RBT Session 2 Preparation

The second Reading Barth Together webinar on Dogmatics in Outline with me and Stanley is Tuesday morning (5/12@10 AM EST). We’ve been able to increase the capacity to 1000 participants, so I hope that there will be enough room for everyone. We’ll be covering Barth’s Doctrine of God which is in Chapters 5-9. You can find more information about the Barth webinars here.

For all you Barth hogs, you might be interested in this piece on the implications that of Barth’s doctrine of election that I did a few years ago as a series of lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary (which you can watch by clicking through to the videos here).  The lectures were derived from my book, How Odd of God: Chosen for the Curious Vocation of Preaching (Westminster John Knox Press).


Homiletical Implications of Barth’s Doctrine of Election

Preaching’s great challenge came into focus for me during a rereading of Barth’s doctrine of election. Barth’s fourth volume (II/2) has been called by his student, Eberhard Busch, “the highlight of the Church Dogmatics.[i] Writing during 1940–1941, the apex of Hitler’s power, when the sky turned dark, “Barth believed that all our comfort and all our defiance depends on our understanding anew that . . . God bound himself to [humanity], and specifically to sinful [humanity]. . . . God determines himself free for fellowship with this [humanity] and thereby determines [humanity] to be in fellowship with him and with all whom [God] loves.”[ii] Barth could have spoken judgment and condemnation of Hitler; he chose instead not to mention Hitler and to speak with unreserved affirmation of the gracious divine determination radiantly revealed in Christ.

God’s election of grace is “the sum of Gospel. . . . [It is] the whole of the Gospel, the Gospel in nuce . . . the very essence of all good news.”[iii]  All we preachers know for sure about God is that in Jesus Christ God is the one who has eternally determined to be for us and has elected us to be for God…


[i] Eberhard Busch, Barth (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008), 17.

Election is at the heart of Barth’s “revolution” as Bruce McCormack (our best interpreter of Barth on election) puts it. Bruce McCormack, “Grace and Being: The Role of God’s Gracious Election in Karl Barth’s Theological Ontology,” in John Webster, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 93–97. “I am confident that the greatest contribution of Karl Barth to the development of Church doctrine will be located in his doctrine of election.” Through his surprising reworking of election, Barth brought about “a revolution in the doctrine of God.” (Ibid., 223).

[ii] Busch, Barth, 17.

[iii] Ibid., 13–14.

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