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Deconstructing Barth

A Study of the Complementary Methods in Karl Barth and Jacques Derrida


Isolde Andrews

This original and perceptive study draws out the relevance of Jacques Derrida's thought about deconstruction, différance and the gift for Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics. These are particularly important for apprehending Barth's doctrine of salvation, which is the particular focus of this book. Derrida's insights are also shown to illuminate the way in which Barth speaks of complex events such as revelation which cannot be thematised by rational thought. This significant interpretation of Karl Barth indicates his affinity with postmodern thought. It will be of interest to those who are studying the relationship between theology and postmodernism, particularly the complex borders between the thematisable and non-thematisable.


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Chapter I: The System Which Is Not A System 19


CHAPTER I THE SYSTEM WillCH IS NOT A SYSTEM 1. Introduction This work will demonstrate why a deconstructive reading of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics is important for the understanding of his doctrine of salvation. First of all, I will explain in this chapter why Jacques Derrida's thought is important for the apprehension of Barth's theology. 2. Karl Barth and Jacques Derrida Karl Barth (1886-1968), a Swiss evangelical theologian, was celebrated for his polemic against the liberal theology engendered by the schools of Schleiermacher and Ritschl 1, his proclamation of the newness of the Kingdom of God2 , the transcendence of God3 , and his refusal of attempts to secure by human means such as philosophical constructs, knowledge that can only be From his pastorate in the parish of Safenwil from 1911, Barth reconsidered his liberal theological schooling because he found it inadequate for the requirements of preaching, and the attitude of many of his liberal teachers in the First World War confirmed his suspicion. See Barth, K., "Evangelical Theology in the 19th Century", in The Humaniry of God, Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1978, p.l4. 2 Of the influences on Barth's thought in his Safenwil years, Hermann Kutter was a stimulus for him to rethink his notion of God. Preparation for preaching led him to decide that biblical exegesis was the basis on which to rebuild his theology which had been grounded in the liberal thought world of his teachers such as Herrmann and Harnack. These two influences are evident in his 1916...

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