The assumption of many theologians that Barth has a christology only 'from above' is highly
questionable, in spite of his having such a strong and uncompromising emphasis 'from above'
throughout his christology.
The primary reason for our doubt is that Barth himself emphasises his christology consists in both
movement 'from above' and 'from below'. This being the case, regarding his christology as one
only 'from above' is indeed very much open to debate, because no interpretation or comprehension
can ever postulate its authenticity over against what the author said. Readers can give their opinions
or observations, but they cannot force the author to accept their understandings to be the author.
Further, this christology 'from above' turns out to be a different matter when we comprehend
Barth's christology by means of a Sachkritik ('content criticism'), a critique from an holistic point
of view, instead of an analytic point of view. Differently put, when we ask the meaning and
intention of this uncompromising emphasis 'from above' it is nothing but envisioning a 'from
below'. The 'from above' does indeed stand and exist nowhere but in the 'from below'. Phrasing
his christology as The Doctrine of Reconciliation in lieu of The Doctrine of Jesus Christ etc, and
portraying the theologia crucifixionis (which is for him the centre of christology) in such a chiastic
way that the divine content is operated in the human form are the exact reflections of this
Certainly Barth in many respects maintains a christology 'from above', especially seen from his
method of approach and from the divine domination. However, our Sachkritik also suggests to us
the fact that to dispute that he is advocating a christology 'from above' in view of the method of
approach alone (the divine incarnation 'from above'), or in terms of the divine domination alone
are only one-sided observations which surely lack an holistic or a comprehensive understanding of
his christology. Insofar as the train of his christological thought is concerned, it does not stop or
finish within a framework of 'from-to' alone, which implies much more of a lineal hermeneutic, but
rather is a circular (trinitarian) hermeneutic. What needs to be noted is that, for him, the doctrine
of the Trinity, the Godhead, is nothing but an exposition of revelation, Jesus Christ. Hence, if one
insists on Barth holding a 'high' christology in view of his method of approach, this insistence
would have to suffer from ignoring his trinitarian hermeneutic which is the christological and as
such theological framework in his dogmatic enterprise.
Our Sachkritik naturally leads us to rediscover Barth's re-opening a new vista for natural theology
which he once rejected so stringently-even its possibility. Surprisingly, although many theologians
talk about the early and late Barth, many of them do not seem to follow the content of his
In short, as far as an impartial appreciation of Barth's christology is concerned, it is not only that
we must take the 'from below' approach and content into account, but we must also ask the
question of the meaning and intention of the christology 'from above' by means of Sachkritik. When
his christology is seen from this point of view, to describe him as preserving one only 'from above'
is indeed an oversimplification of his christology.
A theological significance of our contention is that it is the hermeneutical filter for our responsible
understanding of christology, and as such God.