Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Barth bashing

A real treat for you tonight. Another podcast.

Admittedly, I’m not doing the talking, I found it on, a site that allows you to download audio sermons from all manner of (mostly very conservative) people. Tonight’s podcast, then, is by a certain Ian Goligher, and the subject is none other than our beloved Karl Barth.

The introductory blurb about the message runs as follows:

“The tares of New Evangelicalism have been sown while churches slept. The father of Neo- Orthodoxy was Karl Barth a Swiss theologian, who having rebounded from outright liberalism became the hope of many Evangelicals. Instead, he was the pied piper who led them to their destruction. In this message you will learn that the existentialism of Neo-Orthodoxy has led to a play-dough religion. While orthodoxy stands rock solid on the truth that is timeless, New Evangelicals have fallen headlong into the sinking sands of subjectivism. Learn how Barthianism ruined so many denominations and promising evangelicals. Learn why Canada's voice for Orthodoxy has been all but silenced. Again we ask, Where are the preachers? This message will tell us why.”




Apparently, the problem appears to be that Barth isn’t Fundie enough. Not only that, but Barth is, according to Ian, an ‘existential theologian’ (!!!), and existential is just a clever way of saying ‘evil’.


Anyway, click here to have a listen, and here to add your own comments on (I think you’ll agree, my comment was extremely generous – I was on my best behaviour).

Go on, have a listen. You know you want to.


At 3/08/2006 12:32 AM, Blogger Jim said...


At 3/08/2006 11:36 AM, Blogger Ben Myers said...

Oh yes, Barth was definitely an existentialist; also, the earth is flat, and the moon is made of Swiss cheese, and fundamentalists are clever....

At 3/08/2006 7:07 PM, Blogger C. Stirling Bartholomew said...


I am surprised that you find it noteworthy that a north american fundamentalist separatist preacher from a small church would not present his case with the same level of erudition as Carl F. Henry. The guy admitted up front that he was not well read in philosophy etc.. He makes no pretense of being a scholar.

While I have little sympathy for north american fundamentalist separatists and have no intention of defending his statements about Karl Barth, I would like to make a few observations about his sermon. The model he depicts of neo-evangelicalism is reasonably accurate.

Where am I coming from?

I spent the first 30 years of my life in the neo-evangelical subculture. While in seminary I spent two years reading Emil Brunner in preparation for a thesis on the divine human encounter. I also read the likes of Carl .F. Henry, Gordon Clark, C.VanTIl ... . My reaction to Clark and Van Til was fairly negative. After writing several papers on the topic of the divine human encounter, the chair of the theology department and my first reader concluded that I was just a little too friendly toward Brunner and found a polite way of convincing me to change my topic. My first reader, who was finishing his dissertation for a PhD in Philosophy at the Univ. of Chicago, told me point blank that my thinking was beginning to sound neo-orthodox. Like the preacer who launched this discussion, I am no expert on Karl Barth. I spend some serious hours working in his dogmatics, the sections concerning the Word of God, quite lengthly if memory serves me. I will be honest. I just didn't "get it". Brunner seemed much more lucid. A particularly good book on my topic was John Baillie's The Idea of Revelation in Recent Thought.

Back to the topic: Karl Barth and neo-evangelicalism

So where did the fundamentalist separatist preacher go wrong and why? Well first of all he is trying to identify a single theologian to carry the blame for the demise of evangelical orthodoxy in north america. If someone were to take a superficial look at the history of Fuller Seminary, and the four decades of change after Daniel Fuller's address on Black Saturday and if we take Fuller as a prototype for what became neo-evangelicalism in north america, then the Barth bashing of our separatist preacher would seem to have some basis in fact. But like all superficial treatments of history, the depiction of "Black Saturday" as the beginning of the end for evangelical orthodoxy is a little too simplistic. A comparative study of Bernard Ramm and Carl .F. Henry, how they responded to Karl Barth, would demonstrate that neo-evangelicalism does not speak with one voice on Karl Barth. However, if you were to do a global delete on Karl Barth's ideas in neo-evangelical theology since 1950, the remainder wouldn't amount to much. So the our separatist preacher did a crude job and his terminology (e.g. existentialism) was wrong but his basic thesis seems to have some merit. And he is not an "Idiot".

If you want a more nuanced treatment of the subject Carl .F. Henry wrote six volumes, "God, Revelation and Authority".


At 3/09/2006 12:57 AM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for these comments, Clay - very interesting. I'll have to chew on some of these comments. Plus, I liked the new pictures on your blog!

At 3/10/2006 6:12 AM, Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

Clay, good points.

At 3/10/2006 12:56 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hi John,
They were good points, but the guy really still ought not to have started speaking about what he just doesn't understand - just throwing liberal 'he's of the devil' type statements around is hardly doing anybody any good. And I personally get sick of it.
But still, Clay's points help us to understand why on God's good earth he felt the need to say such things.


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