His theology is highly critical of neo-Protestantism, or modernism, which includes Schleiermacher and the Ritschlian school.  It is, he says, subjectivistic, psychologistic.  It confuses God’s voice with man’s, theology with anthropology.  It identifies Christianity with culture and treats sin lightly.  Barth responds warmly, however, to Luther and Calvin and to others of the Reformed tradition.  He quotes Kuyper, Bavinck, and Berkouwer with approval, and he even says that the post-Reformation doctrine of biblical inspiration, which he opposes, was preferable to the neo-Protestant view of Scripture.  Further, his massive Church Dogmatics aims to present serious analyses of every traditional doctrine.  He claims, throughout, that his theology is governed by Scripture rather than philosophy or human feeling.  These emphases have led many to think of Barth as conservative, neo-orthodox, even a paradigm for authentic Reformed Christianity today.

Nevertheless, some others have held that Barth is far from orthodox, indeed a substantial threat to traditional Christianity, concealing heretical beliefs beneath orthodox language.  G. C. Berkouwer’s first book on Barth, Karl Barth [published in 1936], was harshly critical of him.  Other Dutch and Dutch-American thinkers shared Berkouwer’s criticisms and went beyond.  Cornelius Van Til’s The New Modernism [published in 1946] argues, by its very title, that the theology of Barth (and that of Brunner, also treated there) is no different from Ritschlianism, except in vocabulary.  The title of his Christianity and Barthianism [published in 1962], intentionally parallel to Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism [published in 1923], also argues that Barth is not much different from the neo-Protestants that he so disparages.

From: A History of Western Philosophy and Theology by John M. Frame (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2015), pp. 365-366.


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