Critical Reflections on Karl Barth

  • Brand Blanshard


To the philosopher the main interest of Barth lies in his apparent irrationalism. He has had the courage to break with philosophy frankly and thoroughly, and to insist that the knowledge of God, though the most important of all knowledge, is not in the ordinary sense knowledge at all, nor, therefore, subject to the sort of criticism or support that reason has to offer. This is, of course, not a new position in either philosophy or theology. Mystics have often held that they had a clear and certain knowledge of God that was above reason and incapable of expression in thought or speech. In Christian theology the claim of a non-rational knowledge of God is as old as Tertullian; it was accepted by Pascal in his doctrine of ‘reasons of the heart that the reason knows not of’; it was developed with vehement verbosity by Kierkegaard, and with logic and eloquence by Dean Mansel. Though Barth lacks the acute-ness, scholarship and style of Mansel, there is a Lutheran self-confidence, energy and pugnacity about him that has caught the religious world’s attention, and given him the best-known name among living theologians.


Natural Theology Christian Theology Ultimate Truth Authentic Revelation Natural Reason 
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    Karl Barth, Knowledge of God, translated by J. L. M. Haire and Ian Henderson (London: Hodder, 1938), p. 194.Google Scholar
  2. Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man, translated by Douglas Horton (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1928), p. 17.Google Scholar
  3. Douglas Clyde Mackintosh, The Problem of Religious Knowledge (New York, London: Harper and Brothers, 1940), p. 342.Google Scholar
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    Emil Brunner, The Divine Imperative (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1947), p. 175.Google Scholar
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    Sydney Gave, Hinduism or Christianity? (New York: Harper and Row, 1939), p. 37.Google Scholar
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    John Baillie, Our Knowledge of God (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1939), p. 16.Google Scholar
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    H. J. Paton, The Modern Predicament (London: Allen and Unwin, also New York: The Macmillan Company, 1955), p. 58.Google Scholar

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© Princeton Theological Seminary 1964

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  • Brand Blanshard

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