Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Divine Self-Investment, by Tripp Fuller

Nerding Out
I am a proud nerd, but not just a Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica type of nerd, I am a theology nerd who is committed to bringing theology to the people. This is how you end up a podcaster with a PhD in Philosophy, Religion, & Theology.

In the classroom, pub, or congregation I love teaching. In particular, I love the energy of conversations where new ideas are encountered and better questions are posed. For those too busy to tackle giant texts, I read big books, so you don’t have to… but I may try and talk you into it.


The Church
Unlike many of my friends I had some rather amazing experiences growing up in the church. It was in the church that I was challenged to grow in compassion, seek after justice, and invest in people. Knowing the potential power of a community centered in the way of Jesus I remain invested in the life of the church.

For the last 200,000-ish years planet earth has been rocking humans. I’m not sure the other species have decided if we are much of a blessing, but in the meantime we may as well look into creating a more beautiful community of life together.


Purple & Gold

In an attempt to minimize my own tribal outrage and judgement on the vile uninformed masses, I try to use all that caveman juice in support of the Lakers. The NBA is the best professional sports league and the LA Lakers are the single superior team. In heaven Jesus will be wearing Purple and Gold. #LakerFundy #TeamMamba

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Divine Self-Investment:
An Open and Relational Constructive Christology
by Tripp Fuller
August 17, 2020
When muttering the word “God” doesn’t come easy, what does it mean to call Jesus “the Christ?” Fuller offers a robust constructive Christology that engages three theological registers - historical, existential, and metaphysical.

Beginning Christology not from above or below but from within the Disciple’s confession of Jesus as the Christ, Fuller constructs a powerful Open and Relational Christology. At the heart are three pairings of contemporary thinkers who share a thematic center with distinct trajectories. Fuller weaves each into a vision of God’s self-investment in history and the person of Jesus. The constructive proposal not only uses an Open and Relational vision but reshapes it in light of God’s self-investment in Christ. The significance of Fuller’s proposal is wide-reaching, engaging revelation, divine power, evil, the cross, hope, the imago dei, and the Spirit.

What They're Saying...

“This ambitious Christology marks Tripp Fuller as one of the most significant young systematic theologians to emerge on the scene in recent years. One can profitably read this book as an introduction to Open and Relational Theology; as a refresher on Logos Christology, Spirit Christology, and the quest for the historical Jesus; or as a primer on his six theological discussion partners. But the brilliance of the volume is actually the blending of biblical, classical, and process insights into a single moving vision of God’s self-investment in creation, Israel, and Jesus. Rarely have I encountered a young theologian who writes with this level of systematic depth.” -- Philip Clayton, Ingraham Professor, Claremont School of Theology

"Tripp Fuller masterfully engages the crucial Christian question: Who do we say Jesus is? Engaging history, philosophy and theology, Fuller offers a vision of Jesus that weds evangelical convictions with progressive insights. His work stands alone side that of John Cobb, David Griffin and Elizabeth Johnson for required reading in Christology." -- Monica A. Coleman, Professor of Africana Studies, University of Delaware, author of Making a Way Out of No Way: a Womanist Theology

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The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus:
Lord, Liar, Lunatic, Or Awesome?
by Tripp Fuller
Christology is crazy. It’s rather absurd to identify a first-century homeless Jew as God revealed, but a bunch of us do anyway. In this book, Tripp Fuller examines the historical Jesus, the development of the doctrine of Christ, the questions that drove christological innovations through church history, contemporary constructive proposals, and the predicament of belief for the church today. Recognizing that the battle over Jesus is no longer a public debate between the skeptic and believer but an internal struggle in the heart of many disciples, he argues that we continue to make christological claims about more than an “event” or simply the “Jesus of history.” On the other hand, C. S. Lewis’s infamous “liar, lunatic, and Lord” scheme is no longer intellectually tenable. This may be a guide to Jesus, but for Christians, Fuller is guiding us toward a deeper understanding of God. He thinks it’s good news—good news about a God who is so invested in the world that God refuses to be God without us.

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Here’s my ongoing list of places people have posted about my book Divine Self-Investment. HOLLA if you podcast something or want to have me visit your podcast.

Audio/Video Visits

Blog Reviews

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Tripp Fuller’s Open and Relational Christology

by Thomas J. Oord, October 27th, 2020

Tripp Fuller’s book Divine Self-Investment: an Open and Relational Constructive Christology makes an important contribution to understanding Jesus of Nazareth.

In this essay, I summarize Fuller’s book. I show how he affirms Jesus as a special expression of divine self-investment. As one who joins Fuller in embracing an open and relational theological vision, I am especially grateful for this work. It helps us better understand the person and work of Jesus in our time.

In a follow-up essay, I’ll engage Fuller’s work to wrestle with a question I have been asking for decades: in what sense should we say Jesus exerts causal influence today? But this essay is an overview of Fuller’s primary points.

Issues for Contemporary Christology

At the outset, Fuller aims to “investigate the possibility of a robust constructive open and relational Christology.” To do this, he 1) lays “out a broadly open and relational vision,” 2) “situates the constructive function of contemporary historical Jesus research,” and 3) “proposes three pairings of contemporary Christologies that share a thematic center with distinct trajectories.” An adequate open and relational Christology, says Fuller, “needs to include the historical Jesus, the existential register of faith, and the metaphysical referent to God.”

Christians typically account for who God is by telling the story of Jesus. Each age must make sense of Jesus and how to articulate the ongoing encounter with God that Jesus mediates. This means, says Fuller, contemporary theologians ought to offer constructive proposals that include “the historical person of Jesus, the contestability of God, and the irreducibly confessional nature of identifying Jesus as the Christ.”

The liberal Christian theological trajectory offers important resources for Christological work. But liberal theology often offers a muted and reductive account of Christ. The problem, in part, is liberal theology’s wariness of metaphysics. Fuller offers an open and relational metaphysics as a remedy.

Fuller’s project is not merely academic. He believes this work matters for the life of the church. “The inability to articulate just how God was present in Christ and how that reality shapes the character of life together,” says Fuller, “destroys the very integrity of the church.” This articulating should not be aimed at proving Jesus with evidence that demands a verdict. But neither is it limited merely to the subjective confession of the believer. Fuller unites the confessional and metaphysical through the historical person of Jesus.

21st-Century Obstacles

The 21st-century theologian faces obstacles when doing Christology. Many people today regard God as unnecessary to account for the existence of the cosmos or to ground morality. Consequently, many people no longer assume God exists. Theology has been “dispersed from the center of town,” says Fuller, “to the private study of some but not all people.”

A 21st-century theologian must speak adequately about the historical Jesus. Fuller’s project builds from the contemporary awareness that history is an ongoing venture and the future is open, not settled. The contemporary theologian must account for the historical Jesus without allowing the often-naturalistic account of that quest to determine Christological formulations fully. To put it another way, metaphysical speculation must play a role in efforts to understand Jesus.

A contemporary theologian should acknowledge the subjective element in Christological formulation. Fuller calls this subjective element “the existential register,” because it also includes whether the person studying Jesus will claim him as the Christ. No one can obtain objective certainty on Christological matters.

The 21st-century theologian also faces metaphysical questions about God’s relation to the world. “How one understands the reality of God, the possibility of divine action, and the nature of divine revelation,” says Fuller, “will dramatically affect one’s Christology.”

The contemporary theologian functions as what Fuller calls a “believing-skeptic.” Theological questions today “are not settled upfront with triumphalist zeal or deflationary prolegomena.” But the Christological confession today cannot be about the historical Jesus alone. It cannot even be about how God is present in Jesus. Contemporary theologians must also consider whether God exists and how we best understand God.

To address these issues, Fuller engages prominent themes and theologians of contemporary Christology. He explores how we might best conceive of the historical Jesus in light of contemporary scholarship. From this, Fuller launches into comparing various Christologies. To address Spirit Christologies, he looks at contemporary Catholic theologians Roger Haight and Joseph Bracken. To address Logos Christologies, Fuller turns to Kathryn Tanner’s post-liberal work and John Cobb’s process theology. A final comparative chapter explores the Reformed Liberal theologian Douglas Ottati and Korean American Methodist theologian Andrew Sung Park.

Open and Relational Theology

As the subtitle of the book suggests, Fuller aims to offer an “open and relational constructive Christology.” To help the reader, he summarizes primary themes in open and relational theology at the outset.

The “relational” word primarily identifies the idea God affects creation and creation affects God. This means, Fuller says, “The history of our cosmos is the product of an ongoing process in which both God and the world are full participants.” This vision stands in stark contrast to traditional theologies that portray God as unrelated, unaffected, and determining outcomes singlehandedly.

Open and relational theology stands in contrast to theologies that portray God as distant. Christologies that consider God distant, says Fuller, often interpret concepts like incarnation “against the backdrop of radical divine transcendence from the world.” While open and relational theologians affirm the otherness of God, they don’t think of this otherness as divine distancing only crossed once in Jesus’ incarnation. God didn’t invade creation from the outside, nor is Jesus a one-off divine entrance and exit in history. From an open and relational perspective, God is always present and plays an essential role in each moment of creation’s becoming.

Open and relational theologies reject forms of naturalism that deny the presence and operative power of God in the world. But they also object to forms of supernaturalism in which God is primarily understood as acting upon the world from the outside. Forms of panentheism that speak of God and creatures co-creating in each moment fit the open and relational vision.

Open and relational theologies not only say creation affects God, they also say God’s experience changes in the ongoing process of existence. Fuller heads off the usual criticism of this view by arguing that God’s experience changes moment by moment, but God’s nature remains constant. In terms of love, this means God’s feelings and expressions of love vary. But the fact that God loves remains steadfast, because God’s nature is immutable.

An open and relational analysis of existence points to creation’s moment by moment becoming. This view plays a key role in Fuller’s own Christological formulation. The basic idea is that each moment in a creature’s life involves inheritance from the past, the gift of possibility for the future, and the responsibility of freedom in the present. A creature’s life also requires God’s ongoing self-investment. “For an open and relational theologian,” says Fuller, “there is nothing more natural than the Creator co-creating the world in each moment with the world.”

Fuller addresses the “open” portion of open and relational theology by emphasizing God’s ongoing experience of time. Because of time’s incessant flow and genuine creaturely freedom, God cannot foreknow with certainty all that will someday occur. But the God who cannot exhaustively foreknow isn’t blind. God knows everything knowable, which includes the completed past, the becoming present, and possibilities for the future. “God is very much aware of what is both possible and probable on the immediate horizon,” says Fuller. “Like a flashlight pointing the way forward in the dark, awareness of the future is much clearer for what is near.”

The Historical Jesus

Given the quest for the historical Jesus and sense of ongoing history, many today begin Christological reflection “from below.” This common phrase means the one engaging in Christological construction starts with Jesus as human. Fuller laments that those who begin from below often assume claims about God’s action must be bracketed.

Open and relational theology resists this bracketing. Using Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God,” Fuller argues contemporary Christology should start not from below nor from above but from within. By “within” he means the existential confession of Jesus as the Christ. But this confession is only the beginning, not the conclusion. And it may be deconstructed and reconstructed in an ongoing engagement with Christ, as fresh ways of understanding the Christian mission emerge.

This existential confession of Jesus as the Christ does not arise ex nihilo. “The open and relational theologian,” says Fuller, “needs to take account of the genuine influence that creaturely cooperation and participation played in the history of Israel.” The expectation of a Messiah emerges in actual history, as does the revelation of a covenantal God. In fact, this God, says Fuller, chooses “to invest Godself in the world with this people.”

Unlike Christologies that assume an overly transcendent God, open and relational theology says God neither foreordains nor foreknows from the foundation of the world the specificities of Jesus’ life. And God enters covenantal relationship – self-investment – long before Jesus emerges in history. An open and relational Christology embraces the dynamic openness and contingencies displayed in Jesus.

While Jesus is not God’s only expression of self-investment, he enjoyed a special relationship – “oneness” – with his Abba. This special relationship involved Jesus’ responses to God’s self-investment. And the community that emerged in response to Jesus was not a community divinely predetermined. They too responded to God’s self-investment as witnessed in Jesus.

Spirit Christology

According to Fuller, Spirit Christologies affirm the fullness of Jesus’ humanity and the fullness of God’s presence in Jesus. “It was through the faithfulness of Jesus to Abba,” says Fuller, “that a unique and particular bond between God and humanity was established.” Because of Jesus’ fidelity to the Spirit, a qualitatively new relationship with God emerges.

A significant number of theologians turn to Kenosis Christologies to account for God as revealed in Jesus. Fuller rejects Kenosis Christologies that say a preexistent one rescinds divinity to become incarnate in Jesus. Fuller argues, instead, that Jesus understood himself to be known and loved by the one he called Abba. In light of this understanding, Jesus trusted God’s call to be a faithful servant in and through his humanity.

Fuller extends Kenosis beyond Jesus. An open and relational Christology can connect the kenotic pattern of Jesus’ subjectivity to that of God’s within Israel’s covenantal context.” In fact, “the faithfulness of the Spirit-filled Jesus himself would not have been possible,” says Fuller, “without the living tradition of the people.”

The open and relational emphasis upon the past, the gift of possibility, and the responsibility of freedom fit Spirit Christology well. What the Spirit does in the present is influenced by the past. But the Spirit and creaturely responses also influenced that past. In terms of Jesus, says Fuller, this means, “without the faithfulness of Abraham and Sarah, the Exodus from Egypt, the voice of the Prophets, and so on Jesus could not have been the Christ.”

God’s work in the world, in the history of Israel, and in Jesus “revealed both a new possibility for the world,” says Fuller. This new possibility “makes the singular relationship of Jesus to God definitive for both God and a new potential possibility for the world’s continued future.” In Jesus, says Fuller, “the intention and desire of God for the world has been revealed.” Jesus’ response to the Spirit introduces a new reality.

Logos Christology

Most Logos Christologies lead to tensions if not contradictions. They usually begin with a pre-existent Christ who is both the eternal Son and Word of God. This starting point moves the typical Logos Christology to say the wholly spiritual Christ was united with physical creation in a “hypostatic union” that resulted in Jesus as the Christ.

Fuller rejects the hypostatic union approach. He does so in part because of the spirit-matter dualism it assumes. Fuller suggests a non-interventionist account of incarnation. In this account, the self-investing God is always already present to creation but especially revealed in Jesus. God’s creative initiative is necessary, but this initiative is not fully determinative. It requires creaturely response.

To spell out what his open and relational Christology entails, Fuller draws from the work of John Cobb. Cobb describes God as the ground of freedom, the ongoing Creator, the call for creation, and the giver of possibilities. God does this by providing an initial aim moment by moment to Jesus and all creation. “The initial aim of God in each moment,” says Fuller, is “a potential embodiment of God in the world…”

In Jesus, God’s initial aim co-constitutes the very self-hood of Jesus. “In Christ,” says Fuller, “the distance between the source of the initial aim and the response to it is dissolved.” In this, we find a fusion of God’s will and Jesus’ will. The result is a profound revelation of God in Jesus.

Fuller’s Christological vision extends beyond Jesus’ own response to God, as important as that response is. “An open and relational Logos Christology,” says Fuller, “connects the universal history of the cosmos with both the person of Jesus and the disciple’s salvation history.” To put it another way, “The Word which became flesh in the person of Jesus was the same Word that was present through the Spirit over all Creation.” This “includes calling the people of God throughout Israel’s history into its fullest expression in each moment of becoming.”

By emphasizing both Jesus’ response to the Spirit and the work of Christ in all creation, Fuller unites the central themes in Spirit and Logos Christologies. This union grounds a contemporary Christology to affirm Jesus’ special relation to God, God’s relation to the entire cosmos, and our own personal relations to the divine. “When one has encountered God in and through Jesus Christ, the history of God’s ongoing investment in the world can be reinterpreted,” says Fuller. This history of God’s investment includes evolutionary emergence, a special relationship with Israel, and our own lives today.

The Cross and Hope

The God who relates to and suffers with the world is profoundly revealed in the cross of Jesus. This Nazarene identifies with the downtrodden, forsaken, and hurting. God not only brings salvation in the cross, but a suffering God also needs saving. This salvation is “not an external solution to the never-ending pattern of victim and violator,” says Fuller, “for God is also the victim.”

If Fuller concluded his book by saying God needs salvation, one might wonder if his Christological vision offers eschatological hope. Fortunately, Fuller’s vision is hopeful. This hope is grounded first in God’s covenantal faithfulness toward all creation. God is committed to suffering with us… all!

Secondly, Jesus’ resurrection provides grounds for a future with promise. But even this divine work occurs alongside a redeemed community that cooperates. After all, eschatological theories that require divine intervention through solitary power, says Fuller, “run contrary to the nature of love and the integrity of relationships.” Our hope is not established by a God who could overrule creation.

“The promise of the God of love is that God will be ever faithful,” says Fuller, and this God offers “greater beauty, healing, and goodness to each moment of the Creation’s becoming.” In short, the Divine self-investment we see most powerfully in Jesus’ resurrection is the first fruits for the hope of all creation.


I am impressed by Tripp Fuller’s work on Christology. He articulates an open and relational vision of Jesus that makes so much sense!

While this essay has summarized Fuller’s book, a subsequent essay will engage Fuller’s view that Jesus “mediates” God to us. The follow-up essay is less a criticism and more an inquiry. But I strongly recommend those who engage Christology from an academic perspective to get and read Tripp Fuller’s book!

By the way, an online panel exploring Tripp’s book will be held later in November. Here’s a link with details.

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by R.E. Slater
November 25, 2020

Please note: I write these notes to myself. They are not intended to be exact transcriptions from the speakers themselves. What I have written are not their words but my own thoughts. - res

Please note: All panelists provided textual statements for comments to attendees. These are not allowed to be publically published as they are intended to form to the moment-in-time not replicable beyond the panel discussions themselves as very specific conversations to one another in the AAR setting

Panelist Bios

Jeffrey Pugh: Jeffrey C. Pugh, an influential teacher and mentor, joined Elon’s faculty in 1986 after earning his master of divinity degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., and a master’s degree and doctorate in theological and religious studies from Drew University Graduate School in Madison, New Jersey. His graduate research focused on systematic and historical theology and he has continued that work during his career at Elon. He received Elon’s Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000 and the Distinguished Scholar Award in 2010. Pugh’s ambitious research has resulted in six books, ranging from Nazi-era theologians Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his work in religion and science. His most recent book, “The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to the End Times: Theology After You’ve Been Left Behind,” was published by Fortress Press in 2016 as part of a series sponsored by the popular Homebrewed Christianity podcast that takes a unique approach to helping delve into key Christian concepts, figures and ideas. He has also made numerous presentations at professional meetings and conferences, written articles, book chapters and book reviews for various publications, and served eight years as a member of the board of directors of the International Bonhoeffer Society.
Jacob Erickson: Jacob J. Erickson has lectured in theological ethics at Trinity since 2016. He previously taught Religion and Environmental Studies at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, USA. Alongside theologian Marion Grau (Norwegian School of Theology), he chairs the Sacred Texts, Theory, and Theological Construction Unit and serves on the Steering Committee for the Martin Luther and Global Lutheran Traditions Unit for the American Academy of Religion. His research and teaching interests include:
  • Ecotheology, Environmental Ethics, and the Environmental Humanities
  • Queer Theologies and LGBTIQ Ethics
  • Theology in Posthumanism and New Materialism
  • Lutheran Theology and Ethics
Erickson is currently working on an extended project on the intersections of global warming and theology called A Theopoetics of the Earth: Divinity in the Anthropocene. He's also working on an introductory text on sexuality and queer theological ethics.

Donna Bowman: Donna Bowman is a professor of interdisciplinary studies in the Norbert O. Schedler Honors College at the University of Central Arkansas. Her work in process theology focuses on reinterpreting Christianity as it is lived out in the pews and in the streets, with conceptions and meanings arising from ordinary people’s experience. Her most recent books are Prayer Shawl Ministries and Women’s Theological Imagination (Lexington, 2015) and The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Being Human (Fortress, 2017).

Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multi-disciplinary studies. Oord directs the Center for Open and Relational Theology and doctoral students at Northwind Theological Seminary. He is an award-winning author and has published more than twenty-five books. A gifted speaker, Oord lectures at universities, churches, conferences, and institutions. He is known for contributions to research on love, science and religion, open and relational theology, the problem of suffering, and the implications of freedom for transformational relationships.

Tripp Fuller is a podcaster, theologian, minister and competitive home brewer. Currently he is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Theology & Science at the University of Edinburgh. He received his PhD in Philosophy, Religion, and Theology at Claremont Graduate University. For over 12 years Tripp has been doing the Homebrewed Christianity podcast (think on demand internet radio) where he interviews different scholars about their work so you can get nerdy in traffic, on the treadmill or doing the dishes. Last year it had over 3 million downloads. It also inspired a book series with Fortress Press called the Homebrewed Christianity Guides to… topics like God, Jesus, Spirit, Church History etc. Tripp is a very committed and (some of his friends think overly ) engaged Lakers fan, takes Star Wars and Lord of the Rings very seriously, enjoys coaching his oldest son Elgin’s flag football and basketball team, and prides himself in giving rousing editions of Sandra Boynton tunes during bedtime reading. Tripp, partner since 18 Alecia, & three kids (11, 5, & 2) are all headed to Scotland for three years where they hope to develop a sweet accent and avoid eating haggis.  In the classroom, online, or in the pulpit, his passion is helping the church develop a zesty theology with traction in our world today.

Observation by Thomas J. Oord
see online statement

An Open Future for God and Man. A God who is actively giving and receiving. This is a discussion of Open and Relational CONSTRUCTIVE Christology. Tripp's book covers the following:

Claim - Who God is and How God Acts: Metaphysically; Themes of God's love for man and creation; it is a giving and receiving love; a great emphasis on the role creation plays as co-creators and co-partners with God; Incarnation happens not just once but at all times everywhere per ORT; It is a robust statement of incarnation. God's power v God's love - avoids supernaturalism, creaturely freedom, real contingency all based upon Jesus; Jesus' temptations were real, He could have sinned and said no to God. Jesus is both human and divine, divine and human. In the Jewish view Jesus was monolithic. ORT draws out the Greek philosophical assumptions of historic Christology by getting rid of many of them. 

How does Jesus mediate God? How did His actions have an affect on our thinking of God both then and now, today, on our lives in the present.
1 - Naturalistic Jesus approach: To read Jesus from a phenomenological approach to a metaphysical approach.
2 - Chasm Jesus mediates God crossing all those gaps which keep us from God. There is no ontological gap (re the chasm view) between God and us.
3 - The stories of Jesus in the bible shows us that the bible is also a mediating form of Jesus to us but ORT wants to go way beyond this; past the pages of the bible into real time.
4 - the Butterfly Affect Jesus which happened a long time ago which has built up over time is the Jesus legacies of today from causal chain of affects
5 - The resurrected Jesus continues to have subjective experiences in the after life and can this Jesus have affects upon us today like He did with Paul on the Road to Damascus? Can this Jesus become omnipresent after death? If not, the heavenly Jesus must go one event at a time. (I will chose to disagree with this one).
6 - Jesus=God - Jesus mediates God: Jesus = God formulation? Why or Why Not? How does Jesus mediate God if they are one and the same?
7 - God mediates Jesus: If God is also part of this butterfly affect causal chain then how does God meadiating Jesus affect us today?

Thomas Jay Oord Summary

Thomas Jay Oord’s Response to Tripp Fuller’s
Divine Investment: An Open and Relational Constructive Christology 

A1. Open and Relational Theology:
  • God is affected by creaturely action (passible), and
  • God experiences ongoing time analogous to how creatures experience it (open future). God cannot foreknow nor foreordain all future events.
A2. Open and relational theology comes in diverse forms. Open and relational Christologies are diverse as well. But the following are common ideas:
  1. Love is God’s motivation and method.
  2. Most creatures have freedom to cooperate or reject God’s calls. Creatures can act as created co-creators with God.
  3. Theologians can make constructive claims about who God is and how God acts in the world without assuming these claims are fully true or capture God fully.
  4. God is always incarnate, although sometimes creation reveals God in special ways.
  5. God is always near and active but rarely if ever in a controlling way (Super/naturalism)
  6. O&RT denies that God foreordained and foreknew all the details of Jesus’ life.
  7. O&RT often begins with the human Jesus and explores how he might be divine.
  8. O&RT rejects classic theories of atonement that portray God as unloving.
  9. O&RT often criticizes classical Christological formulations as being unhelpful when they 1) rely upon a substance metaphysics and 2) don’t take history seriously
  10. Jesus reveals something true about God in his life, teachings, death, and resurrection.

B. Does Jesus Influence Today?

“Jesus Christ mediates the existential encounter with God.” – Tripp Fuller

Okay. But how?
  1. Naturalistic Jesus – Avoids any metaphysical moves
  2. Chasm Jesus – Jesus bridges gap between sinful creation and holy God
  3. Bible Mediates Jesus Who Mediates God – Stories
  4. Butterfly Effect Jesus – Jesus life long ago has ripple causal affects today
  5. Heavenly Jesus – Jesus lives now as a localized individual in “heaven”
  6. Jesus = God – Jesus mediates God, because Jesus simply is God
  7. God Mediates Jesus – God mediates Jesus (past or present) to us

For a full explanation of the typology, see thomasjayoord.com “Does Jesus Influence Today?”

Observation by Jeffrey Pugh
see online statement - very helpful. Too much again to write down.

Who is Jesus Christ for us today? Christology is a pilgrim's task. Who are we in the midst of a world of sin and evil? When children are torn from their parents arms by racist policies and millions go to bed hungry while the rich increase their wealth at the poor's expense?

Observation by Jacob Erickson
see online statement

Christology has been as much misused as helpfully used. The insidiousness of Christologies of power has harmed the message of the church to its Lord. Examples of Christo-facisms given in statement. Erickson is making rightful and powerful exertions of how Jesus has been misused by the church in its lynchings and Jim Crow laws; its killings of homosexuals; its oppression of so many unlike itself.

Erickson likes the presentness of Tripp's Christology. Finds its powerfully helpful that moves beyond the metaphysical Christologies towards the Process Christ inviting us into the present O&R way of thinking of Jesus's being and presence today in our lives. To imagine how Jesus may be imagined into the ways of our dark worlds as co-creators of light and ongoing lived and organic reality. Christology to become an art for living on a damaged planet lifting up ecological and Jesus themes. The reconstruction of Christology lifted into the world today.

Meekness is to give up the anthropocentrism of our lives for the wellbeing of nature. A divestment of power existentially answering the call of the Spirit to be in solidarity with the world at large. Of constant creativity and perpetual perishing will help us move from an anthropocentric Jesus. Climate justice + interracial justice + presentness of Jesus in all things.

Can a male Savior save women in like question whether a human Savior save creation? Do we need to move to different pneumological ways if an anthropocentrical Christology? What is our existential engagement with Christ in our lives today?

Observation by Donna Bowman
see online statement - another Process/Barth theologian with great insights!

Re the subject of idolatry and it's contrasts, "How are we shaped by figures other than Christ? Such as the traditional 'Anti-Christ' mediating an evil force against God?" Example: Satan, dark angels, human figures, nature events, etc vs the monotheism of Christology as the mediating figure of God-like figures. What are God's multiple mediations vs mutliple mediations of anti-God, anti-Christ like forces and personages, cults and movements? Other examples were of the crowds around Jesus wishing him to be their political leader. Of course we would never do this in our day would we? (sic, Trumpism). By removing Jesus from the human realm to the divine realm can grant us the idea of worshipping a Jesus other than He is a the man-God Christ.

Response by Tripp Fuller
see online statement

Tripp was fun to listen to in his lighthearted banter with his fellow Q&A'ers. Underneath the banter were serious concerns of biblical proportions.

It would be fun to take a Process/Barth course from Tripp/Oord/Bowman  and another course with Tipp and Jacob Erickson.

What is our postmodern constructive task when we do theology? We are tending to the fire and presence of the lived body of Christ speaking back life and not death into the bowels of humanity. We are fire-breathers!

Loved Erickson's relating of Christology to Creationing!

Best quote: "God refuses to be God without us!"

re Bowman: Barth Quotation - "God did not create the Evil One. The denomic lives off of creaturely constructs and beings."

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​Tripp Fuller and My Mother
​Invitations to Open and Relational Christologies

Notes While Reading Divine Self-Investment: An Open and Relational
​Constructive Christology by Tripp Fuller

by Jay McDaniel

As I pick up Tripp Fuller’s Divine Self-Investment I think of my mother, Virginia McDaniel. Not that my mother would have understood his book. It is a scholarly book for scholars. Still, I remember what she told me that summer night when I was six years old. I was sitting with her on a patio on a summer evening, after having had a Sunday School class earlier in the day. The topic of the class that morning was Jesus, and I was confused on why we were hearing so many stories about him. I believed in God, but I wasn’t sure where to place Jesus within the spectrum of beliefs, so I asked her: “Mom, who is Jesus?” She answered: “Jesus is someone who is always holding your hand even when you don’t know it.”

I’ve never forgotten those words and believe them still today. She was saying to me that there is something deep and mysterious, tender and loving, within the very depths of the universe, that it is always holding our hand, and that Jesus is a window to this something. 

Fuller anchors his book with the story of Peter responding to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus says “You are the Christ.” Fuller’s point is that Peter’s answer was not an attempt to ‘get it right’ with labels, or to draw an inference from observable facts, but rather to confess: that is, to share his heart with the one standing in front of him:

“What Peter is doing is making a confession of his faith, a response itself a response to the God who is present to him through Jesus.”

I get this. I’m pretty sure that, if the historical Jesus had been sitting beside my mother and asked: “Who do you say that I am?” I would have responded: “You are God’s window, revealing the loving side of God.” And, truth be told, I think he was sitting beside me that night. I think that, in that moment, he was my mother.

Three Registers

Fuller speaks of this existential response on Peter’s part to Jesus as one of three dimensions of Christology he wants to emphasize. The first is what he calls a historical register, and it deals with how scholars seek to understand the historical Jesus. The second is the existential register, and it deals with the confessional response just identified. And the third is a metaphysical register that deals with how we understand God and the universe cosmologically or, as it were, metaphysically. Much of the book is introducing scholarly readers to various theologians who are addressing these three registers - Roger Haight, Joseph Bracken, Douglass Ottati, Andrew Sung Park, for example – and bringing them into conversation. Along the way readers receive a primer in various kinds of Christology: Logos Christology and Spirit Christology in particular. 

A good bit of this material is presented in terms so technical, and with nuances so subtle, that the non-scholarly reader will be lost. Only the die-hard theology nerds will survive. But the whole idea of three registers or domains will make sense to people, including my mother. In speaking of Jesus and his significance for me she was speaking to the existential register (in this case my own) and in linking his hand-holding love with the mystery in which we live and move and have our being (God) she was speaking to the metaphysical register in her way. In effect she was giving me what Tripp Fuller and others call an “open and relational theology.”


I know that the image of ‘hand-holding’ can seem sentimental, perhaps appropriate to a six year old but not adults or even adolescents. In particular, to those of a prophetic mind-set, it seems too comforting and far-removed from the challenging side of a life of discipleship. I was six, after all! But in hearing the phrase I ask you to mean what Fuller means when he speaks of the promise of the God of Love: Hear him out:

“The promise of the God of love is that God will be ever faithful, that the God of love is ever shaped by God’s deep solidarity with the world, and that the God of love promises to bear each moment of history within God while offering greater beauty, healing, and goodness to each moment of the Creation’s becoming.”

He speaks of a God who ‘bears each moment of history” with us and with the whole of creation, and adds that this ‘bearing’ includes vulnerability, suffering and pain. Let this be part of God’s love: a receptive side of God which can share joys and which can be wounded. This is what process theologians mean by the “consequent nature of God.”

And Fuller also speaks of a God who, in response to what is felt, offers “greater beauty, healing, and goodness to each moment of creation’s becoming.” Let this be part of God’s love, too: a side of God which is nurturing in an active way, providing us with fresh and empowering possibilities relative to the situation at hand. This is what process theologians mean by the primordial nature of God as active in the world through initial aims. 

Yes, let ‘hand-holding’ refer to these two sides of God, with God imagined along the lines of a truly loving parent, an Abba or Amma. Fuller’s point, and I think my mother’s as well, is that this God is indeed ‘metaphysically’ real in some important sense and beckoning us in love to become more loving ourselves. As Fuller explains, when we respond existentially to God as revealed in Jesus, we simultaneously commit ourselves to a journey, a pilgrimage, the ends and implications of which cannot initially foresee. The life of discipleship to Christ, for individuals and communities, is an open-ended journey into a future that is itself open, even for God. So saith open and relational theologians, so saith Tripp Fuller, and so suggesteth Virginia McDaniel to her six year old son.

Judgment and Sin

Make no mistake, as someone reared in evangelical traditions, Tripp Fuller also speaks of a judgmental side of God. No, God is no namby-pamby. In his words:

God feels with the world, judges and redeems what the world has become, and then gives to the world the gift and grace of new possibilities.

But when Fuller says judgment I don’t hear something like retaliation, but rather something like discernment: a capacity to distinguish violence from peace, injustice from justice, cruelty from care, greed from generosity, sin from goodness, and to recognize that we human beings fall short from who we can be, and should be, when we embody the sinful traits. Moreover, and so important for Fuller, these sinful traits belong not only to individuals but to groups and societies. Entire societies can fall into greed, hatred and delusion, indeed in God’s name! Surely, the loving heart of the universe, the very One who is wounded along with us, the Abba of Jesus, judges, too. For Fuller we can experience God through holy No’s as well as Yes’s. Through tough love as well as tender love.

Sharing in Jesus’ Faithfulness

What might it mean, then, to be saved? For Fuller, it seems to mean something like wholeness, human and divine. Interestingly, Fuller points out that the very God revealed in Jesus needs saving, too: healing from the wounds suffered from receiving and absorbing the world’s sins and other kinds of violence. God has, as it were, a wounded heart. If we speak of the ministry, death, resurrection of Jesus as an activity on God’s part and on Jesus’ part (and Fuller does) then one purpose of this activity is to help save or heal God!

Moreover, after having happened, these events become part of God’s own ongoing history as well as our own. Consequent to Jesus, we humans inherit a past that includes a memory of him within our own consciousness, and we can advance his own healing ministry by sharing in his faith. Here Fuller quotes John Cobb:

“We interpret Paul’s statements in Romans 1:16-17 as pointing to the participation of believers in Jesus’ faithfulness, which involves a real change in those who were bound to sin. Jesus’ faithfulness breaks the bonds of sin for those who participate in Jesus’ faithfulness, not sin. Anyone who participates in Jesus’ faithfulness lives in the sphere of influence of that faithfulness, instead of in the sphere of sin’s power. That does not mean they are no longer in danger of coming again under the bonds of sin, but it does mean that they can turn to the faithfulness of Jesus to deal with that danger.” (John Cobb)

Was Jesus God?

Back to my mother. Later, as she was approaching the end of her life, I asked her if she thought Jesus was identical with God: God in the flesh. My impression was that, for her, this was not such an important question. She loved him and believed he loved her and everyone else. And he was somehow wrapped into what, for her, was a more encompassing metaphor: God as an encircling Spirit whose love includes all. I think that this being wrapped into the divine Encirclement was her way of saying that Jesus sits at God’ right hand. But whether he preexisted his birth was irrelevant to her. It was the love, understood as a window to the God and the Spirit, that counted.

Tripp Fuller, too, does not find the notion of Jesus pre-existing his birth all that helpful. And while he does seem to believe that Jesus responded to God’s lure at every single moment of this life, such is not his emphasis. For my part, along with John Cobb, I am doubtful. I doubt that even when he was a teenager he always responded ‘perfectly’ to God’s lure. Maybe so, but not so important. As Fuller emphasizes, part of what is most important about Jesus for us is what he means to us. We, too, have a voice in answering the question: “Who do you say that I am?” As Fuller emphasizes, the question is a love question not a label question. It’s a bit like asking: “Do you love me and will you walk with me?”

Fuller’s book is an invitation for Christians to say “Yes,” each in our way. He speaks of a divine reality who is invested in us: of a God who is self-invested. I might add that this God is, like any good abba, world-invested. Fuller does not point to a God who is about flattery or power, domination or control, but rather a God who says “Come, walk with me, and we will be healed together,” and then adds, like my mother, “I will always be with you, even when you don’t know it.” This is the God who is revealed in Jesus: a God in whom, along with Jesus, we can place our faith and who, in the spirit of an already existing covenant, faithful to us. 

Chapter Six: Jesus Christ and
the Divine Self-Investment of God

Fuller, Tripp. Divine Self-Investment:
An Open and Relational Constructive Christology (p. 135). 
SacraSage. Kindle Edition. 

"This meant that God was not only the bringer of salvation, but also in need of it…Salvation is then not God’s external solution to the never-ending pattern of victim and violator, for God is also the victim…Abba is revealed to be a God who will be faithful to all—sinner and the sinned-against alike.

Salvation then is not primarily for the individual but also for the community, for it is there where true reconciliation is needed...Our hope in God is established not in God’s over-ruling power, but in God’s fidelity, solidarity, and promise…This promise comes from the very nature of God…The process of salvation is thus sustained by the constant dreaming and becoming of both God and the world. Yes, it includes the transferable nightmares that can awaken the sinner to salvation, but it also includes a transferable dream of divine solidarity and promise—a dream that God insists is for all and that will continue to be given until all are free at last."

The Future of Christology, by Dong-Kun Kim


The Future of Christology:
Jesus Christ for a Global Age

Jun 28, 2019

The Future of Christology addresses the questions that Christology currently faces and/or will face in the future in 12 topics. The book consists of two parts. In the first part Kim deals with five topics related to traditional Christology, while in the second part he wrestles with seven topics related to issues of Christology.

The twenty-first century is a challenging time for Christianity. Many in our age are asking what Jesus Christ means in various dimensions of history, culture, nature, and even beyond the Earth. Changes in values, worldviews, and views of the universe are forming a new zeitgeist. Dong-Kun Kim argues that ways of understanding Christ should change accordingly, for a Christology that fails to communicate meaningfully with the times is void of vitality. Postmodernism, dehistoricization and life post-ideology, multiculturalism, multiple religions, and, above all, the rapid development of the natural sciences pose a serious challenge to traditional Christology.

Who is Christ in the age of an infinite cosmos? How do daily human life, social devotion, and praxis relate to salvation? How can we discuss salvation history in an era post-history? Where does Christ stand in the public sphere? Can the Chalcedonian definition of the two natures of Christ, “true God and true human being,” encompass nature and the cosmos; would a third nature of Christ be necessary? Will the cyborg, which may appear in the near future, be the object of Christ’s salvation? If scientific determinism becomes popular in the future, will the basis of faith in Christ lose ground? If intelligent life exists in the universe, what does Christ mean to such life? This book provides innovative answers to these questions in an academic context.

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(Author) Dong-Kun Kim: Dong-Kun Kim is a professor at Youngnam Theological University and Seminary, South Korea. He has published over 15 books and 50 academic papers, which have been published in English and Korean, and many of which have received awards in Korea.

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by R.E. Slater
November 24, 2020

Please note: I write these notes to myself. They are not intended to be exact transcriptions from the speakers themselves. What I have written are not their words but my own thoughts. - res

Please note: All panelists provided textual statements for comments to attendees. These are not allowed to be publically published as they are intended to form to the moment-in-time not replicable beyond the panel discussions themselves as very specific conversations to one another in the AAR setting

Panelist Bios

Fred Sanders: Fred Sanders is a systematic theologian who studies and teaches across the entire range of classic Christian doctrine, but with a primary focus on the doctrine of the Trinity. Fred has taught in Torrey Honors College since 1999, and is an amateur historian of Biola's institutional history. He is co-founder of the annual Los Angeles Theology Conference, and maintains an active internet presence via Twitter and blog. He and his family are members of Grace Evangelical Free Church.

Natalie Marandiuc: Natalia Marandiuc’s work focuses on feminist constructive and systematic theology and draws from interdisciplinary sources in theology, humanities, social sciences, and neuroscience. She earned a Ph.D. in Religious Studies, with a specialization in systematic theology, from Yale University (2013). Her first book, The Goodness of Home: Human and Divine Love and the Making of the Self was published by Oxford University Press in 2018 and won the Aldersgate Prize. She is currently writing her second monograph, provisionally titled Love and Human Thriving: A Feminist Soteriology, and has received a Templeton award to support this work. She teaches at Perkins School of Theology, SMU, where she also serves as affiliate faculty in the Religious Studies graduate program. She co-chairs the Christian Systematic Theology Unit at the AAR, is a member of the steering committee of AAR’s Kierkegaard, Religion, and Culture section, and participates on the board of Logia. 

Sameer Yadav: Sameer Yadav (Th.D., Duke, S.TM., Yale) is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Westmont College. Sameer is an analytic theologian whose research and publications have focused on the philosophy and theology of religious experience, apophatic and mystical theology, the nature of Christian scripture, the problem of divine hiddenness, and the significance of historical intersections of race and religion for theology.  He is on the steering committee for the Philosophy of Religion group at the American Academy of Religion, the editorial board of the Journal of Analytic Theology, and serves on the diversity committee of the Society of Christian Philosophers.  Sameer is the author of The Problem of Perception and the Experience of God (Fortress Press, 2015), as well as having published in various edited volumes and journals including Faith and Philosophy, Religious Studies, and The Journal of Religion. His current projects include a work of philosophical theology on race in a Christian doctrine of peoplehood and a book on narrative theology and doctrinal formation.

Jeorg Rieger: Joerg Rieger is Distinguished Professor of Theology and the Cal Turner Chancellor’s Chair of Wesleyan Studies. He is also the founding director of the Wendland-Cook Program in Religion and Justice. Previously he was the Wendland-Cook Endowed Professor of Constructive Theology at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. He received an M.Div. from the Theologische Hochschule Reutlingen, Germany, a Th.M. from Duke Divinity School, and a Ph.D. in religion and ethics from Duke University. For more than two decades he has worked to bring together theology and the struggles for justice and liberation that mark our age. His work addresses the relation of theology and public life, reflecting on the misuse of power in religion, politics, and economics. His main interest is in developments and movements that bring about change and in the positive contributions of religion and theology. His constructive work in theology draws on a wide range of historical and contemporary traditions, with a concern for manifestations of the divine in the pressures of everyday life

(Author) Dong-Kun Kim: Dong-Kun Kim is a professor at Youngnam Theological University and Seminary, South Korea. He has published over 15 books and 50 academic papers, which have been published in English and Korean, and many of which have received awards in Korea. 

Observation by Fred Sanders
see online statement

DKK subscribes to panentheistic v ancient biblical pantheism

Observation by Natalie Marandiuc
see online statement

Observation by Sameer Yadav
see online statement

Observation by Jeorg Rieger
see online statement

Response by Dong-Kun Kim
see online statement

My personal impression - DKK seems quite interesting and should be read. The material on DKK is thin and could not be found through normal sources. We are left with his books of which there are two at present.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Karl Barth and the Incarnation, by Darren Sumner

Darren Sumner
Dr. Darren Sumner is an Affiliate Assistant Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary where he teaches courses in historical and systematic theology. He lives in the Seattle area with his wife and three children, teaching with Fuller Online and throughout western Washington. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
PhD (University of Aberdeen)
MDiv (Princeton Theological Seminary)
MA (Wheaton College Graduate School)
BA (Seattle Pacific University)

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T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (5 books)
by David Andrew Gilland (Author), Darren O. Sumner (Author),
Paul D. Molnar (Author) and 2 more contributors

Law and Gospel in Emil Brunner's Earlier Dialectical Theology
T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (1/5 book series)

by David Andrew Gilland
Oct 24, 2013
Book 1: The Swiss Reformed Theologian Emil Brunner was one of the key figures in the early 20th century theological movement of Dialectical Theology. In this monograph David Gilland offers an account of Bruner's earlier theology in relation to one of the central themes of the Protestant Reformation: Law and Gospel. He examines Brunner's early relationship with fellow Swiss Reformed theologian, Karl Barth and provides a detailed reading of a variety of Brunner's essays from the early to mid-1920s, centering on Brunner's efforts to use the law-gospel relationship to establish a basis for Christian theology. After analyzing the influence this has on Brunner's theological method, Gilland examines Brunner's earliest text on Christology, The Mediator (1927). In light of the preceding analysis, the fourth chapter provides a careful reading of Brunner's controversial polemic against Karl BarthNature and Grace (1934).The monograph concludes with reflections on Brunner's earlier theological work and his turbulent relationship with Karl Barth.


Karl Barth and the Incarnation: Christology and the Humility of God
T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (2/5 book series)

by Darren O. Sumner
Sep 25, 2014
Book 2: This work demonstrates the significance of Karl Barth's Christology by examining it in the context of his orientation toward the classical tradition - an orientation that was both critical and sympathetic. To compare this Christology with the doctrine's history, Sumner suggests first that the Chalcedonian portrait of the incarnation is conceputally vulnerable at a number of points. By recasting the doctrine in actualist terms - the history of Jesus' lived existence as God's fulfillment of His covenant with creatures, rather than a metaphysical uniting of natures - Barth is able to move beyond problems inherent in the tradition. Despite a number of formal and material differences, however, Barth's position coheres with the intent of the ancient councils and ought to be judged as orthodox. Barth's great contribution to Christology is in the unapologetic affirmation of 'the humanity of God'.

Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity:
In Dialogue with Karl Barth and Contemporary Theology
T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (3/5 book series)

by Paul D. Molnar
Feb 23, 2017
Book 3: Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity is widely acclaimed by scholars in the field of Christian systematic theology. Molnar's quest to place the doctrine of the immanent Trinity on the agenda of the Christian doctrine of God has proven to be a signal contribution to the debate in contemporary Christian theology.

The material in this second edition has been thoroughly updated: it contains a new preface and a new introduction, as well as a revised bibliography. The book includes a brand new chapter titled 'Divine Freedom Revisited' which addresses those questions that have arisen in connection with Molnar's original presentation of the divine freedom. Molnar re-visits here his discussion of the Logos Asarkos, the theologies of Karl Rahner and Wolfhart Pannenberg. He sheds new light on Rahner's and Torrance's discussions of the Resurrection; and incorporates modern discussions by contemporary theologians to offer new insights into Eberhard Jüngel's thinking.
Understanding Affections in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards:
“The High Exercises of Divine Love”
T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (4/5 book series)

by Ryan Jared Martin
Nov 15, 2018
Book 4: This volume argues that the notion of “affections” discussed by Jonathan Edwards (and Christian theologians before him) means something very different from what contemporary English speakers now call “emotions.” and that Edwards's notions of affections came almost entirely from traditional Christian theology in general and the Reformed tradition in particular.

Ryan J. Martin demonstrates that Christian theologians for centuries emphasized affection for God, associated affections with the will, and distinguished affections from passions; generally explaining affections and passions to be inclinations and aversions of the soul. This was Edwards's own view, and he held it throughout his entire ministry. Martin further argues that Edwards's view came not as a result of his reading of John Locke, or the pressures of the Great Awakening (as many Edwardsean scholars argue), but from his own biblical interpretation and theological education. By analysing patristic, medieval and post-medieval thought and the journey of Edwards's psychology, Martin shows how, on their own terms, pre-modern Christians historically defined and described human psychology.

God's Church-Community: The Ecclesiology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer 
T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology (5/5 book series)

by David Emerton
Jul 9, 2020
Book 5: David Emerton argues that Dietrich Bonhoeffer's ecclesial thought breaks open a necessary 'third way' in ecclesiological description between the Scylla of 'ethnographic' ecclesiology and the Charybdis of 'dogmatic' ecclesiology. Building on a rigorous and provocative discussion of Bonhoeffer's thought, Emerton establishes a programmatic theological grammar for any speech about the church.

Emerton argues that Bonhoeffer understands the church as a pneumatological and eschatological community in space and time, and that his understanding is built on eschatological and pneumatological foundations. These foundations, in turn, give rise to a unique methodological approach to ecclesiological description – an approach that enables Bonhoeffer to proffer a genuinely theological account of the church in which both divine and human agency are held together through an account of God the Holy Spirit. Emerton proposes that this approach is the perfect remedy for an endemic problem in contemporary accounts of the church: that of attending either to the human empirical church-community ethnographically or to the life of God dogmatically; and to each, problematically, at the expense of the other. This book will act as a clarion call towards genuinely theological ecclesiological speech which is allied to real ecclesial action.

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Theopedia - The Theology of Karl Barth

Theology of Karl Barth


The triune God

"The doctrine of the Trinity is what basically distinguishes the Christian doctrine of God as Christian, and therefore what already distinguishes the Christian concept of revelation as Christian, in contrast to all other possible doctrines of God or concepts of revelation." ^[1]^

"It can fairly be said that the chief ecumenical enterprise of current theology is rediscovery and development of the doctrine of the Trinity. It can also fairly be said that Barth initiated the enterprise" ^[2]^ Robert Jenson's quote must be seen in the context of Friedrich Schleiermacher, who placed the Trinity at the end of his systematic work, The Christian Faith (1821, rev. 1830). Barth purposefully placed the Trinity at the beginning of his Church Dogmatics, signifying its importance and centrality to the exposition and proclamation of theology. Since Barth, Protestant theologians have found a renewed interest in the Trinity, and contemporary theology has seen it return to the forefront of dogmatics and theological method.

Threefold Word of God

Barth held to what is known as the threefold Word of God. In other words, preaching (or proclamation), scripture, and revelation are considered to be three different, yet unified forms of the Word of God. Barth's analogy was the Trinity (see CD I/1, 121). Futhermore,

There is no distinction of degree or value between these three forms. For to the extent that proclamation really rests on recollection of the revelation attested in the Bible and is thus obedient repitition of the biblical witness, it is no less the Word of God than the Bible. And to the extent that the Bible really attests revelation it is no less the Word of God than revelation itself. As the Bible and proclamation become God's Word in virtue of the actuality of revelation, they are God's Word: the one Word of God within which there can be neither a more nor a less. Nor should we ever try to understand the three forms of God's Word in isolation. The first, revelation, is the form that underlies the other two (CD I/1, 120-121). Bruce McCormack notes that what Barth is after is a "unity-in-differentiation." ^[3]^ Each form is distinct from one another (as the persons of the Trinity are), yet are unified with each other (cf. CD I/2, 463).


"Real proclamation, then, means the Word of God preached and the Word of God preached means... man's talk about God on the basis of God's own direction, which fundamentally transcends all human causation, which cannot, then, be put on a human basis, but which simply takes place, and has to be acknowledged, as a fact" (CD I/1, 90). Barth's point is that preaching may become the Word of God not because of something we do, but according to God's direction. Thus, God's Word is free and not something controlled or possessed by the church.




One of the most influential and controversial features of Barth's Church Dogmatics was his doctrine of election (see CD II/2). One thread of the Reformed tradition, following the interpretation of its most influential thinker, John Calvin, argued for the so-called double predestination: God chose some humans for salvation through Christ and others for damnation. These groups were sometimes called the "elect" and "reprobate." This choice (or election) was made by God and was the result of His "absolute decree," a mysterious and fundamentally inscrutable decision which, though it was a decision of ultimate consequence for the individual human, was fundamentally inaccessible and unknowable to him or her. God chose each person to be saved or damned based on the divine will, and it was impossible to know why God chose some and not others or whether God had elected or rejected oneself.

Barth's doctrine of election involves a firm rejection of the notion of an absolute decree. In keeping with his Christo-centric methodology, Barth argues that to ascribe the salvation or damnation of humanity to an abstract and absolute decree is to make some part of God more final and definitive than God's saving act in Jesus Christ. God's absolute decree, if one may speak of such a thing, is God's gracious decision to be "for" humanity in the person of Jesus Christ (Barth calls this God's "Yes"). With the earlier Reformed tradition, Barth retains the notion of double predestination, but he makes Jesus simultaneously the object and subject of both divine election and reprobation: Jesus embodies God's election of humanity and God's rejection of human sin. He is the electing God and the elect man. As the electing God, Jesus elects all of humanity in himself. And thus, as the elected man, all who are "in Christ" are elect in him. Non-believers, it is said, have simply not realized or recognized their election in Christ.

While some regard this revision of the doctrine of election as an improvement on the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination,^[[citation\ needed](Theopedia:Writing_guide#Reference_your_work)]^ critics have charged that Barth's view amounts to an implicit universalism.^[[citation\ needed](Theopedia:Writing_guide#Reference_your_work)]^


Barth has also been criticized for his alleged belief in universalism, however, Barth himself noted that insistence on necessary universal salvation impinged on God's freedom and suggested it was beyond the church's duty to speculate on the subject (Church Dogmatics 2.2, 417). "For Barth, the grace of God is characterised by freedom. On the one hand, this means that we can never impose limits on the scope of grace; and on the other hand, it means that we can never impose a universalist 'system' on grace. In either case, we would be compromising the freedom of grace - we would be presuming that we can define the exact scope of God's liberality. So Barth's theology of grace includes a dialectical protest: Barth protests both against a system of universalism and against a denial of universalism! The crucial point is that God's grace is free grace: it is nothing other than God himself acting in freedom. And if God acts in freedom, then we can neither deny nor affirm the possibility of universal salvation." ^[4]^

Barth says that,

"The proclamation of the Church must make allowance for this freedom of grace. Apokatastasis Panton? No, for a grace which automatically would ultimately have to embrace each and every one would certainly not be free grace. It surely would not be God's grace. But would it be God's free grace if we could absolutely deny that it could do that? Has Christ been sacrificed only for our sins? Has he not ... been sacrificed for the whole world? ... [Thus] the freedom of grace is preserved on both these sides." ^[5]^ For Barth, then, we can neither affirm nor deny the possibility that all will be saved. So what can we do? Barth's answer is clear: we can hope (see CD IV/3, pp. 477-78). ^ [6]^


Barth's theology denies the necessity of apologetics. He states in The Epistle to the Romans:

The Gospel is not a truth among other truths. Rather, it sets a question-mark against all truths. The Gospel is not the door but the hinge. The man who apprehends its meaning is removed from all strife, because he is engaged in a strife with the whole, even with existence itself. Anxiety concerning the victory of the Gospel--that is, Christian Apologetics--is meaningless, because the Gospel is the victory by which the world is overcome. ... It [the Gospel] does not require representatives with a sense of responsibility, for it is as responsible for those who proclaim it as it is for those to whom it is proclaimed. It is the advocate of both. ... God does not need us. Indeed, if He were not God, He would be ashamed of us. We, at any rate, cannot be ashamed of Him. ^[7]^


  • CD - Church Dogmatics
  • GD - Gottingen Dogmatics


  1. ↑ Church Dogmatics I/1, p. 301.
  2. ↑ Robert Jenson, "Karl Barth" in The Modern Theologians 2nd ed., p. 47.
  3. ↑ Bruce McCormack, "The Being of Scripture is in Becoming", in Evangelicals & Scripture: Tradition, Authority and Hermeneutics, eds. Vincent Bacote, Laura C. Miguelez, and Dennis L. Okholm (InterVarsity Press, 2004), p. 59.
  4. ↑ Why I am not a Universalist, by Ben Meyers
  5. ↑ Barth, God Here and Now, pp. 41-42.
  6. ↑ Why I am not a Universalist, by Ben Meyers
  7. ↑ p. 35

Suggested reading

For primary resources, see the main page Karl Barth and the Barth bibliography.


Other studies

  • Bruce McCormackOrthodox and Modern: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth. Baker Academic, 2008.
  • George Hunsinger, Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth. Eerdmans, 2000.
  • Hans Urs Von BalthasarThe Theology of Karl Barth: Exposition and Interpretation. Ignatius, 1992.
  • John Webster, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth. Cambridge UP, 2000.
  • G.C. BerkouwerThe Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth. Eerdmans, 1956.

Development of thought

  • Karl Barth, How I Changed My Mind. John Knox Press, 1966.
  • Bruce McCormack, Karl Barth's Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology: Its Genesis and Development 1909-1936. Oxford UP, 1997.
  • Bernd Jaspert, ed. Karl Barth ~ Rudolf Bultmann, Letters 1922-1966. Eerdmans, 1981.
  • Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts. Fortress/SCM, 1976; Eerdmans, 1994; reprint Wipf & Stock, 2005.
  • John Webster, Barth's Earlier Theology: Four Studies. T&T Clark, 2006.
  • T.F. TorranceKarl Barth: An Introduction to His Early Theology 1910-1931. T&T Clark, 2001.

Barth and Evangelicalism

  • David Gibson & Daniel Strange, eds. Engaging with Barth. Apollos, 2008; T&T Clark, 2009.
  • Sung Wook Chung, ed. Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences. Baker Academic, 2007.
  • Bernard Ramm, After Fundamentalism: The Future of Evangelical Theology. Harper & Row, 1983.
  • Philip R. Thorne, Evangelicalism and Karl Barth: his reception and influence in North American Evangelical theology. Pickwick, 1995.
  • Donald Bloesch Jesus Is Victor!: Karl Barth's Doctrine of Salvation. Abingdon, 1976.
  • Kurt Anders Richardson, Reading Karl Barth: New Directions for North American Theology. Baker Academic, 2004.
  • Gregory G. Bolich, Karl Barth & Evangelicalism. IVP, 1979.


  • Kevin Vanhoozer, "A Person of the Book? Barth on Biblical Authority and Interpretation." In Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences, ed. Sung Wook Chung, pp. 26-59. Baker Academic, 2006.
  • Mark D. Thompson, "Witness to the Word: On Barth's Doctrine of Scripture." In Engaging with Barth: Contemporary Evangelical Critiques, edited by David Gibson and Daniel Strange, pp. 168-197. T&T Clark, 2008.
  • Bruce McCormack, "The Being of Holy Scripture is in Becoming: Karl Barth in Conversation With American Evangelical Criticism." In Evangelicals & Scripture: Tradition, Authority and Hermeneutics, ed. Vincent Bacote, et al., pp. 55-75. IVP, 2004.
  • Francis Watson, "The Bible." In The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, ed. John Webster, pp. 57-71. Cambridge UP, 2000.
  • Klaas Runia, Karl Barth's Doctrine of Holy Scripture. Eerdmans, 1962.
  • Mary Kathleen Cunningham, "Karl Barth." In Christian Theologies of Scripture: A Comparative Introduction, ed. Justin Holcomb, pp. 183-201. NYU Press, 2006.
  • Geoffrey Bromiley, "Karl Barth's Doctrine of Inspiration", Journal of the Transactions of the Victoria Institute 87 (1955): 66-80.


  • Donald Wood, Barth's Theology of Interpretation. Barth Studies Series. Ashgate, 2007.
  • Richard Burnett, Karl Barth's Theological Exegesis: The Hermeneutical Principles of the Romerbrief Period. Eerdmans, 2004.
  • John Webster, "Barth, Karl." In Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, ed. Kevin Vanhoozer, pp. 82-84. Baker Academic, 2005.
  • Bruce McCormack, "The Significance of Karl Barth's Theological Exegesis of Philippians." In Epistle to the Philippians, 40th Anniversary Edition, by Karl Barth, pp. v-xxv. WJK, 2002.
  • Francis Watson, "Barth's Philippians as Exegesis." In Epistle to the Philippians, 40th Anniversary Edition, by Karl Barth, pp. xxvi-li. WJK, 2002
  • Paul McGlasson, Jesus and Judas: Biblical Exegesis in Barth. Scholars Press, 1991.
  • Mary Kathleen Cunningham, What is Theological Exegesis? Interpretation and Use of Scripture in Barth's Doctrine of Election. Trinity Press Intl., 1995.


  • Eberhard JüngelGod's Being is in Becoming: The Trinitarian Being of God in the Theology of Karl Barth, trans. by John Webster. Eerdmans, 2001; T&T Clark, 2004.
  • Paul MolnarDivine Freedom And the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity: In Dialogue With Karl Barth And Contemporary Theology. T&T Clark, 2005.
  • Peter S. Oh, Karl Barth's Trinitarian Theology: A Study in Karl Barth's Analogical Use of the Trinitarian Relation. T&T Clark, 2007.
  • Alan J. Torrance, Persons in Communion: An Essay on Trinitarian Description and Human Participation with special reference to Volume One of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics. T&T Clark, 1996.

See also

External links



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This paper examines the status and stature of the human in Barth's doctrine of creation and covenant. Barth clearly advances ...

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The Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) has almost certainly had more impact on Christian theology than any other thinker in ...
Karl Barth on whether he takes delight in disputes. Extract from the documentary film "JA und NEIN, Karl Barth zum Gedaechtnis" ...

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* * * * * * * *

Karl Barth

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Karl Barth
Karl Barth Briefmarke.jpg
Born10 May 1886
Died10 December 1968 (aged 82)
Basel, Switzerland
Notable work
The Epistle to the Romans
Barmen Declaration
Church Dogmatics
Nelly Hoffmann
(m. 1913)
ChildrenFranziska, Markus, Christoph, Matthias and Hans Jakob
Theological work
Tradition or movementSwiss Reformed
Part of a series on
Portrait of John Calvin, French School.jpg
Kreuz-hugenotten.svg Calvinism portal

Karl Barth (/bɑːrt, bɑːrθ/;[1] German: [baɐ̯t]; 10 May 1886 – 10 December 1968) was a Swiss Reformed theologian who is most well known for his landmark commentary The Epistle to the Romans (1921) (a.k.a. Romans II), his involvement in the Confessing Church, and authorship of the Barmen Declaration,[2][3] and especially his unfinished five volume theological summa the Church Dogmatics[4] (published in twelve part-volumes between 1932–1967).[5][6] Barth's influence expanded well beyond the academic realm to mainstream culture, leading him to be featured on the cover of Time on 20 April 1962.[7]

Barth's theological career began while he was known as the "Red Pastor from Safenwil"[8] when he wrote his first edition of his The Epistle to the Romans (1919) (a.k.a. Romans I). Beginning with his second edition of The Epistle to the Romans (1921), Barth began to depart from his former training – and began to garner substantial worldwide acclaim – with a liberal theology he inherited from Adolf von HarnackFriedrich Schleiermacher and others.[9] Barth influenced many significant theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer who supported the Confessing Church, and Jürgen MoltmannHelmut GollwitzerJames H. ConeWolfhart PannenbergRudolf BultmannThomas F. TorranceHans Küng, and also Reinhold NiebuhrJacques Ellul, and novelists such as Flannery O'ConnorJohn Updike, and Miklós Szentkuthy. Among many other areas, Barth has also had a profound influence on modern Christian ethics.[10][11][12][13] He has influenced the work of ethicists such as Stanley HauerwasJohn Howard YoderJacques Ellul and Oliver O'Donovan.[10][14][15]

Early life and education

Karl Barth was born on 10 May 1886, in Basel, Switzerland, to Johann Friedrich "Fritz" Barth (1852–1912) and Anna Katharina (Sartorius) Barth (1863–1938).[16] Karl had two younger brothers, Peter Barth (1888–1940) and Heinrich Barth (1890–1965), and two sisters, Katharina and Gertrude. Fritz Barth was a theology professor and pastor and desired for Karl to follow his positive line of Christianity, which clashed with Karl's desire to receive a liberal Protestant education. Karl began his student career at the University of Bern, and then transferred to the University of Berlin to study under Adolf von Harnack, and then transferred briefly to the University of Tübingen before finally in Marburg to study under Wilhelm Herrmann (1846–1922).[17] From 1911 to 1921 he served as a Reformed pastor in the village of Safenwil in the canton of Aargau. In 1913 he married Nelly Hoffmann, a talented violinist. They had a daughter and four sons, one of whom was the New Testament scholar Markus Barth (6 October 1915 – 1 July 1994). Later he was professor of theology in Göttingen (1921–1925), Münster (1925–1930) and Bonn (1930–1935), in Germany. While serving at Göttingen he met Charlotte von Kirschbaum, who became his long-time secretary and assistant; she played a large role in the writing of his epic, the Church Dogmatics.[18] He was deported from Germany in 1935 after he refused to sign (without modification) the Oath of Loyalty to Adolf Hitler and went back to Switzerland and became a professor in Basel (1935–1962).

Break from liberalism

In August 1914, Karl Barth was dismayed to learn that his venerated teachers including Adolf von Harnack had signed the "Manifesto of the Ninety-Three German Intellectuals to the Civilized World";[19] as a result, Barth concluded he could not follow their understanding of the Bible and history any longer.[20]

The Epistle to the Romans

Barth first began his commentary The Epistle to the Romans (Ger. Der Römerbrief) in the summer of 1916 while he was still a pastor in Safenwil, with the first edition appearing in December 1918 (but with a publication date of 1919).[8] On the strength of the first edition of the commentary, Barth was invited to teach at the University of Göttingen. Barth decided around October 1920 that he was dissatisfied with the first edition and heavily revised it the following eleven months, finishing the second edition around September 1921.[8][21] Particularly in the thoroughly re-written second edition of 1922, Barth argued that the God who is revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus challenges and overthrows any attempt to ally God with human cultures, achievements, or possessions. The book's popularity led to its republication and reprinting in several languages.

Barmen Declaration

A stamp celebrating the Barmen Declaration's 50 year anniversary

In 1934, as the Protestant Church attempted to come to terms with the Third Reich, Barth was largely responsible for the writing of the Barmen Declaration (Ger. Barmer Erklärung).[22] This declaration rejected the influence of Nazism on German Christianity by arguing that the Church's allegiance to the God of Jesus Christ should give it the impetus and resources to resist the influence of other lords, such as the German FührerAdolf Hitler.[23] Barth mailed this declaration to Hitler personally. This was one of the founding documents of the Confessing Church and Barth was elected a member of its leadership council, the Bruderrat.

He was forced to resign from his professorship at the University of Bonn in 1935 for refusing to swear an oath to Hitler. Barth then returned to his native Switzerland, where he assumed a chair in systematic theology at the University of Basel. In the course of his appointment, he was required to answer a routine question asked of all Swiss civil servants: whether he supported the national defense. His answer was, "Yes, especially on the northern border!"[citation needed] The newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung carried his 1936 criticism of the philosopher Martin Heidegger for his support of the Nazis.[24] In 1938 he wrote a letter to a Czech colleague Josef Hromádka in which he declared that soldiers who fought against the Third Reich were serving a Christian cause.

Church Dogmatics

Karl Barth's Kirchliche Dogmatik: The original 'white whale' edition of the Church Dogmatics from Barth's study that features a custom binding from the publisher.[25]
Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics in English translation

Barth's theology found its most sustained and compelling expression in his five-volume magnum opus, the Church Dogmatics (Ger. "Kirchliche Dogmatik"). Widely regarded as an important theological work, the Church Dogmatics represents the pinnacle of Barth's achievement as a theologian. Church Dogmatics runs to over six million words and 9,000 pages – one of the longest works of systematic theology ever written.[26][27][28] The Church Dogmatics is in five volumes: the Doctrine of the Word of God, the Doctrine of God, the Doctrine of Creation, the Doctrine of Reconciliation and the Doctrine of Redemption. Barth's planned fifth volume was never written and the fourth volume's final part-volume was unfinished.[29][30][31]

Examples of Karl Barth's contributions to theology

Some theologians have suggested that Karl Barth's greatest contributions to theology may be summarized on one sheet of paper, but others have argued that is impossible to reduce his published works in such a way. Some of Karl Barth's best ideas include the following loci:[32]

  • Threefold Word of God (cf. CD I/1, CD I/2 19–21)
  • Doctrine of Election: The Electing and Elected Jesus Christ (c.f CD II/2, 33)
  • No to Natural Revelation (cf. Doctrine of God, CD II/1, CD IV/3.1, and the Barmen Declaration).
  • Creation as the exterior basis of the covenant and Covenant as the interior basis of creation (cf. CD III/1)
  • Christian Anthropology: Soul of my Body (cf. CD III/2)
  • The Judge Judged in our Place. (cf. CD IV/1)

Later life and death

Photo of Karl Barth on jacket of one of his books

After the end of the Second World War, Barth became an important voice in support both of German penitence and of reconciliation with churches abroad. Together with Hans Iwand, he authored the Darmstadt Statement in 1947 – a more concrete statement of German guilt and responsibility for the Third Reich and Second World War than the 1945 Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt. In it, he made the point that the Church's willingness to side with anti-socialist and conservative forces had led to its susceptibility for National Socialist ideology. In the context of the developing Cold War, that controversial statement was rejected by anti-Communists in the West who supported the CDU course of re-militarization, as well as by East German dissidents who believed that it did not sufficiently depict the dangers of Communism. He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1950.[33] In the 1950s, Barth sympathized with the peace movement and opposed German rearmament.

Karl Barth in 1956

Barth wrote a 1960 article for The Christian Century regarding the "East–West question" in which he denied any inclination toward Eastern communism and stated he did not wish to live under Communism or wish anyone to be forced to do so; he acknowledged a fundamental disagreement with most of those around him, writing: "I do not comprehend how either politics or Christianity require [sic] or even permit such a disinclination to lead to the conclusions which the West has drawn with increasing sharpness in the past 15 years. I regard anticommunism as a matter of principle an evil even greater than communism itself."[34]

In 1962, Barth visited the United States and lectured at Princeton Theological Seminary, the University of Chicago, the Union Theological Seminary and the San Francisco Theological Seminary. He was invited to be a guest at the Second Vatican Council. At the time Barth's health did not permit him to attend. However, he was able to visit the Vatican and be a guest of the pope in 1967, after which he wrote the small volume Ad Limina Apostolorum [At the Threshold of the Apostles].[35]

Barth was featured on the cover of the 20 April 1962 issue of Time magazine, an indication that his influence had reached out of academic and ecclesiastical circles and into mainstream American religious culture.[36] Pope Pius XII is often claimed to have said Barth was "the greatest theologian since Thomas Aquinas,"[disputed ][37][38][39][40] though Fergus Kerr observes that "there is never chapter and verse for the quotation" and it is sometimes attributed to Pope Paul VI instead.[41]

Barth died on 10 December 1968, at his home in Basel, Switzerland. The evening before his death, he had encouraged his lifelong friend Eduard Thurneysen that he should not be downhearted, "For things are ruled, not just in Moscow or in Washington or in Peking, but things are ruled – even here on earth—entirely from above, from heaven above.”[42]


Karl Barth's most significant theological work is his summa theology titled the Church Dogmatics, which contains Barth's doctrine of the word of God, doctrine of God, doctrine of reconciliation and doctrine of redemption. Barth is most well known for reorienting all theological discussion around Jesus.

Trinitarian focus[edit]

One major objective of Barth is to recover the doctrine of the Trinity in theology from its putative loss in liberalism.[43] His argument follows from the idea that God is the object of God's own self-knowledge, and revelation in the Bible means the self-unveiling to humanity of the God who cannot be discovered by humanity simply through its own intuition.[44] God's revelation comes to man 'vertically from above' (Senkrecht von Oben).


One of the most influential and controversial features of Barth's Dogmatics was his doctrine of election (Church Dogmatics II/2). Barth's theology entails a rejection of the idea that God chose each person to either be saved or damned based on purposes of the Divine will, and it was impossible to know why God chose some and not others.[45]

Barth's doctrine of election involves a firm rejection of the notion of an eternal, hidden decree.[46] In keeping with his Christo-centric methodology, Barth argues that to ascribe the salvation or damnation of humanity to an abstract absolute decree is to make some part of God more final and definitive than God's saving act in Jesus Christ. God's absolute decree, if one may speak of such a thing, is God's gracious decision to be for humanity in the person of Jesus Christ. Drawing from the earlier Reformed tradition, Barth retains the notion of double predestination but makes Jesus himself the object of both divine election and reprobation simultaneously; Jesus embodies both God's election of humanity and God's rejection of human sin.[47] While some regard this revision of the doctrine of election as an improvement[48] on the Augustinian-Calvinist doctrine of the predestination of individuals, critics, namely Brunner,[49] have charged that Barth's view amounts to a soft universalism, thereby departing from Augustinian-Calvinism.

Barth's doctrine of objective atonement develops as he distances himself from Anselm of Canterbury's doctrine of the atonement.[50] In The Epistle to the Romans, Barth endorses Anselm's idea that God who is robbed of his honor must punish those who robbed him. In Church Dogmatics I/2, Barth advocates divine freedom in the incarnation with the support of Anselm's Cur Deus Homo. Barth holds that Anselm's doctrine of the atonement preserves both God's freedom and the necessity of Christ's incarnation. The positive endorsement of Anselmian motives in Cur Deus Homo continues in Church Dogmatics II/1. Barth maintains with Anselm that the sin of humanity cannot be removed by the merciful act of divine forgiveness alone. In Church Dogmatics IV/1, however, Barth's doctrine of the atonement diverges from that of Anselm.[51] By over-christologizing the doctrine, Barth completes his formulation of objective atonement. He finalizes the necessity of God's mercy at the place where Anselm firmly establishes the dignity and freedom of the will of God.[52] In Barth's view, God's mercy is identified with God's righteousness in a distinctive way where God's mercy always takes the initiative. The change in Barth's reception of Anselm's doctrine of the atonement is, therefore, alleged to show that Barth's doctrine entails support for universalism.[49][53]


Barth argued that previous perspectives on sin and salvation, influenced by strict Calvinist thinking, sometimes misled Christians into thinking that predestination set up humanity such that the vast majority of human beings were foreseen to disobey and reject God, with damnation coming to them as a matter of fate.

Barth's view of salvation is centrally Christological, with his writings stating that in Jesus Christ the reconciliation of all of mankind to God has essentially already taken place and that through Christ man is already elect and justified.

Karl Barth denied that he was a Universalist.[54] However, Barth asserted that eternal salvation for everyone, even those that reject God, is a possibility that is not just an open question but should be hoped for by Christians as a matter of grace; specifically, he wrote, "Even though theological consistency might seem to lead our thoughts and utterances most clearly in this direction, we must not arrogate to ourselves that which can be given and received only as a free gift", just hoping for total reconciliation.[55]

Barth, in the words of a later scholar, went a "significant step beyond traditional theology" in that he argued against more conservative strains of Protestant Christianity in which damnation is seen as an absolute certainty for many or most people. To Barth, Christ's grace is central.[55]

Understanding of Mary

Unlike many Protestant theologians, Barth wrote on the topic of Mariology (the theological study of Mary). Barth's views on the subject agreed with much Roman Catholic dogma but he disagreed with the Catholic veneration of Mary. Aware of the common dogmatic tradition of the early Church, Barth fully accepted the dogma of Mary as the Mother of God, seeing a rejection of that title equivalent to rejecting the doctrine that Christ's human and divine natures are inseparable (contra the Nestorian heresy). Through Mary, Jesus belongs to the human race. Through Jesus, Mary is Mother of God.[56]

Charlotte von Kirschbaum

Charlotte von Kirschbaum was Barth's theological academic colleague for more than three decades.[57] George Hunsinger summarizes the influence of von Kirschbaum on Barth's work: "As his unique student, critic, researcher, adviser, collaborator, companion, assistant, spokesperson, and confidante, Charlotte von Kirschbaum was indispensable to him. He could not have been what he was, or have done what he did, without her."[58]

A desk in Karl Barth's old office with a painting of Matthias Grünewald's crucifixion scene

An article written in 2017 by Christiane Tietz (originally a paper she delivered at the 2016 American Academy of Religion in San Antonio, Texas) for the academic journal Theology Today engages letters released in both 2000 and 2008 written by Barth, Charlotte von Kirschbaum, and Nelly Barth, which discuss the complicated relationship between all three individuals that occurred over the span of 40 years.[59] The letters published in 2008 between von Kirschbaum and Barth from 1925 to 1935[60] made public "the deep, intense, and overwhelming love between these two human beings." [61]

In literature

In John Updike's Roger's Version, Roger Lambert is a professor of religion. Lambert is influenced by the works of Karl Barth. That is the primary reason that he rejects his student's attempt to use computational methods to understand God.

Harry Mulisch's The Discovery of Heaven makes mentions of Barth's Church Dogmatics, as does David Markson's The Last Novel. In the case of Mulisch and Markson, it is the ambitious nature of the Church Dogmatics that seems to be of significance. In the case of Updike, it is the emphasis on the idea of God as "Wholly Other" that is emphasized.

In Marilynne Robinson's Gilead, the preacher John Ames reveres Barth's "Epistle to the Romans" and refers to it as his favorite book other than the Bible.

Whittaker Chambers cites Barth in nearly all his books: Witness (p. 507), Cold Friday (p. 194), and Odyssey of a Friend (pp. 201, 231).

In Flannery O'Connor's letter to Brainard Cheney, she said "I distrust folks who have ugly things to say about Karl Barth. I like old Barth. He throws the furniture around."

Center for Barth Studies

Princeton Theological Seminary, where Barth lectured in 1962, houses the Center for Barth Studies, which is dedicated to supporting scholarship related to the life and theology of Karl Barth. The Barth Center was established in 1997 and sponsors seminars, conferences, and other events. It also holds the Karl Barth Research Collection, the largest in the world, which contains nearly all of Barth's works in English and German, several first editions of his works, and an original handwritten manuscript by Barth.[62][63]


  • The Epistle to the Romans (Ger. Der Römerbrief I, 1st ed., 1919)
  • The Epistle to the Romans (Ger. Der Römerbrief. Zweite Fassung, 1922). E. C. Hoskyns, trans. London: Oxford University Press, 1933, 1968 ISBN 0-19-500294-6
  • The Word of God and The Word of Man (Ger. Das Wort Gottes und die Theologie, 1928). New York: Harper & Bros, 1957. ISBN 978-0-8446-1599-8The Word of God and Theology. Amy Marga, trans. New York: T & T Clark, 2011.
  • Preaching Through the Christian Year. H. Wells and J. McTavish, eds. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1978. ISBN 0-8028-1725-4
  • God Here and Now. London: Routledge, 1964.
  • Fides Quaerens Intellectum: Anselm's Proof of the Existence of God in the Context of His Theological Scheme (written in 1931). I. W. Robertson, trans. London: SCM, 1960; reprinted by Pickwick Publications (1985) ISBN 0-915138-75-1
  • Church and State. G.R. Howe, trans. London: SCM, 1939.
  • The Church and the War. A. H. Froendt, trans. New York: Macmillan, 1944.
  • Prayer according to the Catechisms of the Reformation. S.F. Terrien, trans. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1952 (Also published as: Prayer and Preaching. London: SCM, 1964).
  • The Humanity of God, J.N. Thomas and T. Wieser, trans. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1960. ISBN 0-8042-0612-0
  • Evangelical Theology: An Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1963.
  • The Christian Life. Church Dogmatics IV/4: Lecture Fragments. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981. ISBN 0-567-09320-4ISBN 0-8028-3523-6
  • The Word in this World: Two Sermons by Karl Barth. Edited by Kurt I. Johanson. Regent Publishing (Vancouver, BC, Canada): 2007
  • "No Angels of Darkness and Light," The Christian Century, January 20, 1960, p. 72 (reprinted in Contemporary Moral Issues. H. K. Girvetz, ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1963. pp. 6–8).
  • The Göttingen Dogmatics: Instruction in the Christian Religion, vol. 1. G.W. Bromiley, trans. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991. ISBN 0-8028-2421-8
  • Dogmatics in Outline (1947 lectures), Harper Perennial, 1959, ISBN 0-06-130056-X
  • A Unique Time of God: Karl Barth's WWI Sermons, William Klempa, editor. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
  • On Religion. Edited and translated by Garrett Green. London: T & T Clark, 2006.

The Church Dogmatics in English translation


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by R.E. Slater
November 23, 2020
Please note: I write these notes to myself. They are not intended to be exact transcriptions from the speakers themselves. What I have written are not their words but my own thoughts. - res

Please note: All panelists provided textual statements for comments to attendees. These are not allowed to be publically published as they are intended to form to the moment-in-time not replicable beyond the panel discussions themselves as very specific conversations to one another in the AAR setting

Panelist Bios:

Jamie Davies is a Tutor of New Testament at Trinity College, Bristol (UK). He completed his PhD at St Andrews, Scotland under Grant Macaskill, graduating in 2015. He is the author of Paul Among the Apocalypses (T & T Clark, 2016) and the Cascade Companion to the Apocalyptic Paul (Cascade, forthcoming 2021).

Jc Beall is the O’Neill Family Chair of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. Professor Beall's recent monograph The Contradictory Christ (Oxford: OUP, 2021) advances the first systematic ‘contradictory christology’, an account first outlined in a 2019 symposium in The Journal of Analytic Theology (Volume 7). Beyond his theological work, Beall has published on truth, logic, and related topics. 

Paul D. Molnar is Professor of Systematic Theology, St. John’s University, Queens, New York and has published six books and many journal articles related to the doctrine of the Trinity, Christology and the theology of Karl Barth and of Thomas F. Torrance. 

(Author) Darren Sumner teaches theology and church history as an Affiliate Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. He holds a PhD from the University of Aberdeen, and is the author of Karl Barth and the Incarnation (T&T Clark, 2014). Darren lives in the Seattle area with his wife and three children.

Observation by Jamie Davies
see online statement

Observation by JcBeall
see online statement

Observation by Paul D. Molnar
see online statement

Response by Darren Sumner
see online statement