Input: Van Tils Kritik an Karl Barth

Ich bin kein Barth-Kenner. So weit ich es abschätzen kann, ist die von John Frame zusammengefasste Kritik Cornelius van Tils berechtigt.

  1. Barth’s view of the ‘indirect identity’ between revelation and Scripture permits human beings to disagree with the teachings of Scripture, contrary to Scripture itself.
  2. Barth’s doctrine of God is irrationalist (or ‘nominalistic’, as Van Til sometimes says): God, for Barth, is ‘wholly other,’ able to change into the opposite of himself. It is also rationalistic: God is wholly revealed in Christ.
  3. Barth’s view of the ‘indirect identity of all men in and with God in  Christ as Geschichte’ has pantheistic overtones, although Barth seeks to guard against them. The same is true of his doctrine of ‘participation’, although Barth uses it to avoid the idea of a direct identity between man and God.
  4. His identification of Christ with his work of saving all men has an inescapable universalistic implication, even though Barth seeks to avoid that by an (irrational) appeal to the freedom of God.
  5. Salvation actually occurs not in events of calendar time such as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, but in Geschichte, in which temporal distinctions do not exist. Calendar-time history partakes of Geschichte as an aspect of it and a pointer to it, but events in that history do not themselves bring salvation.
  6. To speak of God as both ‘hidden’ and ‘revealed’ in revelation is to deny to revelation any clear content to which human beings are unambiguously subject.
  7. Contrary to Barth, Scripture does teach that God determines the final destinies of human beings through his eternal decrees. To say this is not to think of human destiny apart from Christ. Christ is both the Savior of the elect and the ultimate judge of the wicked. One cannot state a priori that grace will save all people.
  8. To speak of the ‘ontological impossibility of sin’ and ‘sin as chaos’ (das Nichtige) turns ethics into metaphysics, the problem of reconciliation into the problem of overcoming finitude.
  9. Barth’s Gospel is essentially different from that of Scripture: Barth would announce to men that they are already in Christ, rather than urging them to repent and believe as God’s grace remove them from the sphere of wrath to the sphere of grace.

John M. Frame. Cornelius Van Til. An Analysis of His Thought. P & R: Phillipsburg, 1995. (364-365)