such as saying that all men are elected in Christ to salvation, but Barth clearly claimed to be a child of the Reformation. This deception – and it is an incredible deception by which Barth may have deceived himself as well – is seductive. Barth wrote frequently of grace – G. C. Berkouwer’s book was titled The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth (Barth wished the title had been The Triumph of Freedom in Jesus Christ); he relentlessly attacked modernism; he defended the revealed Word of God; he even defended the ideas of sola Scriptura and solo Christo – but in his mouth the meaning of these words changed, just as the meaning of “election” changed.
In Barth’s theology the “Word of God” is not to be identified with the Bible, which contains errors and myths (or sagas). The meaning of Scriptural authority, Barth wrote, “is not the ‘fundamentalist’ one, which would have it that the sacred text as such is the proper and final basis of knowledge.” In fact, “The concept ‘truths of revelation,’ in the sense of Latin [or Greek or Hebrew, presumably] propositions given and sealed once for all by divine authority in wording and meaning, is theologically impossible.” Barth’s theology, all the while emphasizing “revelation,” makes propositional revelation impossible. Revelation is not a proposition, but an event. “The Word of God still happens today in the Bible,” Barth wrote, “and apart from this happening the Bible is not the Word of God, but a book like other books.” (The reader should understand that the beatnik and hippie “happenings” of the 1950s and 1960s, like Barth’s theology, were effects of the philosophy and theology of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.) The “creation story” is a myth or poem, as Barth explained in a letter to his grandniece; evolution does not contradict Genesis. Evolution is what scientifically happened. And had a newspaper reporter been present when Christ rose from the grave, there would have been no news to report.
Barth on Justification
Barth, echoing Luther and Calvin, taught that justification is by faith alone, but in Barth’s mouth, neither “justification” nor “faith” (and perhaps not even “alone”) meant what Luther and Calvin had meant. In 1964 Thomas Nelson and Sons published Roman Catholic theologian Hans Kueng’s book, Justification: The Doctrine of Karl Barth and a Catholic Reflection. Kueng wrote: “There is no essential difference between the Barthian and the Catholic position.” Barth praised Kung’s book in a letter to Kung that was printed in the book itself, for Kueng, Barth wrote, understood his doctrine of justification as Barth wished it to be understood. What was that understanding? It was nothing new; it was the same doctrine of justification put forward in the nineteenth century by Anglican turned Roman turned Cardinal, John Henry Newman. In Kueng’s own words:
God’s declaration of justice is, as God’s declaration of justice, at the same time and in the same act, a making just…. The term “justification” as such expresses an actual declaration of justness and not an inner renewal. Does it follow from this that God’s declaration of justice does not imply an inner renewal? On the contrary. It all comes down to this, that it is a matter of God’s declaration of justice and not man’s word: the utterance of the Lord, mighty in power. Unlike the word of man, the word of God does what it signifies. God said, “Let there be light” and there was light…. The sinner’s justification is exactly like this. God pronounces the verdict, “You are just.” And the sinner is just, really and truly, outwardly and inwardly, wholly and completely. His sins are forgiven, and man is just in his heart.
Barth himself wrote:
Certainly we have to do with a declaring righteous, but it is a declaration about man which is fulfilled and therefore effective in this event, which corresponds to actuality because it creates and therefore reveals the actuality. It is a declaring righteous which without any reserve can be called a making righteous.
Barth not only did not stand in the Reformation tradition, he opposed it. He rejected sola Scriptura, sola gratia, solo Christo, and sola fide, all the while smiling with the words on his lips. It is impossible to believe that Karl Barth did not know what he was doing, as many of his defenders have suggested. They have praised Barth for his grasp of the history of theology. Surely, then, Barth was aware of the source of his doctrine of justification. Barth’s defenders impute to Barth a degree of stupidity that has never before been reached in the annals of theology. But Barth was not stupid, as his defenders imply. The result of Barth’s systemic equivocation is a sort of evangelical mysticism. Although he uses many Christian words and phrases, Barth’s theology is not Christianity. It is, just as modernism itself is, another religion. Barth is a wolf bleating.
But Barth’s insincerity is not the whole reason for the obscurity of his theology. His theology itself is dialectical. It prides itself on the assertion of contradictories. It sees contradiction as essential to theology. Barth is always saying “Yes” and “No” to the same things. His theology involves theses and antitheses, with no resolution of the two. God is “wholly other” than man. In Christ God is “wholly hidden” and “wholly revealed.” There is an “infinite qualitative difference” between time and eternity, God and man, but yet we cannot speak of God in the abstract. In this respect, Barth remained indebted to Kierkegaard all his life. And in this respect, Barth’s dialectical theology must remain opaque to any reader. No person can believe contradictions, knowing them to be contradictions. But contradictions and dialectical theology are useful, not only for confusing one’s readers, but for allowing one to accomplish a purpose without clearly stating what the purpose is.
Barth’s dialectical theology permitted him to use old words and phrases – Biblical words and phrases – while giving them new, and quite un-Biblical, meanings. What the liberals had done partially with phrases such as the “divinity of Christ” and what the Roman Catholics had done with terms such as “justification,” “church,” “saint,” and “grace,” Barth was able to do with the entire theological discourse of the Reformation. His equivocation was not occasional and partial, as in liberalism, but throughout and complete. Barth made Protestant theological equivocation systematic and systemic.
Although his theology was deliberately inconsistent, Barth’s actions displayed an underlying consistency. Barth wanted to make room in the church and in the world for irrationality and socialism. Barth saw Christ as a “form of the Word of God,” and he emphasized Christology as the key to understanding “revelation.” But Barth also wrote in Church Dogmatics, “God may speak to us through Russian Communism, through a flute concerto, through a blossoming shrub or through a dead dog. We shall do well to listen to him if he really does so.” In the light of such statements, one wonders why Barth was so concerned in 1934 in the Barmen Declaration to deny that God can speak to us through Adolf Hitler. The likely answer – the answer that explains his vociferous condemnation of Nazism in the 1930s and his deliberate and lifelong refusal to condemn Communism, and even his praise for Communism – is not his theology, but his political philosophy: Barth was a lifelong socialist of the Marxist variety.
Barth the Socialist
Although his theological views changed over the decades, Barth’s political views did not. Barth’s socialism colored his theology, in ways that many of his readers did not understand. In 1956 Barth explained in an interview, “I decided for theology because I felt a need to find a better basis for my social action.” His theology was a tool to be used in furthering his socialism; a justification for his political views. While at Safenwil, Barth was “Comrade Pastor,” according to his biographer. “Socialism,” Barth claimed, “is a very important and necessary application of the gospel.” In 1916 he wrote that the “capitalistic order and… the war [are] the two greatest atrocities of life.” In the first edition of his commentary on Romans, written during World War I, he declared that a time will come “when the now dying embers of Marxist dogma will flare up anew as world truth, when the socialist church will rise from the dead in a world become socialist.” In “Jesus Christ and the Movement for Social Justice,” an essay Barth published in 1911, he explained the relationship between Jesus and socialism:
If you understand the connection between the person of Jesus and your socialist convictions, and if you now want to arrange your life so that it corresponds to this connection, then that does not at all mean you have to “believe” or accept this, that, or the other thing. What Jesus has to bring us are not ideas, but a way of life. One can have Christian ideas about God and the world and about human redemption, and still with all that be a complete heathen. And as an atheist, a materialist, and a Darwinist, one can be a genuine follower and disciple of Jesus. Jesus is not the Christian world view and the Christian world view is not Jesus.
This separation between “Jesus” and ideas Barth maintained all his life, whatever form his theology appeared in. He never escaped the influence of Schleiermacher. Barth’s view of revelation as “event” or “happening” rather than as information or ideas may be traced to his statements in the essay cited above.
Barth vehemently attacked capitalism and private property as well, and wrote often of the “class struggle”:
Class contradiction, says socialism, is the daily crime of capitalism. This system of production must therefore fall, especially its underlying principle: private property – not private property in general, but private ownership of the mean of production…. the boundless competition between individual producers must fall; and the state, the whole, must itself become the producer and therefore the owner of the means of production. Jesus is more socialist than the socialists…. Jesus’ view of property is this: Property is sin, because property is self-seeking.
This last statement logically implies, of course, a condemnation of private property in general, not merely in the means of production. Since socialism is defined as common ownership of the means of production, Barth qualifies as a socialist in either case, and as a Christian in neither.
Barth the Communist
Skipping ahead nearly 40 years, one finds Barth praising the good intentions of the Communists and even specific Communist dictators, such as Joseph Stalin, butcher of the Ukraine. Writing in “The Church Between East and West” (1949), Barth defended his vocal anti-anti-Communism:
[I]t is pertinent not to omit to discriminate in our view of contemporary Communism between its totalitarian atrocities as such and the positive intention behind them. And if one tries to do that, one cannot say of Communism what one was forced to say of Nazism ten years ago – that what it means and intends is pure unreason, the product of madness and crime. It would be quite absurd to mention in the same breath the philosophy of Marxism and the “ideology” of the Third Reich, to mention a man of the stature of Joseph Stalin in the same breath as such charlatans as Hitler, Goering, Hess, Goebbels, Himmler, Ribbentrop, Rosenberg, Streicher, etc. What has been tackled in Soviet Russia – albeit with very dirty and bloody hands and in a way that rightly shocks us – is, after all, a constructive idea, the solution of a problem which is a serious and burning problem for us as well, and which we with our clean hands have not yet tackled anything like energetically enough: the social problem.
Then, in a revealing statement, Barth declared that Communism was not – and by its very nature could not be – anti-Christian:
[I]n its relationship to Christianity, Communism, as distinguished from Nazism, has not done, and by its very nature cannot do, one thing: it has never made the slightest attempt to reinterpret or to falsify Christianity, or to shroud itself in a Christian garment…. There is nothing of the false prophet about it. It is not anti-Christian.
Finally, writing in 1963 to his friend the Czechoslovakian Communist and theologian, Joseph Hromadka, Barth lamented the fact that he, Barth, had been accused of pro-Communist sympathies, even by such liberal theologians as Emil Brunner and Reinhold Niebuhr. He defended his lifelong socialism: “I have, however, always spoken out loudly and consistently as an opponent of western and especially Swiss anti-Communism, against the cold war, atomic armament, ten years ago against the remilitarizing of West Germany….”
Despite his apparently orthodox words, Barth’s dialectical theological enterprise was always shaped by his prior and lifelong commitment to socialism. He chose theology as a basis for his social action. The theology of the nineteenth century could not do so, in Barth’s view; a new theology was necessary.
Clark on Barth
Karl Barth’s Theological Method is not an attempt to present either an explanation or a critique of all of Barth’s theology. Dr. Clark focuses on the method by which Barth developed that thought, with the understanding, of course, that if the method is faulty, the result cannot be good. In his usual efficient, dispassionate, and surgical manner, Clark dissected Barth’s jugular, with predictable results: Barth is dead.
Dr. Clark, always the scholar and gentleman, did not mention in this book the fact that Barth in June 1961 refused to answer questions that Dr. Clark and Dr. Cornelius Van Til had posed to him one year prior to Barth’s 1962 tour of the United States. We should, however, take notice in this new edition not only of Barth’s refusal to answer Clark’s questions, but of the insulting manner in which he stated that refusal. Collections of Barth’s letters show that he answered many questions of less importance and in much less time; but perhaps those questions were not as probing as Dr. Clark’s, or perhaps his other questioners were not despised “fundamentalists.” Dr. Clark had posed two questions to Barth:
- Was it reasonable for Paul to endure suffering in his ministry (or is it reasonable for us) if all are in Christ and will perhaps be saved anyhow, and if, as you once said, [Ludwig] Feuerbach and secular science are already in the Church?
- In your Anselm (E[nglish] T[ranslation], p. 70) we are told that we can never see clearly whether any statement of any theologian is on one side or the other of the border between divine simplicity and incredible deception. Does not this make theology – your own included – a waste of time?
The questions were forwarded to Barth by Carl Henry, editor of Christianity Today, via Geoffrey Bromiley, Professor of Church History at Fuller Theological Seminary and co-translator of Barth’s books. Barth replied directly to Bromiley:
I cannot and will not answer the questions these people put…. even if I had the time [Barth had a year] and strength I would not enter into a discussion of the questions proposed…. I cannot respect the questions of these people from Christianity Today…. Such a discussion would have to rest on the primary presupposition that those who ask the questions have read, learned, and pondered the many things I have already written about these matters. They have obviously not done this…. The decisive point, however, is this. The second presupposition of a fruitful discussion between them and me would have to be that we are able to talk on a common plane. But these people have already had their so-called orthodoxy for a long time…. These fundamentalists want to eat me up.