Barth’s Contradiction of Evangelical Theologies through the Gospel

Have you ever wondered what explaining the Gospel entails? Karl Barth wondered such things, and gave voice to what he thought was the best way to do such; explain the Gospel that is. Here is how he thinks we should do that:

[T]o explain the Gospel is to define and describe the nature, existence and activity of God as Creator, Reconciler and Redeemer, the grace, the covenant and the work of reconciliation with all that these include and in the living terms of the manifestation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is to do all this, according to the measure of God’s Word, in the constantly changing forms of human consideration, thought and expression. It is to introduce this whole occurrence onto the human scene in a way in which it is not knowable but at least intelligible and perspicuous. It is to cause it to be told to men in human terms. The vital thing in so doing is that the whole content of the Gospel in all its elements and dimensions should be allowed to be its own principle of explanation, that under no pretext or title should alien principles of explanation in the form of metaphysical, anthropological, epistemological or religio-philosophical presuppositions be intruded upon it, that it should not be measured by any other standards of what it is possible than its own, that answers should not be given to any other questions than those raised by itself, that it should not be forced into any alien scheme but left as it is and understood and expounded as such. [Karl Barth, CD IV/3, p. 849 cited by John Webster, Barth’s Moral Theology, 146-47.]

So for Barth, the Gospel is not contingent on man or woman’s explanation; instead, we are contingent upon it, the Gospel, Jesus. For Barth, we don’t possess the Gospel, the Gospel possesses us; it gives itself to us, with its own categories of explanation. It is this reality that shapes Barth’s view of apologetics, analytical theology, etc. And it is probably this reality that Evangelical theology and Evangelicals find so repulsing about Barth; his approach counters the rationalist underbelly upon which Evangelical theologies, in general, rest. For Barth a proper Dogmatic order requires that God and knowledge of God in Christ precedes and contradicts our arguments for him.




  1. “It is to introduce this whole occurrence onto the human scene in a way in which it is not knowable but at least intelligible and perspicuous.” Excellent! Thanks for reminding me of this gem.


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