Theology

Karl Barth was educated in the liberal Protestant approaches to Christianity. But the uncritical support of World War I by leading German intellectuals, including some of his teachers, disillusioned him and he started to question the liberal theology and its roots that stemmed from the Enlightenment.

Crucifixion painting in Barth's study

Later in his life Barth gained an overwhelming conviction about the victorious reality of Christ’s resurrection. This conviction became both the starting point and the bedrock of Barth’s theology. Barth believed that Christian theology should derive its entire thinking about God, man, sin, ethics, and society from what can actually be seen in Jesus Christ as witnessed by the Old and New Testaments rather than from sources independent of this revelation.

In his study Karl Barth kept a copy of the crucifixion painting of the Isenheim altar of Matthias Gruenwald with John the Baptist. Barth often used this painting as an example of how a theologian should work: He should look at the finger of John with which he points toward Christ, and he should remain true to the mission of proclaiming Jesus Christ.

Karl Barth was not a fundamentalist who believed that the Bible was the actual word of God and that every word of the Bible was “true.” Instead, he saw the Bible as a human book, written by people with human failings. But he did believe that the Bible was the source of revelation and the place where people may meet God, because God has chosen to meet them there.

Watch this video to learn what faculty and students from the Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J., are saying about Karl Barth’s theology. What do they consider as Barth’s key message, is his theology still relevant today and where do they disagree with Barth’s views?

Read the Biography to learn more about Karl Barth.