Monday 15 August 2005

Karl Barth and the “Christian worldview”

Karl Barth concentrated sharply on the question of worldviews, and he concluded that Christian faith should approach all worldviews in a purely ad hoc manner. We should freely and eclectically make use of any and all worldviews, but we should never allow faith to become allied to or dependent on any particular worldview (Weltanschauung). Of course, the situation of the German Christians in the 1930s sharpened Barth’s prophetic critique—here was a situation in which the church identified its own faith with the prevailing worldview; and the result was disastrous both for faith and for the world to which faith no longer had anything distinctive to say.

Here are Barth’s words: “But it is not the business of Holy Scripture or of Christian faith ... to represent a definite world-picture. The Christian faith is bound neither to an old nor to a modern world-picture. The Christian confession has in course of the centuries passed through more than one world-picture. And its representatives were always ill-advised when they believed that this or that world-picture was an adequate expression for what the Church ... has to think.... The Church must beware of establishing itself on the basis of any sort of Weltanschauung.” (Dogmatics in Outline[London: SCM, 1949], p. 59)

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