Tuesday, 3 July 2007

2007 Karl Barth Conference

If, like me, you were at home last week feeling miserable when you should have been at the Karl Barth Conference, you’ll be glad to read David’s overview of some of the highlights. The conference theme was the relationship between Barth’s theology and American evangelicalism – a fascinating and complex theme!

Barth himself had little good to say about the more conservative side of American evangelicalism. When in 1961 he was asked to respond to criticisms by Cornelius Van Til, Gordon Clark and Fred Klooster (to be published in Christianity Today), he replied: “The … 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. They are closed to anything else, they will cling to it at all costs, and they can adopt toward me only the role of prosecuting attorneys, trying to establish whether what I represent agrees or disagrees with their orthodoxy, in which I for my part have no interest!” (Barth, Letters 1961-1968, pp. 7-8).

If you’ve ever read any of Van Til’s stuff on Barth, then you’ll know exactly what Barth is talking about! By a happy irony, though, America is now the land of Barth-studies – these days, students from Europe have to travel all the way to Princeton (or Scotland, of course) if they really want to study Barth....

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