Karl Barth (pronounced “Bart”) was one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. His fourteen-volume Church Dogmatics have been required reading for many seminarians and his writings have been the source for numerous books and articles. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, even did his doctoral dissertation on Karl Barth and evangelical theology. While knowing all about Barth’s theology is seen as a prerequisite to being a theologian these days, I am not impressed. In fact, I believe that Barth’s theology should be left to the dustbin of history and I don’t understand why so many Christians are fascinated by him. Here are my reasons why:
1. Barth was a universalist who believed that it was possible that in the end all would be saved. He said in his Church Dogmatics:
“If for a moment we accept the unfalsified truth of the reality which even now so forcefully limits the perverted human situation, does it not point plainly in the direction of the work of a truly eternal or universal reconciliation? If we are certainly forbidden to count on this as though we had a claim to it, as though it were not supremely the work of God to which man can have no possible claim, we are surely commanded the more definitely to hope and pray for it as we may do already on this side of this final possibility” (CD IV/3.1, 477).
But the Bible leaves no possibility open for universalism (Matt 25:41-46; Rev 20:10-15).
2. Barth rejected the inerrancy of Scripture in favor of a neo-orthodox view of the Bible. He did not believe that the Bible is God’s Word but only the instrument by which God’s Word is communicated to us.
3. While Barth is often considered a reformed theologian, he is not reformed at all since he rejected the Calvinistic doctrine of election believing that it is not individuals who are chosen by God for salvation but only Christ who has been chosen by God.
4. Barth could not even give a straight answer as to whether he believed the resurrection of Jesus was a historical event when questioned by Carl F. H. Henry.
5. Barth was an unrepentant sexually immoral man who lived in sexual sin with his secretary Charlotte von Kirschbaum. Barth lived as if the rules did not apply to him. Given that he didn’t believe in hell, it shouldn’t surprise us that he lived his life without fear of eternal consequences for his actions.
Because of his unorthodox theology and immoral life, his writings should be avoided by those who care about sound theology and integrity. If we do read them, we should read them the same way we would read any writing from a non-Christian cult. In this case, it is the cult of liberalism.