Wednesday, 20 July 2005

The worst book ever written on Karl Barth

While it’s hard to choose the best books ever written on Karl Barth, fortunately it’s very easy to name the worst book ever written on Barth. It is—of course—

Cornelius Van Til, The New Modernism: An Appraisal of the Theology of Barth and Brunner (London: James Clarke, 1946)

This book presents a comically grotesque misreading of Barth—it would be hard to imagine a more drastic and more wilful misunderstanding of Barth’s theology. Unfortunately, this same book influenced the popular American writer Francis A. Schaeffer, and through Schaeffer it influenced a whole generation of evangelical students and ministers in the United States. And so even today you will occasionally meet someone who, without ever having laid so much as a finger on one of Barth’s books, is nonetheless bitterly and adamantly hostile to Barth’s theology.


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