Sunday 23 September 2007

Barth and history with Donald Wood

I’m currently writing a book about Barth as a historian of theology – a topic which hasn’t yet received the attention it deserves. But Donald Wood’s new book, Barth’s Theology of Interpretation (Ashgate, 2007), has just landed on my desk – and I’m delighted to see that it includes some sophisticated engagement with Barth’s theological historiography.

Anyway, stay tuned for a review of this excellent book – and in the mean time, here’s an excerpt to think about (p. 43):

The opening pages of Barth’s dogmatics “are occupied largely with the twofold task of recognizing and … relativizing the academic context in which Barth is operating…. God’s revelation places us in an impossible situation – or rather the only possible situation, but one from which we seek continually to escape, not least by insulating ourselves from scripture by turning to purely historical or short-sightedly practical questions. In an academic context, this means recognizing that theology must guard against the encroachment of standards of judgment or intellectual processes that are alien to its true subject matter, even or especially when those standards and processes are institutionalized in the academy and when they bear the cultural prestige of being identified as scientific.”


Anonymous said...

i have looked through much of don's new book and it is a wonderful and careful exposition of not only barth's exegesis but also his way of reading/narrating the history of theology. the prose is deceptively simple, for it is clear and yet packed with signifigance. it also does a great job of situating the barth texts under dicussion, and even though don is not trying to offer a 'genetic reading,' it does read as a short and helpful account of barth's development (this is also shown in that references to mccormack's argument about barth's development abound). i would heartily recommend looking at it if your library has it (esp. since the price is a bit high).


Anonymous said...

Don Wood is a lot smarter than Kevin Vanhoozer.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I didn't know Wood's book had been released.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ben,

I know nearly nothing about Barth, but this is a fascinating topic - I'm currently researching Derrida's historiography, and there are perhaps some similar chords struck... in particular the relationship between history and institution.

Anonymous said...


Hello. I have a few Barth related questions that I wonder if you could answer. I hope you don't mind the following as it's not strictly related to your note on Donald Wood's book.

First of all, I admit to knowing not a whole lot (save for small bits and pieces here and there) about Karl Barth's thought. I have, however, picked up a few books to hopefully remedy that. Chiefly among them are The Great Passion: An Introduction to Karl Barth's Theology by Eberhard Busch and the more "user friendly" Barth for Armchair Theologians by John Franke. WOuld these two books be a good starting place?

Second, is there a common thread that holds the label "Barthian" together? I hear it used both pejoratively (e.g., "Ah, he's simply a Barthian") and approvingly (e.g., "Here's my Barthian understanding ...")

If you were summarizing to someone what it means to be "Barthian" how would you put it? My apologies if these topics have been talked about already on your site.

By the way, very nice informative blog you have. I'm new but enjoy what I've read very much.

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