I just picked up this little book by Donald Bloesch entitled Jesus Is Victor!: Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Salvation. I am just digging into it, it is a bit dated, relative to the title-wave of Barth studies that has ensued since its original printing (1976); but I still think it will be helpful for me, as I continue to wrestle with some of Barth’s theology. The reason I like Bloesch is because he is an ‘Evangelical’, like me, he is ‘Reformed’, like me (not necessarily your typical ‘Calvinist’ variety); and he is ‘critical’ but ready to listen to Barth, like me. Here is one of the criticisms that Bloesch has of Barth, and will deal with throughout the remainder of his book:

My principal criticism of Barth’s theology is that he ever and again fails to hold together the objective and subjective poles of salvation, and yet I must acknowledge that on occasion he does succeed in maintaining this delicate balance. While contending that everything needful for our salvation has been accomplished in Jesus Christ, he makes clear that this still has to be apprehended and appropriated by sinful man. The atonement is not only a divine act and offer but includes an active human participation in it. At the same time it cannot be denied that the emphasis in his theology is definitely on the objective side. Even in speaking of the subjective appropriation, Barth has in mind primarily Jesus Christ in his humanity and only secondarily those who are engrafted into Christ. A theological rationalism seems to take precedence over the dialectic theology, especially in his Church Dogmatics after Volume I. He can perhaps be accused of becoming more scholastic and less dialectical and paradoxical as his work proceeded. (Donald Bloesch, “Jesus Is Victor!: Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Salvation,” 10-11)

I would dare say that I agree with Bloesch on the emphasis of Barth’s tendency to press the ‘objective’ side of things (God’s life) to the disparity of dealing with the ‘subjective side’ (our life in relation to God’s). And I’m quite sure that this ‘disparaging’, on Barth’s part, is related to his metaphysic of actualisation . . . which is why Barth’s logic, if followed through, in my estimation leads to universalism (that all humanity will appropriate salvation by faith in Christ).

Nevertheless, there are good things and emphases to learn from Barth; and I look forward to learning more, even through this little book by Bloesch.

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