Karl Barth says Yes to Creation and Evolution

(system) #1
Almost a century ago, the greatest theologian of the modern era rejected the false dichotomy between evolution and biblical faith.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/brad-kramer-the-evolving-evangelical/karl-barth-says-yes-to-creation-and-evolution

(Brad Kramer) #2

Thanks to Wyatt Houtz (@postbarthian) for this great contribution. He’s much more familiar with Barth than I am, so questions should be directed to him. However, I’m happy to jump in when I’m able.

(Wyatt Houtz) #3

Thanks Brad! Glad to contribute -Wyatt

(Albert Leo) #4

There never was a golden age. There is no point in looking back to one. The first man was immediately the first sinner.[4] -
Hi Wyatt

I have always had trouble integrating Karl Barth’s philosophy (& theology) into the worldview that satisfies me as a scientist, but his quote you provided (above) makes me wonder if he and I were so far apart as I had once thought. I have always been more comfortable with the concept of Original Blessing rather than Original Sin; that is, Adam was the first human to have a mind that could support a conscience, and thus was the first of God’s creatures that was capable of sinning. The Jesuit, Teihard de Chardin, taught this but was severely reprimanded by the Vatican for doing so. Do you know what Karl Barth thought of Chardin’s works?
Al Leo

(Wyatt Houtz) #5

@aleo According to Barth, Genesis does not inform us the scientific process of how the human conscious came into being. So Barth’s view is in line with what you said. I’m not an expert on teilhard de chardin but I know Barth is famous for calling him a “giant gnostic snake”! I think he said this based on TC’s teaching on emanations, because Barth rejects natural revelation or theology from below. I don’t see any reason why Barth is opposing this point you made. Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing.

(Albert Leo) #6

So it seems that Barth agreed with the Vatican in ‘exiling’ Teilhard to Peking and banning his books. [Giant agnostic snake, indeed!!] I am not familiar with Teilhard’s teaching on “emanations”. I alway thought TC’s writings were purposely somewhat obfuscating so he could dodge the Vatican’s wrath when he was confronted, which was bound to happen. But it didn’t work–either for himself or for Mathew Fox who also promoted Original Blessing. Of course, (in my opinion, at least) Fox has since strayed over the line of ‘super-liberalism’ (into New Age theology??)
Al Leo

(Wyatt Houtz) #7

This is a fascinating discussion and I’d like to read more of TC. I don’t know that Barth ever agreed with the vatican’s actions towards TC. If I come across anything, I’ll let you know. -Wyatt

(Doug B) #8

Barth is definitely feted by professional theologians that I come across. However in my opinion–one of a church layman–he suffers from being less-than-readable. I don’t know of other ordinary (even highly intelligent) Christians flocking to him either. And in the long run, a theologian is known by his influence on the greater church to include us ordinary folks. No, it seems that 20th century influence will be left to a slightly odder assortment: a tweedy Oxford don (Lewis), a scrappy German pastor (Bonhoeffer) and a gangly North Carolina evangelist (Graham).

(Wyatt Houtz) #9

Not many people understand Einstien but we are all influenced by him and his ideas. Barth’s Church Dogmatics contains many small print sections that are challenging to understand but there are many theologians who explain Barth to lay people. Barth wrote a long Church Dogmatics but he wrote as many pages in other books that are targeted to lay people and even prisoners. His Deliverence to the Captives and Call for God contain sermons he gave to the Basle prisoners at the end of his life such as this one: http://postbarthian.com/2015/04/29/criminals-karl-barth-sermon-basel-prisoners/

Another book is Karl Barth’s Evangelical Theology, which contains Barth’s lectures in USA in the 1960’s. Many people cut their Barthian teeth on it. Here’s a list of Barth books I’ve compiled that will help you get going: http://postbarthian.com/2015/12/08/karl-barth-christmas-book-wishlist/

(Albert Leo) #10

Toward the end of his life, TC wrote a few monographs that clarified his views much better than his more famous “Phenomenon of Man”. “The Heart of Matter” is one such publication. Going back to the early Church, do you think that Irenaeus’ idea of Felix Culpa might have some connotations along the lines of Original Blessing? I know it is not considered that way now.
Al Leo

(Wyatt Houtz) #11

Barth considered sin the “impossible possibility” that results from the sloth of man and is inexcusable. So I don’t think Barth would justify it by the good of redemption, or try to rationally solve it. Another theologian I like, Jürgen Moltmann thought that none of the solutions to the problem of theodicy solve it. We identify Jesus as the true man for us and in the crucifixion he is with us, Immanuel. So it’s a hard problem. Barth does have a supra-supralapsarian view of election where Jesus alone stands before all history and that may be applied. Great thoughts though! I need to read more TC.

(Albert Leo) #12

In enlarging upon TC’s idea of a recent Noosphere (which follows upon a 4+billion year old Biosphere), I find this provides a logical rebuttal for many arguments put forth by atheists (e.g. Dawkins, Stenger, etc.) that belief in a caring God is an intellectual ‘cop-out’. The following is an excerpt from Stenger’s book, “God and the Folly of Faith” p.44: “…we do not yet have a plausible physical model …(for) the nature of consciousness. …”the door to some immaterial reality in human consciousness is still open a tiny crack,…”
“While a primitive morality can be found in animals and early humans that evolved biologically, our modern ideas of morality more likely evolved socially as humans found ways to overcome some of their animal instincts by force of intellect. Not only did these developments allow people to live together in some semblance of order, they also allowed us to use the ability to act cooperatively to obtain resources from the environment, to protect ourselves from predators and other natural dangers.” [Italics his]
{Stenger agrees that human morality depended on use of intellect to overcome animal instincts, which restates my position that modern humanity began with the acquisition of conscience and a spiritual nature–an event which also initiated the Noosphere.}
Al Leo

(Clarke Morledge) #13

Wyatt, Can you tell us what was Francis Schaeffer’s biggest beef with Barth in this area? Was it that Barth rejected a literal “historical Adam,” or something else? What do you think we know about Barth’s view of Schaeffer’s position on a historical, cosmic fall?
Clarke Morledge

(Wyatt Houtz) #14

I recently shared a correspondence between Barth and Schaeffer recently on my blog, and in the footnotes I have some links to Schaeffer’s responses to Barth: http://postbarthian.com/2016/04/02/karl-barths-letter-to-francis-schaeffer/

Schaeffer’s opinion of Barth was poisoned by Van Til. Van Til spoke german and so he had early access to Karl Barth’s writings long before they were available in english translation (so no one could verify his bombasitic misrepresentation of Barth). Van Til had a villainous (and some say slanderous) opinion of Barth, and he wrote two books on Barth that are commonly considered the worst books on Barth ever written. At one point Van Til said that Barth was the worst heretic of all time, which he later retracted and said that Barth made it possible to be a greater heretic than ever before. To learn more about this see “'How Can an Elephant Understand a Whale and Vice Versa?” The Dutch Origins of Cornelius Van Til’s Appraisal of Karl Barth" by George Harinck in Karl Barth and American Evangelicalism (ed. Bruce McCormack, http://amzn.to/1qkNa0B ). Schaeffer rejected Barth mostly based on second hand information from Van Til. It was also at a time when Schaeffer was more rationalistic and than loving.

So in short, Schaeffer’s beef with Barth was in large a misunderstanding of Barth, and also due to his overly rationalistic view of Evangelicalism that has imploded since his time.


I wanted to express thanks for this article - clarifying some of Baths’ views and also detoxing some of the back story that caused Barth to be sidelined.

(Wyatt Houtz) #16

Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #17


You left out, a fiery preacher from Atlanta (King)

(Doug B) #18


(Martin Mayberry) #19

I can disagree and agree with Mr Barth while i do believe that Adam was a real man he is also used figuratively as the “beginning one”. But did Adam really live as a REAL flesh and Blood person that had real live children???to that I say YES he did! 1st Corinthians 15:45-46 spells that out perfectly. their should be NO more questions about it!