Karl Barth on ‘orthodoxy’

Karl Barth, Amsterdam 1948Barth again, this time on ‘orthodoxy’:

‘Orthodoxy doubtless has much to live down, but it has nevertheless a powerful instinct for what is superfluous and what is indispensable. In this it surpasses many of the schools that oppose it. And this, and certainly not the mere habit and mental inertia of the people, is the primary reason why it still continues to be so potent both in cultus and church polity and even in state politics. In this respect it is quite superior … The weakness of orthodoxy is not the supernaturalistic element in the Bible and the dogmas. That is its strength. It is rather the fact that orthodoxy, and we all, so far as we are in our own way dogmaticians, have a way of regarding some objective descriptions of that element – such as even the word “God” for instance – as the element itself … To hold the word “God” or anything else before a man, with the demand that he believe it, is not to speak of God … God by himself is not God. He might be something else. Only the God who reveals himself is God. The God who becomes man is God. But the dogmatist does not speak of this God’. – Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man, 200–3.


  1. Ben, I agree. I was absolutely delighted to happen across it. The image is from Amsterdam in 1948, and appeared in Time 20 April, 1962. The information provided here informs us that the photo was taken in August 1948 by Nat Farbman, and that the life size of the image is 13.8 x 17.8″. I would be even more delighted if I could find out more about it.


  2. I agree. The man shaking his hand has a number tattooed on his neck. Intriguing.

    By the way, I once saw a photo of Barth with Martin Luther King? Does anyone know where I can find it, and where the photo was taken?

    Ah, Karl Barth, the rock star of Christian theologians.


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