Publié le 02/12/2021

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BARTH, KARL (1886–1968), theologian; his commentary on the Epistle tothe Romans (1919) led fellow theologians to compare him with Martin Luther(Pope Pius XII deemed him the greatest theologian since Thomas Aquinas).Born in Basel to a professor of church history, he began studies at Berlin* withAdolf von Harnack* and then pursued theology at Marburg under WilhelmHermann and Hermann Cohen. During 1911–1921, while pastoring an industrialparish in Switzerland, he became acutely aware of social injustice. Ever wrestlingwith the polarities between God and man, he labored to distinguish hissocial concern from his Christianity; when he finally joined the SPD in 1931,he claimed that he was embracing the Republic, not socialism.Appointed to Go¨ttingen's theological faculty in 1921, Barth went to Mu¨nsterin 1925 and to Bonn in 1930. Already ill at ease as a student with the relativismand historicism practiced within Protestantism, he saw no paradox in his beliefin the absolute ‘‘otherness'' of God (a Kierkegaardian concept) and his passionover the world's social misery; indeed, he believed that the two intersected inthe person of Jesus, the supreme medium between God and humanity. Voicingconcern over contemporary theology, he was wary of modern pretensions tosolve society's problems. A prophetic voice in the tradition of Calvin, he calledthe church back to the Bible and its living foundation, Christ. His central message,which gained wide acceptance, was fundamental to his Romans commentary—a critique of idealism, romanticism, and religious socialism. ChurchDogmatics (1932–1959), which occupied him for thirty years, partially reconciledhim with institutional Christianity.Barth was in the vanguard of the Protestant* struggle against Nazism. Hisvocal criticism of Hitler's* treatment of Jews* overlapped with his Christcenteredperspective on life; it found substance in the 1934 Barman Declaration,a document largely written by Barth and central to the Kirchenkampf againstthe effort to control German Christianity. Although he was deprived in 1935 ofhis chair at Bonn, his Christian stand gained him wide prestige. He returned toSwitzerland and taught systematic theology at Basel until 1962.

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