A few weeks back, a Barth post of mine led to a good discussion in the comments. This post is a sort of answer to that using Gustaf Wingren (20th C. Lutheran theologian) and Cornelius Van Til (20th C. Reformed theologian) to speak about one weakness found in Barth’s theology. Basically, both Wingren and Van Til noted a glaring irony: Barth’s loud voice speaking of God was quite anthropocentric after all.
Wingren, for example, accused Barth of substituting revelation in place of justification and forgiveness. Wingren said Barth overemphasized human knowledge instead of redemption from the guilt and corruption of sin. Barth, Wingren noted, had a sort of Schleiermachian bent. “It is strange that we must make this statement, but it is necessary: In Barth’s theology man is obviously the center. The question about man’s knowledge is the axis around which the whole subject matter moves.” (Sources: Wingren’s Theology in Conflict: Nygren, Barth, Bultmann p. 28-29; this is also mentioned in William Willimon, Conversations with Barth on Preaching, p.80 & 279. Willimon, who loves Barth, even admitted this was “true,” since for Barth, “sin is mostly a form of unknowing” [ibid, 80].)
Van Til, independent of Wingren’s conclusion, wrote similarly. Barth’s “theology is still nothing but an anthropology.” Elsewhere he says that Barth’s ontology coalesces with this epistemology. According to Barth, Van Til wrote, “all human beings who exist, that is, really exist in the Christ, and all human beings who have knowledge of anything at all have this knowledge because they are one with the process that is Christ and that is God.” (See Van Til’s New Modernism p. 375.)
After reading Barth for a few years now, I do believe these are legitimate concerns, but I’m still reading. He has “tossed around” my furniture, but I’ve not yet crossed the 1,000 page mark so I best not comment too much. When I cross the 1,000 page mark, perhaps I’ll have something to say (although one never knows with Barth!).