Redemption of religion in Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics.
Penner, Bradley Marc
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This thesis explores Karl Barth’s (1886-1968) argument for “The True Religion” in his Church Dogmatics I/2, §17.3, particularly the four “aspects” (i.e., creation, election, justification, and sanctification). Because this thesis focuses on Barth’s theology of the true religion and its four “aspects,” it contributes to a knowledge of his theology of religion in general and the Christian religion in particular by offering a more holistic interpretation of his theology of religion as both wholly negative and wholly positive in contrast to the vast majority of scholarship which interprets Barth’s theology as only against religion. By using the retranslation of §17 wherein the infamous German word Aufhebung is rendered more correctly as “sublimation” (rather than the original “abolition”) this thesis argues that Barth’s theology of religion is not wholly negative; rather, that of all religions God solely sublimates the Christian religion. This thesis focuses exclusively on Barth’s Church Dogmatics and in chapter one it provides a thorough exegesis of §17 to show how the four “aspects” in his theology of the true religion are the culmination of his argument that the Christian religion is the true religion. This is accomplished by emphasizing Barth’s use of the simul iustus et peccator, which is the analogous paradigm to understand the Christian religion as the true religion, because even though the Christian religion is wholly sinful it is also wholly just as evidenced in God’s sublimation of it. In chapters two through five each “aspect” is respectively exposited first and then proceeds to the corresponding sections in the later volumes of Barth’s Church Dogmatics that display the strongest theological continuity with each “aspect” in order to demonstrate how they complement, correct, and complete his theology of the true religion. The first “aspect” on creation sees Barth stress the anhypostasis of the humanity of Jesus Christ, which has continuity with his theology of the affirmation of creation in III/1, §42, especially creation as justification. In the second “aspect” on election Barth employs the covenant between Old Testament Israel and the Christian religion, which he also utilizes in II/2, §34, particularly in the twofold judgment and mercy of God. In the third “aspect” on justification Barth emphasizes the theme of the forgiveness of sins, which corresponds to IV/1, §61, specifically the pardon of the sinner. The fourth “aspect” on sanctification, particularly the motif of proclamation, aligns with his theology of sanctification in IV/2, §66, particularly the praise of the Christian’s works. This thesis concludes by offering an ethical postscript, which derives from and builds upon its discussion and enlargement of the four “aspects” and prescribes a posture of humility in which the Christian religion must relate towards other religions because it is also still a religion. This ethic also includes a purified pride in which the Christian religion boldly proclaims to all other religions that God sublimates it alone into the true religion in the hope that the adherents of other religions will eventually join the Christian religion.