Karl Barth is a renowned theologian whose work in the field of theology cannot be ignored. He immensely contributed to the protestant faith in the 20th century. Barth’s theological doctrines are based on certain assertions and propositions. Barth emphasized the unbounded qualitative difference between human beings and God. He argued that God is holy and beyond human understanding. In this respect, humans can only speculate about who He is and His existence. Experience is what is used to explain man’s perception of God. Barth also stressed the fact that the only way to know God is through understanding the Holy Bible, which is the word of God. It is by fathoming the Bible that human beings gain knowledge about God. The incarnation of Jesus Christ guides Christian’s everyday life, which influences their spiritual life. Moreover, Barth contends that for one to prove they have faith, they must proclaim it and live by its ideals. Principals of Christians ought to be reflected in the kind of life they lead. This paper focuses on Karl Barth’s teachings on the supreme authority of God and His covenant with humanity.
Karl Barth Main Theological Emphasis
The Doctrine of Election
Barth argues that Jesus Christ was elected to serve as an irreproachable man. The rest of humanity is taken care of by him as their representative. In this respect, God decided to save humanity from sinful life by sacrificing Jesus. Consequently, Christ is the only person to be truly rejected, but in him, human beings are saved. According to Barth, human beings cannot run away from God, for their wishes and desires are not independent of God’s will. From the beginning, God nullified them, thus putting them under his strong command. Humanity is supposed to eternally worship God.
Moreover, Barth theological dogmatism posits that there is dual predestination through Jesus Christ, where one group is saved from sin and given a chance to enjoy peace in heaven as the other is condemned to burn in hell. Barth believes that it is God’s decision to save some people and let others go to hell. As a result, his theology acknowledges the fact that God is all-powerful and supreme. The authority that God possesses is indispensable, so human beings must bow to it or perish. The anointed ones are elected to fellowship with God forever, whereas the rejected are destined to suffer eternally as a consequence of leading a sinful life. However, God is the one who decides the destiny of each person overall.
- God’s Loves and Freedom
The doctrine of Barth supports the idea that God's love and freedom ought to be balanced and emphasized for believers so that they can do what is just and of God. Barth goes ahead to affirm that God’s love was created to enhance the fellowship among human beings and God. This is to say that God is in control of the relationship between him and humanity. The gracious interaction between God and the sinful in the ministry of Jesus Christ reveals the fellowship of God with humanity.
God has perfect love for humanity, which explains why he sends Jesus Christ to save human beings from sin. The lives of human beings are based on the need to have a fellowship with God. It is for this reason that an emphasis is put on spirituality and worship. According to Barth, god’s decisions and desire for joining Jesus Christ form the basis for the creation of the fellowship agreement with human beings. Therefore, God did not create the world for any other reason than a covenant for fellowship. The coming, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ form a binding relationship between Christians and God.
- Christocentric Theology
In his doctrine, Barth emphasizes that Jesus Christ is the one and only trustworthy pathway to the honest understanding of God. The reason behind this is that Jesus is the complete and assertive self-revelation of the Almighty God. Therefore, theology can be best fathomed through the ministry of Jesus Christ. Christians who denounce the assertion that Christ is the only avenue to the Kingdom of God disqualify themselves from being genuine believers in Jesus. The Holy Spirit serves no higher purpose than the expectation of Jesus Christ. Barth’s understanding of it is that which helps to distinguish the perception that God is a Christian. Trinity helps humanity to develop knowledge about the revelation of God, thus enhancing Christian fellowship with God.
What Is Orthodox about Barth’s Theology
One of the Orthodox aspects of Karl Barth’s theology concerns God’s divine love for humanity. The adherents of Orthodox religion argue that there exist supreme value and effect of God’s love for human beings. The coming of Jesus Christ is linked to the love of God for humanity. In this respect, the doctrines of Barth agree with the Orthodox understanding of God’s love. Throughout their lifetime, human beings work hard to secure and enjoy the love of the Almighty. With divine affection, humanity is guaranteed a good life. The people who cannot feel it are those who are engaged in sinful living and invite the wrath of God. The boundless love of God is what gives human beings hope for a better future. In Barth’s theology, this factor is emphasized, which gives it an Orthodox point of perception.
Barth contends that the word of God is the only source of understanding God. The Bible, as put across by Barth, is the Orthodox source of divine disclosure on what God is and his kingdom. The Holy Scripture is a source of spiritual guidance to the believers. In this respect, much energy should be invested in studying the word of God. Orthodox adherents believe in following the scripture the way it is, making no amendments.
What is Unorthodox about Karl Barth’s Theology?
The traditional church understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity as put forward by Barth is an unorthodox way of understanding the Bible. Orthodox Church believes that the coming of Jesus Christ was a reincarnation, for he existed before the creation of the world. God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit form the foundation of Christianity. The Orthodox believe in the birth, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ without referring to him as a reincarnate.
Moreover, Barth’s understanding of elected and rejected does not rhyme with Orthodox beliefs. Orthodox Christians believe that going to hell or heaven depends on the deeds of a human being. However, Barth views this differently. He argues that God has predestined the fate of each human being from the beginning. One group is to be saved, whereas the other is to be condemned to suffering. Consequently, this implies that God does not give people a chance to choose their destiny.
The Contribution of Barth’s Theology to the Church
Barth theological teachings have contributed immensely to the church. The Christian understanding of revelation, God, Trinity, reaction, and reconciliation has been greatly improved by Barth’s writings. Moreover, he was responsible for the Barmen Declaration that rejected Nazism. The move reinforced the belief in Christian doctrines. The emphasis on the divine love of God serves as an explanation of the relationship between God and humanity. His theology has contributed to the Protestant understanding of religion.
Moreover, Barth contributed to the distinction between church and state. The influence of state authority and dictatorship was rejected. The German regime at the time, under the leadership of Hitler, received opposition from Barth. The loyalty of Christians was to be to God only and not the secular leadership. The state is to be obeyed when it provides justice in society. The state ought to advance what is good and not justify sin. Barth’s theology has helped the church to move away from strong involvement in politics. The formation of religious-based political parties is rejected by his theology to separate the church from state power.
In conclusion, the supreme authority of God over humanity is emphasized to illustrate that he is powerful enough to determine the fate of all human beings. Barth reiterates the fact that humanity has no power to control God, but can only find solace in God’s divine love. Sin leads to success or failure of humanity, thus the need to repent as a way to please the Almighty. Besides, Barth’s assertion that Jesus is the only way to understanding God has reinforced the modern understanding of the Bible. Moreover, Barth’s understanding of Christian fellowship is a great contribution to the church. He emphasized worship as the main reason why God established a covenant with humanity. Jesus Christ came to the rescue of human beings. Consequently, worship is done in an assembly of people, which reinforces the teachings of Barth.