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What Is Karl Barth Theology?

A. Leverkuhn
A. Leverkuhn

Karl Barth theology is the religious philosophy of the German theologian Karl Barth, who was born in the late 19th century. Barth is known for his series of ideas related to Christian theology, and influenced the religious community in his home country and beyond. Throughout his life, until his death in the 1970s, Barth’s work was widely analyzed in Christian seminaries and religious institutions, and continues to inform religious thought today.

A central premise in Karl Barth theology is an emphasis on the Trinity. The Trinity is the common Christian name for a threefold conception of God, which includes the the Holy Spirit, along with Son and the Father. The Father represents the Christian God of the Old Testament of the Bible, while the Son represents Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The Holy Spirit represents a more amorphous form of the divine, following Christ's resurrection,and completes the Trinity, which has been a controversial subject throughout the history of Christianity. Analysts point out that Barth led Protestantism to a higher degree of emphasis on the Trinity, where the concept is often primarily thought of as a Catholic one.

Karl Barth theology rejects infant baptism.
Karl Barth theology rejects infant baptism.

Along with the Trinity, Barth also is known for the concept of a Threefold Word of God, where three types of metaphysical communications are all equal. The idea that this word of God is “free,” and not in the control of church leadership, makes elements of Karl Barth theology a type of “liberation theology” in some respects, though Barth was also known to be against the liberal theology of his time.

Although Barth has been characterized as being critical of liberal biology, this does not mean that his theology is what many would consider “right-wing.” It’s critical to note that Barth’s work did not support the rise of the Nazi party in his home country, Germany, which changed political, social, and spiritual reality there. Ultimately, Barth lost his position in the German church for refusing to adhere to the party’s views.

Other aspects of Karl Barth theology are also elements that some orthodox Catholics or Protestants might call radical. One example is Barth’s rejection of infant baptism, which is a major part of some types of Christianity. Barth’s anti-war views also factor into the greater theology for which the man was known.

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    • Karl Barth theology rejects infant baptism.
      By: federico igea
      Karl Barth theology rejects infant baptism.