Barth & The Confessing Church

Posted by Kelly.Staples on September 4, 2017

Karl Barth

Karl Barth is considered by many to be the most influential theologian of the 20th century. So first of all, “Barth” is pronounced “Bart” much like everyone’s favorite Simpson. If you’ve been saying it wrong, don’t sweat it. Karl wouldn’t mind.

Barth was a Swiss theologian who was heavily involved in the “confessing church” movement, which was the response in opposition to the Christian support of the Nazi agenda and Adolf Hitler. If this sounds a lot like the Dietrich Bonhoeffer blog, well, they had a lot in common.

Barth was pretty much the sole author of the Barmen Declaration, which is one of the confessions the PCUSA adopts as part of our constitution. Although the confession was “technically” written by committee, Barth got tired of the slow pace of the meetings and brought them the completed confession for their approval. After some minor changes and additions, the confession was adopted. (Barth even mailed a copy to Hitler directly, which was pretty gutsy.)

Barth is also known for his 18-volume work, Church Dogmatics, that explores the details of our Christian beliefs. There are volumes on God as Father, the person-hood of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and so on. Barth never used one word when seven would do, and in German tradition had sentences that span multiple paragraphs, so reading his work can be very challenging. I recommend the books Barth for Armchair Theologians and Barth for Dummies because his work is really quite accessible once you’re able pair it down to the basics.

Barth’s style is best described as “dialectical theology.” He uses logic and many “if, then…” statements to unpack theological questions, which makes his work appealing to those who like to probe and really dive into the details of their faith to grow closer to God. Barth would never accuse you of “overthinking” or being difficult by asking “why” or “how” in regards to matters of theology.

So, our thanks to Karl Barth for being the reformer who signals 955,000 minutes of NorthPark's volunteer service. And thank YOU for serving!

Rev. Kelly Staples is Associate Pastor and Director of Youth Ministries for NorthPark Presbyterian. She grew up a member of First Presbyterian Church of Shreveport, received her Bachelor's degree from Middle Tennessee State University, and her Masters of Divinity from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.


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