Abstract and Keywords
Before turning to dogmatics in Göttingen, Barth delivered a number of academic lecture courses on Reformed theology, during which he sought to position himself as a Reformed theologian in relation to the three magisterial Protestant reformers: Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin. This chapter shows how Barth's account of the Reformation is distinguished by its attempt to refer well-known differences between the Lutherans and Reformed, on issues concerning the Christian life, back to the Protestant controversies over sacramental theology. The early Protestant tradition is thus conceived by Barth as a long-standing and unresolved dialectical dispute over revelation itself, a focus which prevented its discussions of the other issues from becoming subjectivist.
Barth had been employed as a professor in Göttingen to provide an ‘Introduction to the Reformed confession, Reformed doctrine and Reformed church life’,1 and (along with his lectures on Schleiermacher) his three series of lectures on Reformed and post‐Reformation theology form the prelude to the Göttingen Dogmatics. After its prolegomena, the latter is structured quite heavily around Heppe's compendium of Reformed doctrine; and the Göttingen Dogmatics continues the debate between Reformed and Lutheran options in Christology and soteriology which Barth had focused on in the earlier lectures on Reformed theology. I return to those lectures in this chapter.
Although they are wide‐ranging, it is possible to discern two salient themes running throughout. The first is Barth's intuition that the key to Reformed Christianity is its emphasis on the Christian life. That he was determined (as we shall see) to trace this focus directly back to theological motives—rather than merely rational ones, as modern Lutheran historians were inclined to do—is perhaps down to the way Barth himself had been taught in Marburg. Wilhelm Herrmann used to insist that not just faith but ‘the moral will and achievements of the Christian lie within the sphere of his communion with God’.2 Reformed ethics, then, was not the beginning of modern secularism, but integral to the theological meaning of the Reformation.
(p.137) On the other hand, as we shall see especially later in Chapter 6, Barth would also share his teacher's concern that this second emphasis might easily drift outside the sphere of Christian fellowship with God, and become an independent point of focus. ‘Moral conduct’, Herrmann warns, ‘must be capable of interpretation as an activity which is not merely a consequence and suspension of religious experience, but which itself belongs to the communion of the Christian with God.’3 Likewise, Barth's insistence on deriving his theological anthropology from revelation—i.e. from the point of encounter between the human being and God—means that he is far more wary than, say, Zwingli about Christian action losing its grounding in God.
Secondly, with increasing clarity Barth makes revelation the focus of his description of Reformed Christianity. He is astonished to discover that the commonplace distinction between the Reformed and Lutherans in terms of the Christian life was, in reality, not the subject of their controversy at all. What they debated over, well into the post‐Reformation period, were the connected issues of the ascension, and Christ's sacramental presence in the Supper. In other words, Barth surmises, they were unable to agree over the problem of the historical contingency of God's presence in revelation. As Barth explores this, the conflict becomes an illustration from theological history of the impossibility of rendering a direct account of divine presence—as well as a salutary example of how Reformation theology sought to trace all its moral and religious concerns back to a concrete ground in revelation. In this way, its anthropology and ethics received an objective grounding in God.
4.1 Reformation as Reflection
Barth's lectures on the Reformation are much more than his dutiful efforts to fill in gaps in his knowledge of the Reformed tradition, or to pass it on wholesale and unreconstructed. They are also an attempt (p.138) to establish what, to borrow Harnack's term, was the ‘essence’ (Wesen) of the Reformation—and in so doing, to challenge some of the conventions of church history at the turn of the century. In particular, Barth wants to get past the popular orthodoxy that the Reformation signified an age of emancipation from ecclesiastical power, based on religious or theological principles developed by Luther. Instead he turns with increasing focus to the internal conflict between Reformed and Lutheran theologies, a conflict he takes to be still unresolved, and integral to understanding what the Reformation stood for. He writes: ‘The struggle [of the Reformers] against the Catholic Church was the struggle for liberation from the past. Their struggle against the Enthusiasts was a matter of the correct interpretation of the present. Their struggle with each other, however, concerned the future. Whoever could understand this would understand the last four centuries.’4
The claim meant reassessing some of the key commonplaces about Reformation history. First, it meant carefully qualifying Luther's status, granting him his central role in many of the developments in the early sixteenth century, but avoiding the tendency to distil the Reformation down to Luther's theology (or its systematization by Philip Melanchthon).5 Barth suggests:
A good Reformed churchman must always begin by simply recognizing Luther's unique place in the Reformation, not drifting away from or abandoning Luther when, following the hints given by Zwingli and Calvin, he feels compelled to take a step beyond Luther. Rather, while being fully aware that this is what he is doing, he nevertheless constantly returns to Luther's starting point.6
Connected with this is Barth's resistance to the suggestion that the Reformation was the practical product of Luther's theological genius, his discovery of the idea of justification by faith alone. Barth assesses his impact and influence quite differently:
(p.139) Not Luther as the discoverer [Entdecker], and the others as more or less called and graced discoverers and spokesmen after him, but Luther as one discoverer, albeit the one who knew how to say in the most convincing, comprehensive and fundamental way, what they had all discovered [entdeckt], and what it indeed meant that God unveiled [entdeckt—‘uncovered’] himself.7
Barth's play on the German ‘entdecken’ here is enlightening, intended as it is to qualify the idea of Luther as religious innovator. If Luther was a pre‐eminent figure among the Reformers, this was not because he taught them a new concept, but because he best expressed an insight they had also had. Luther's Entdeckung, then, was not an unprecedented development in the history of ideas, but his own highly influential expression of God's Selbst‐Entdeckung.
In fact, Barth's preferred term for describing the Reformation is not ‘discovery’ (Entdeckung) but ‘reflection/consideration’ (Besinnung). This seems to him to offer a better description of the way the Reformers considered their theology as secondary and responsive to divine grace: ‘Reformation means the reflection upon the turning of God to humanity [Besinnung auf die Zuwendung Gottes zum Menschen]’.8 This might be contrasted with, say, Troeltsch's approach to the topic, whose ‘fundamental concern is with Luther's religious ideas, and with the sociological results to which they gave rise’.9 Barth does not take the Reformation to be the socio‐practical outcome of Lutheran ideas. Instead it is primarily the responsive movement of human beings to consider an act of divine condescension which has preceded them. Luther's doctrine of justification is, therefore, less the normative formula for what constitutes the Reformation than one man's effort to make sense of this divine act which he has been contemplating. It is, ‘so to speak a reflection within the reflection [eine Besinnung in der Besinnung]’.10
On the other hand, by limiting the significance of the doctrine of justification in this way, Barth is also seeking to expand the compass (p.140) of the Reformation beyond the merely religious. It is not simply about doctrine, still less the awakening of personal religious interiority, but a human act of reflection in which every sphere of human life is implicated. It is both justification and sanctification, both Glaubensreformation and Lebensreformation:11
The Reformation was one of the great hours in which man began to reflect upon [besinnen] what he is, and even more, what he is not; to reflect how his life and action are completely and utterly impossible, and that only on the basis of the knowledge of this impossibility are they also perhaps possible; that he is judged and only as one who is judged is he perhaps pardoned; bound, and only as one who is bound is he perhaps free ; a dying man, and only as a dying man is he perhaps alive.12
The dialectic between Luther and Zwingli plays itself out on this level as well, described by Barth in terms of the relation between two concentric circles. If, in contrasting the two Reformers, Luther represents the adamant determination not to relinquish or diverge from the core of the Christian gospel, Zwingli represents the vigorous determination to see through the implications of the same gospel for the Christian life. (I shall return to this point in my chapter on Barth's pneumatology.)
In a sense, then, Barth's attempt to work out the ‘essence’ of the Reformation extends well beyond an investigation into a discrete moment in history. It is the endeavour to get to the heart of the essence of Christianity as such. For ‘understood essentially [wesentlich]…the Reformation is not a historical event at all’13 but, as Freudenberg puts it, ‘a sign of the essence of the church and theology through the ages’.14 It would be crude to read this as just another instance of the ‘will for the present’ (Wille zur Gegenwart) which allegedly pervaded German theology during the 1920s.15 Barth is not saying that ‘nothing at all happened’ in the early sixteenth century, but seeking to allow the gospel's meaning to interpret those events.
(p.141) One notable feature of this approach is that it enabled Barth to be fair and hospitable to bits of the history of the church for which he did not have any obvious affinity. He did not think of history as a succession of epochs leading up to the present, in which the past was always aufgehoben, but as a living presence from which he could learn. An example of this principle is provided by the early parts of Barth's lectures on Calvin. In trying to identify what was new about the Reformation, compared with the Middle Ages, Barth writes three separate paragraphs: § 1—Connections; § 2—Contrasts; § 3—Common Features. The structure itself is indicative of his intent not to historicize the Reformation novum, and so to mythologize it as the dawn of a new age. In different ways, this novum was already present in medieval monasticism, Augustinian Platonism and ‘Paulinism’, in the reaction against Thomism on the part of Scotus and Occum, in German mysticism or the European Renaissance. ‘The new is not something [ein Ding] that we can establish in the Reformers—and the old is not something we can establish in the scholastics or mystics who preceded them.’16 Stoevesandt has criticized a tendency, in these early paragraphs of the Calvin lectures, towards Geschichtsphilosophie.17 Indeed, Barth's efforts to work out a distinction between the absolute novum of the knowledge of God, and the relatively/historically new ways in which this has taken shape in the world are somewhat schematic. On the other hand, although this procedure is abstract, it points to an approach which seeks to cultivate utmost hospitality towards the past, indeed to free historical theology from absolutizing the historical process in a way that skirts round and ignores the truly contingent.18
Be that as it may, Barth's main attention turned away from external comparisons between the Middle Ages and the Reformation, and increasingly onto the controversies within the Reformation between Zwingli and Luther and their successors. This was, in fact, a quite deliberate move on Barth's part, since it meant transferring the focus (p.142) of inquiry directly onto the matter of revelation itself, as this was debated through the theology of the sacraments. He puts it like this:
In its own way, the Reformation age was a classical age in theology, not only because it pursued the matter of the relationships between God and humanity with a gravity and power which have not been matched since then, but also because it pushed on to the presuppositions in these relations, to the question of their reality. The intentions of Reformation theology were far from being merely phenomenological. The presupposition of every statement in it was the most powerful and lively presence of God, in which alone such statements would become true. That is why Luther makes the Supper the focus of his interest (already long before the controversy over it). But instinctively, Calvin too had a quite definite and positive interest in the Supper in particular, while Zwingli had at least an ardent critical interest in it.19
Concentrating, as he does, on this issue meant a different perception of the significance of the Reformation than the one that had become the standard of liberal Protestant historiography. Indeed, it implied a judgement about the more recent history of the Protestant churches in Europe, where theological strife had been forced to yield to the demands for political peace.
Barth was fond of contrasting the debate in 1631 between Reformed and Lutheran theologians, which took place in Leipzig at the height of the Thirty Years' War, with the state‐sponsored unification of the two churches at the beginning of the nineteenth century.20 He was astonished how, with so much resting on achieving theological consensus, the Leipzig theologians were able to debate the hypostatic union of natures in Christ, making concessions along the way which rendered the differences between the two parties virtually unrecognizable—but they nevertheless cordially parted company in the end without having reached any concrete results. The statements they drew up, writes Barth,
show just how close each was to the other, indeed the extent to which they were both actually saying one thing. But nevertheless, and unavoidably, [there was] a division over precisely this one thing. We are almost (p.143) confronted with a reflection of the great matter itself, as we behold the dialectic of this controversy as it presents itself at its zenith!21
By contrast, the Prussian Union of the Protestant confessions would be pushed through on the basis of a conviction that those material theological differences were unimportant for unity, even though they touched on this most central concern of Christian identity. Barth comments: ‘It was not the triumph of truth but of indifference which later, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, brought about that longed‐for peace for a time [vorläufig].’22 ‘If what is essential were to move us again as it moved the fathers, then the battle would probably be resumed at the same point. For the problems are still as important and unresolved today as they were back then.’23
By invoking these old disputes in Christology Barth did not, however, intend to reopen old divisions between the Protestant confessions, but to provoke sustained reflection upon the Christian ‘centre’—by which alone such divisions could be genuinely overcome. He also meant to draw attention to the peculiarity that this ‘centre’ could only be approached indirectly, dialectically, by allowing two apparently opposed positions to join as contrasting perspectives, focused on the same thing from different, but complementary, angles. The logic of the principles of Reformed Christianity could only be interpreted by presupposing Lutheran ones, and vice versa. Thus, describing the Reformation as ‘reflection on revelation’ becomes the means of construing Protestantism, not in terms of the birth of a new type of human subject, but of a point beyond subjectivity and history, from which the latter acquire their essence. The split between Reformed and Lutheran theologies is simply the consequence, then, of the impossibility of incorporating this ‘point beyond’ into a single theological position. And yet, as we shall see, this is not a pure objectivism of revelation. Rather, by situating it beyond the subject, Barth means to deny the subject's ability to ‘contain’ revelation in faith, and so to ensure that revelation's subjective dimension is immediately perceived in terms of an active (moral) anthropology. I shall return to this in Chapter 6.
(p.144) 4.2 The Theology of Zwingli
4.2.1 Zwingli and Luther Together
‘Paradoxically, it may be that we can only understand Zwingli aright when we understand why Luther could not understand Zwingli at all’, writes Barth.24 As he was preparing his course on Zwingli, Barth was struck by how Lutheran historians had characterized the Zurich Reformer. He begins his lectures by rehearsing a number of the received caricatures: Zwingli was more a politician or humanist than a theologian; he was a moralist and a rationalist; such theological ideas as he employed were largely taken over from Luther, usually without the latter's spiritual profundity or understanding.
Although he qualifies and mitigates these claims, Barth does not deny them. ‘I do not intend to snatch this picture of Zwingli away from you, and to replace it with an alternative one’, he writes. ‘In its own way it is a true picture. But it can possibly look different than it usually does, when viewed through a different lens.’25 Indeed, Barth perceived that, although the picture remained basically the same, it was possible to make out two versions of it among the Lutherans. The prevailing one among most of Barth's contemporaries and more immediate predecessors made all the usual criticisms of Zwingli, while regretting, and failing to understand, how Luther could remain so intransigent over the Eucharist; any quibbles between him and Zwingli on this point were surely not a matter for condemnations and excommunication. Barth takes this incomprehension to be a sign of indifference, typical of Ritschlian theology, to the central moment in Christian doctrine, to revelation.26
On the other hand, there was an older and more hostile group of Lutheran critics who, while advancing similar objections against Zwingli, sought to relate these back to the Christological disputes, and regarded him as dangerous for the position he adopted at precisely that point. Among these were Friedrich Julius Stahl and Gottfried Thomasius.27 While Barth is sympathetic to Zwingli's (p.145) perspective as they are not, he regards their approach, which was to attack Zwingli by concentrating on his doctrine of revelation, as the only way in which criticism of Zwingli could be made theologically intelligible. For, he writes: ‘People like Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin do not dispute about absurdities. Such conflicts must be a fight about the essential thing, a fight over God. That is the canon with which I permit myself to approach history, before I am even familiar with it. But I believe that I find it confirmed by history at every stage.’28 Thus, the conflict between Luther and Zwingli is read by Barth as a theological dialectic, a sign both of the impossibility of approaching Christology through direct statements, and of the readiness to make revelation the point over which every theological topic is to be argued.
Zwingli and Luther belong together, for Barth, a conviction which he allows historical events themselves to confirm in the most concrete ways during the lectures, by drawing out parallel developments in their lives and careers. For example, he notes that they were born within weeks of each other;29 again, 1516, the year of Luther's Romans Commentary, was the year in which Zwingli for his part began to distance himself from Renaissance humanism;30 and later, in 1522, anti‐religious riots broke out in Zurich, coinciding with Luther's return to Wittenberg where he preached against the rioting of Karlstadt in Wittenberg.31 It is as if a conspiracy of circumstances is mounting up towards their controversy in Marburg in 1525. Finally in 1531, ‘[w]hen Zwingli, the unheeded watchman, the defeated dissenter, died,’ Barth judges, ‘there perished with him the really living, prophetic, reforming Luther’.32 Barth's sense of the providential order of church history33 is such that he regards the confluence of events as a narrative instructing us about a theological point. For him, Luther and Zwingli belong together, as antithetical representatives of the one gospel, each incomprehensible without the other; but together, the sign that the Word of this gospel, ‘the turning of God to humanity’,34 is the Christian mystery which only God can utter. ‘This object will not let itself be grasped’,35 he comments. Thus, the (p.146) Reformation debates over Christological/sacramental presence have lasting theological significance, for Barth, precisely because they are unresolved. Their dialectic attests the possibility of focusing directly upon the historical/Christological moment of revelation without reifying the event in language.
4.2.2 Reformation Debates on the Sacraments
As Barth traces Luther's sacramental theology up to the public outbreak of the controversy with Zwingli, he is astonished to note how close Luther's own doctrine of the Eucharist comes to one which a Reformed Christian would have found perfectly acceptable.36 Up to the early 1520s, Luther's writings on the subject had primarily been polemics informed by the sola fide axiom, against medieval sacramental theology. ‘Above all, his concern is to make it clear that in the institution and celebration of the Supper it is primarily a matter of God and faith, or the “Word”, to use Luther's most characteristic term.’37 The sacrament is not a human work or service or sacrifice, for Luther, but God's gift, a beneficium, enjoyed by faith alone. It is always to be viewed together with the divine promise (Testament), i.e. as the Word of God. And so, the sacramental sign is subordinate to the Word;38 and the emphasis is on the right ‘use’ of the sacrament (i.e. in faith). Luther opposes the idea of transubstantiation at this stage, because it seems to disqualify the need for faith by making the presence of Christ in the elements an opus operatum. Instead, he insists, the sacrament ought properly to be thought of as the opus operantis of faith, which corresponds to the divine gift.39 The celebration itself is an act of memorial, instituted by Christ to edify and strengthen believers in their faith and confession.
(p.147) The conclusion Barth draws from this evidence is the following: ‘The concept of faith had become such a radically critical force that Luther had almost become—Calvin.’40 Indeed, Barth thinks that the only discernable difference at this stage between Luther's view and a Reformed one was one of emphasis. Because he was more interested in working out the ontology of the Supper, Luther was more inclined to describe it as a Testament or Word; Zwingli, by contrast, was invested in specifying the purpose of the sacrament, and so stressed that it was for the ‘nourishing of the soul [Speisung der Seele]’41 in memory and hope. Yet these positions were not fundamentally opposed:
if what we have thus far presented as Luther's ideas were his whole view, we would have to say that the protest registered against it by Zwingli is incomprehensible. We should not ignore the fact that for Luther, as Zwingli had also established in 1523, the idea of Testament, i.e. the Word spoken by God, was in the foreground, and that the Supper was seen above all from the perspective of its institution; whereas for Zwingli the idea of the memorial, i.e. the Word heard by man, was the dominant idea, because his interests were attached first of all to the church's celebration and its significance. It is the classic distinction between seeing something ‘from above’ and ‘from below’ which is characteristic of each of them.42
As things turned out, however, this complementarity would never be allowed to surface, as differences in emphasis hardened into unshakeable positions after Zwingli and Luther clashed in Marburg.
Initially, there is a purely contingent reason for this development. After his return from Wittenburg, Luther found himself confronted by Karlstadt's attempts to purge the church. As Barth puts it, Karlstadt was ‘a man who had become intoxicated with the wine of the Reformation knowledge of justification, freedom and love, which was much too powerful for him.’43 Moreover, his understanding of these ideas was simplistic: Reformation meant emancipation, the turn from the object to the subject, from the metaphysical to the psychological, from the transcendent to the pragmatic, from dogma to (p.148) experience.44 In response to this, Luther now felt compelled in his teachings on the Eucharist to press the objectivity, corporeality and sheer givenness (for faith) of Christ in the sacrament—the other side of Luther's dialectic, which he had been hitherto disinclined to bring out. And yet, already in 1523, the Karlstadt affair opened up the gap between Luther and the Swiss, and reinforced the possibility of Luther understanding their emphasis as being of a piece with Karlstadt's subjectivism.
However, more fundamentally than this, Barth finds that there was already a material difference between Luther and the Reformed from the very beginning, observable in what Luther referred to as the ‘fruits’ of the sacrament.45 For Luther, it was not sufficient to say that the sacrament merely bears the Word of God to those who receive it. In so doing, it also establishes fellowship—communion—between the individual and Christ, and then between the members of the church. Above all, the Eucharist is the ‘sacrament of love’.46 To be sure, the same idea is not absent in Calvin either, or even Zwingli.47 And yet, Barth contends, this was the sticking point of Luther's concept from the start, even when he was writing to attack the Roman position.
In fact, Barth suggests, Luther had never really been interested in either affirming or denying the doctrine of transubstantiation, not even in the doctrine of consubstantiation. These were only scholastic definitions, to which faith itself was not to be directed. He was only adamant that no distance should come between the sacramental signs and what they signified. Barth remarks, ‘To eat the body of Christ in the bread is no longer a symbol of our union with him; it is the event of that union [itself], as signified by the symbol. That which is sought is now found, what is promised becomes a possession, the likeness [Gleichnis] becomes an identity [Gleichung].’48 ‘[Luther] did not in fact want to deny the real presence, but to assert it.’49
From a Reformed perspective, it is here that the danger lies. Barth perceives that what is troublesome is not so much what Luther (p.149) affirms, his strong theology of sacramental grace, but what he leaves unsaid. What is missing, Barth concludes, is a doctrine of the Holy Spirit as God's means of offering himself in the Supper.50 This would not have meant a compromise over the reality of divine presence, nor a ‘spiritualizing’ (i.e. non‐materialist) construal of that presence; it would, however, have drawn explicit attention to its miraculous and gracious character.
Connected with this, Barth thinks it telling that in only one passage in Luther can any mention be found of the Eucharistic exhortation, ‘Lift up your hearts!’ (sursum corda), i.e. raise your vision beyond the earthly sphere (which belongs within the Eucharistic celebration). Once again, properly understood this would not mean an abstraction from Christ's fleshly union, but a reminder of his Resurrection and ascension to heaven.
Both these ideas emphasize that this fellowship must always be the overcoming of a distance, a bridge over an abyss. One cannot just pluck this fruit from the tree like that. Just as one reaches out to do it, a Halt! is sounded—which is certainly more like a Forwards!— but which is a Halt! to the extent that it calls a person loudly and clearly away from that which is visible to a fellowship of worship and grace.51
It is in qualifying his position like this, Barth thinks, that Zwingli might have been useful to Luther, had Luther been able or willing to accept it. However, what might have united them—concern for the priority of the Word of God—is now the very thing that divides them, since they are unable to agree over what the Word is.52 Whereas all Luther's energies go into arguing that the Word is the mode of God's presence, for Zwingli to say that grace is mediated by God's ‘Word’ is to recall that if God makes himself present, he does so only across the great expanse between heaven and earth.
In that sense, Zwingli's position sets an enduring eschatological reservation around Luther's sacramental identification of Word and grace. Indeed, the moment Luther fails to comprehend it, is the moment at which his own position begins to lose its theological justification:
Luther should have allowed Zwingli's contribution to stand. From the moment that he stopped thinking dialectically any more, as he had once done, when he finally made up his mind to ignore the watchman's voice, however unpleasant it might have been for him, from that moment Luther's theology too was cast into the shadows where all rigid theological thinking is condemned to abide.53
In short, the anxiety to emphasize the immediacy of revelation (which Barth wants to bring out as well) results, in Luther's case, in the availability of revelation (Barth thinks)—revelation not as the event in which the infinite distance between God and creation is crossed, but as simple fact.
On the other hand, Barth does not spare Zwingli either (although this is more evident in his letters than from the texts of the lectures themselves).54 His is not quite the Lutheran criticism (such as is expressed by Stahl or Tschackert)55 that Zwingli sees the relation between God and humanity in purely ‘negative’ terms. Barth instinctively recognizes that Zwingli's insistence on the separation between God and humanity—and so his apparently Nestorian tendency to separate the two natures in Christ—was made for the sake of a positive relation between the two, in which both nevertheless keep their full integrity intact.
What drives Zwingli's theology, Barth submits, is ‘the doctrine of parallels’,56 i.e. the desire to emphasize that the point of encounter between God and human beings is a differentiated togetherness, a (p.151) complementariness in their relation, which enables them to live alongside one another without competition. If Zwingli has an almost deterministic account of divine providence, this is precisely because he needs a means of avoiding the synergism which could result from the strong doctrine of human freedom which, for him, is a theological rather than a rationalist credo.57
And yet, it is here that Zwingli's position becomes problematic as well. For in consistently taking umbrage against Luther, he does not manage to make it clear how the divine–human relation is always a mediated, rather than a direct, one. It is not that Barth is opposed to Zwingli's theological ‘parallelism’ as such, which in sacramental theology meant maintaining the distinction between sacramental signa (bread and wine) and the res to which they refer (Word and faith). The problem arises, however, because Zwingli attached all significance to the ‘upper parallel’ (i.e. faith in Christ), so that the link between this and the ‘lower parallel’ (the consuming of the bread and wine) remained purely external and arbitrary. This left the door open for confusion between faith (as the action of God the Spirit) and subjective acts of remembrance, a confusion which Barth took to be a decisive in establishing Zwingli's connection with modern Protestantism. Barth explains:
There is certainly a mystery [Geheimnis] for Zwingli, the mystery—God, Christ, the Spirit, in his relation to us—but no multiple mysteries, i.e. no mysterious relations to God from our side, no mysteries [Mysterien] in the well‐known religious–historical sense of a possible or real union between God and man.58
In short, Zwingli's parallelism between God and creatures remained uninterrupted, limitless; his moral theology unchastened by the summons to humility, by the need to wait, which Luther felt so keenly.59
(p.152) And yet, in the disputes between these two Reformers, Barth finds the reason for their classical status. Each stood for a different aspect of the gospel—Luther, for divine presence and the reality of grace; Zwingli, for God's irreducible glory and majesty, and for the Christian life conducted confidently in that light—and they debated their positions, and stood their ground, not by maintaining these as abstract standpoints, but by arguing concretely over Christology. Luther refused to back away from the ‘Hoc est corpus meum’ (Mark 14.22 et par.); Zwingli held fast to Christ's ‘Caro non prodest’ (John 6.63). Nevertheless, just as importantly for Barth, they agreed that this was the point at which theological controversy began and ended. This is the insight taken up by Barth in the lectures on the theology of the Reformed Confessions.
4.3 The Theology of the Reformed Confessions
4.3.1 The Controversy with Lutheranism
In Barth's lectures on the Reformed Confessions, the passages on Christology are to be found in § 3.3 (‘The Controversy with Lutheranism’).60 Here, as elsewhere in the lectures, we find Barth positioning himself theologically in the course of his analysis of the confessional texts: his instincts favour the Calvinist documents, for he thinks they succeed in combining what is valid in Lutheran and Zwinglian positions, without falling prey to their respective dangers. It is important to point out that he does not think of Calvin as a via media, the exponent of an ecumenical compromise.61 Rather, Calvin exemplifies for Barth what he sometimes calls ‘dialectical courage’: (p.153) the necessary conceptual agility to avoid getting trapped within a single perspective.
As John Webster has remarked, the lectures on the Reformed Confessions are the most demanding of all Barth's lectures on historical theology in Göttingen, in that he was obliged to take a vast amount of material (i.e. the contents of E. F. K. Müller's edition of the Reformed confessional documents)62 and impress some kind of order upon it.63 After the initial discussions on the nature of a confession, and the Scripture principle, Barth deals with ‘Reformed doctrine as a whole’ (§ 3), organizing this long paragraph into four sections, of which the first three are most important. The first (§ 3.1) deals with ‘the controversy with the old church’,64 the second (§ 3.2) with ‘the positive doctrine of Christianity’,65 before Barth turns to the section on the controversy between the Reformed and the Lutherans (§ 3.3).
In dividing his material up like this, Barth consciously gives it a loose Trinitarian structure. The Reformed objection to Catholicism (§ 3.1) was raised in view of what Barth calls ‘the truth of salvation [die Wahrheit des Heils]’:66 whereas Luther tends to protest against how the individual is saved in Catholic soteriology, the Reformed wanted to clarify who performs the act. In other words, in speaking of salvation, the Reformed emphasis is on the doctrine of God, and especially on the eternally predestinating God, as ‘the theme of Christian theology … the known, and yet unknown, Christian presupposition’,67 which (it was alleged) the medieval church had casually neglected. On the other hand, § 3.2 centres around the distinctively Reformed interest in Christian sanctification, the pursuit of an ethos for individual and community, in accordance with the spirit of evangelical truth.
Barth notes that in both matters—which can be taken as corresponding in turn to the first and third articles—a marked difference (p.154) was evident, at least in emphasis, between Reformed and Lutheran theologies. In the first case, the Lutheran objection against Rome had been levelled from an anthropological, rather than a narrowly ‘theological’, perspective (i.e. from the point of view of the doctrine of salvation, rather than the doctrine of God). In the second, the Reformed interest in the Christian life seemed to contrast decidedly with the narrower Lutheran focus on the via salutis, as this was exemplified in Luther's own spiritual biography.68
And yet, with considerable surprise and notwithstanding the obviousness of the differences, Barth notes that these matters were not the point at issue between the two main strands of Protestant Christianity, a fact he finds unexplained in the main literature on the subject:
Take any account you like of the world of early Reformed thought—by Max Goebel, Schweizer, Schneckenburger, or more recently the works of Troeltsch. You'll observe precisely in these researchers, who have immersed themselves lovingly and attentively in this world, how the distinctive Reformed character, as compared with the Lutheran, is brought out very sharply by them, illuminated from a particular point of view. But, on the basis of the character thus depicted, they have no idea how to explain not that a serious controversy was unavoidable here—for they can certainly grasp that—but that it was precisely this controversy that is documented in the confessional writings on each side, and the history as a whole.69
Though the distinction appears to be subtle, it is critical for Barth, and crucial for understanding what catches his attention in the confessional texts. He is not interested so much in the way in which a typical Reformed or Lutheran Anschauung would obviously colour one's approach to Christology as well. Rather, he says, the Reformation was a ‘classical age in theology’70 simply because, in the first place, this was what these theologians debated over. ‘This, and only this, was at stake in the controversy with Lutheranism.’71 Barth finds contemporary Protestant histories of the period misleading at this point, for they are caught out by the inability to move beyond their predisposition to see the controversy as scholastic quibbling over esoteric, adiaphorous and abstract metaphysics:
(p.155) We and the fathers are obviously talking completely past each other at the moment … Our observations about the principal differences [Gegensätze] can sometimes, if they are correct, usefully serve to illuminate the actual differences as they were then, and help to understand them. But if they do not do that—if the actual difference as it was then is still lying there in the middle like a tangled knot—then obviously we cannot have understood the contrast as a whole, and all our observations, even the most correct ones, have no value.72
On the other hand:
if we take it that the specifically Reformed manner of attacking and defending against Rome, and the specifically Reformed concept of the positive essence of Christianity, are well‐grounded and meaningful in their own right, then we must entrust ourselves in advance to the men behind these ideas, at least to the extent that their attitude in this new front to which we are now turning must at least have been well‐grounded and meaningful as well, and not just a foolish quirk.73
So long as we cannot bring ourselves to trust that it was revelation that was really at the heart of the debate, Barth insists, we fail to get to the bottom of the division and to learn the lesson it teaches. What modern theology can learn from it, he concludes, is that the Protestant emphasis on religious conversion collapses into subjectivism if attention is not given to its external grounds.
4.3.2 The Christological Presupposition
John Webster has observed that often, at this point in Barth's lectures, ‘the doctrines are handled instrumentally rather than descriptively, to solve problems rather than to depict the ways and works of God’.74 If Barth does indeed set up his discussion in § 3.3 as a problem (with Christology as its ‘solution’) it is partly because he regarded the tenacious controversy between the Lutheran and Reformed fathers as a genuine puzzle, which had neither been truly resolved by a (p.156) political or ecumenical sleight of hand, nor adequately explained by recent historians.
The way Barth approaches the Christological controversy in the Reformed Confessions lectures owes much to his instinctive drive to discover the theological meaning of the body of material he was dealing with, and so to put it in its proper order. As mentioned above, he does this by loosely structuring the theology of the Reformed Confessions around the Trinitarian distinctions: the debate with the Catholic Church was over the principle of God's deity (God the Father), the proprium of Reformed doctrine was its distinctive ethos (God the Spirit), and the disputations with the Lutherans were over divine presence in the Supper (God the Son). That Barth thought he was touching on something especially significant with the last of these is surely demonstrated by the fact that he reprises the same material in consecutive lectures on 3 and 5 July 1923.75 It is as if he knows he has seized on a matter of momentous importance here, and must run the argument through a second time, to drive its logic firmly home. We must follow this short passage closely.
Barth has noted that real points of divergence between Reformed and Lutheran theologies may rightly be identified in what he calls the first and third ‘presuppositions’ (Voraussetzungen) of Christianity—the Father and the Spirit. And yet, although both sides may have sensed their differences here, with rare exceptions they chose not to argue their causes over these, but over the second presupposition, Christology, which ‘stands in the middle between the other two’.76 In short, their battleground was revelation, the ‘objectification of the presence of God par excellence’.77 The fact that this was their topic is what Barth finds striking (as much as the different nuances they gave it), that it was the ‘tangled knot’ at the heart of this complex period of intellectual history. Why should it be that they made this their point of reference?
The question is answered for Barth by referring to the dilemma thrown up by describing God's relation to the world in terms of divine immanence and transcendence.
(p.157) The idea of God's immanence in the world and in humanity is absolutely not the presence of God the Spirit per se [an sich]. In itself [an sich] it could just as well be another expression for world or humanity, the hypostasizing of given reality. And the idea of God's transcendence of the world and humanity is absolutely not the presence of God the Father per se. In itself it could just as well be another expression for the non‐worldly and non‐human, merely the empty negation of given reality. In order for both ideas really to refer to God—i.e. if they were to be not mere ideas but the presence of God the Father outside us, and of the Spirit within us—a guarantee [Gewährleistung] is required. But where can this come from? Who can give it, but God himself ?78
It might be suggested that in taking this approach to Christology, where it will be introduced as the warrant for divine reality, Barth is allowing his doctrine of the Trinity to be defined by modern epistemological concerns in the doctrine of revelation.79 That would only be correct here if we qualify things carefully. Barth is some way from wishing that a human individual (or collective) be in sure possession of a knowledge that would facilitate any kind of mastery over revelation—human rationality in revelation has little in common, for him, with a ‘technological’ reason empowered to manipulate reality.
Quite to the contrary, Barth is highly conscious of the destructive potential of the human mind to generate religious justifications for its projects. Revelation's ‘guarantee’ is God's limiting of what Barth calls ‘the infinities [Unendlichkeiten] of immanence and transcendence’80 which the mind is disposed to conjure up:
And if [the guarantee] were really to be given—given in such a way that the presence of the Spirit in us was unambiguously distinguished from the infinite positivity of all given reality; and the presence of the Father outside us just as unambiguously distinguished from the equally infinite negativity which is its unavoidable other side—if the guarantee were to be given that, both in the former and the latter, we are dealing with the reality of God, then evidently this guarantee must itself be finite, temporal, and contingent. It could not be confusable with the infinity of the world, nor with the infinite negation of the world, but over against these two mutually (p.158) exclusive [gegenseitig aufhebend] infinities, overcoming and reconciling them, [it would have to be] something absolutely singular, unrepeatable and particular in between them [in ihrer Mitte]: revelation.81
The reason Barth is so impressed by the Reformed and Lutheran fathers is their willingness to allow this topic, revelation, to decide over the correctness or otherwise of their theologies and practices. This indicates to him their awareness that they really came under God's authority—rather than of an individual, or of the opinio communis, overlaid in theological fabric. Between immanence and transcendence, revelation was the refusal of the alternative between the happy or resigned acquiescence with the given, and wide‐eyed subservience to an ideal, and was distinguishable from these two potential infinities precisely by its finitude.
Barth is homing in here on the idea of ‘contingent revelation’, perceiving its significance, possibly for the first time—and certainly with a new intensity. Although he had never wished to deny its reality previously, even in the highest points of his ‘dialectical theology’, the burden of his writing was always weighted towards the new, the eschatological reversal of subjectivity, as the presupposition of a theological ethics. Here the balance has shifted decisively:
By its very nature, this problem certainly does not bring peace on earth, but the sword (cf. Matt. 10.34). Can there be any more urgent task for theology than Christology ? And once this task has been identified, is there anything else to be done but—to dispute over it; just as any intractable task can only even be disputed over, and yet must be disputed over, for all its insolubility, once it has been given?82
The statement contains what appears to be a deliberate allusion to, and alteration of, Barth's question posed at the end of the Elgersburg address, ‘Can or should theology ever move beyond prolegomena to Christology?’83 It is still true that theology is unable to make anything but indirect Christological statements. Nonetheless—in fact, precisely for that reason—Barth is now adamant that it must be ‘Christocentric’. For its ‘Christocentrism’ becomes the warrant that it does not incorporate God into its own realist or idealist schema.
(p.159) And yet, it still needs adding that when Barth refers to Christology here he has in mind less the positive material reality of Jesus Christ than a formally contingent revelation as such, adapted to bracket out the potential infinities of the religious subject. This is one aspect of the ‘instrumentalizing’ of Christology in these lectures, referred to by Webster (see above). Christology does not stand for itself—is not articulated for its own sake by Barth—but as a means of settling a problem in religious subjectivity: namely, the propensity of the human subject to project itself onto an infinite ‘screen’, whether that is the ‘historical’ or the ‘absolute’. Strangely, the fruits of Barth's discovery of the ‘Christological presupposition’ in Protestant theology are not put to use in Christology as such, in the Göttingen Dogmatics. As we shall see, this is because Barth thinks of the ascension as entailing a gap between Christ and the present—a kind of Christological absence—so that Christology itself is not capable of being that ‘point’ at which the human subject is taken beyond itself. That point is (as we have already seen) the preached Word, for Barth. Increasingly, however, he becomes wary about the intangibility of the latter: perhaps it represents a departure from that principle of the historical contingency of revelation, and so is also capable of being incorporated within the projections of the subject. And so, the sacrament will become the ‘point beyond’, from which the subject will be oriented in a way that is both highly tangible and external to itself. (See the final sections of Chapter 6 below.)
4.3.3 Calvinism and Zwinglianism
We have seen how, in explaining divergences between Reformed and Lutheran construals of divine presence in revelation, Barth takes these to be two poles of a single dialectic. And yet, he is always conscious of a possibility beyond the ceaseless interplay between positives and negatives, conscious that Zwingli's ‘beginning was the first, but fortunately not the last word in Reformed theology’,84 that being Reformed could not simply mean being implacably opposed to (p.160) the Lutheran ‘est’, but responding to it with a ‘Yes—but’.85 It is this third way—not of consensus through compromise over a middle‐ground, but where the claims of both sides are fully upheld—that Barth now explores in the Reformed confessional writings. On the other hand, he does not think of Calvinist theology as a theological escape from the ‘necessity yet impossibility of rendering an account’,86 a panacea for rendering God's presence theologically. This is not, he warns, a ‘spectator position’87 from which the relative correctness of each side is affirmed. Rather, the perennial dilemma may be considered only as divinely overcome, where there is close cooperation between Word and Spirit. In working this out, Barth's contrasting treatments of the 1545 Zurich Confession and Calvin's 1537 Confessio Fidei de Eucharistia stand out in particular.
As he examines the Zurich Confession, Barth notes that the Zwinglian denial, the incapax infiniti can be read in a quite different way: not as an attenuation of the unio naturarum in Christ, but as a reminder that the union occurs at that point alone. Put differently, the Lutheran insistence on the communicatio idiomatum might compromise the historical specificity of that union; for it was introduced to support the doctrine of the ubiquity of the human nature, as the theological prolegomenon to a doctrine of Christ's sacramental presence:
The contingency of revelation and the fact that Christian faith has to do with the concretissimum Jesus Christ, the years 1–30, is more strongly emphasized [in the Zurich Confession] than it is by the Lutherans. If one wanted to incriminate them, one could accuse the latter of gnostically spiriting away [verflüchtigen] the historical Jesus…In any case, one cannot hold on more firmly to the real humanity of the Son of God than the Reformed fathers did.88
(p.161) As Webster explains, the point of the Reformed emphasis ‘is to resist the generalisation of Christ's presence (whether by sacramental realism or by religious psychology), and to retain the otherness and particularity of God's revelatory presence’.89
And yet, Barth remarks, the gap between this particular presence and the believer tended to be bridged, for the Zurich theologians, by an act of mental or spiritual exertion. In other words if Luther's doctrine of sacramental immediacy tended to blur the specific Einmaligkeit of revelation, it nevertheless avoided the danger caused by rigidly insisting on that specificity: the interiorizing of divine presence. Because they conceived of the believer's relation to revelation as something like ‘the believing soul boldly soaring ever higher, until it finally manages to find and to enjoy the humanity of Christ who rules in the loftiest heavens’,90 Barth thinks the Zwinglians fell foul of just such a danger. When this over‐inflated functioning of human faith is applied to sacramental practice, we are again in the realms of that parallelism between mental and physical activity, where it is never entirely clear why the external act of eating and drinking should not drop altogether, to be replaced by the internal act of remembrance.91
By contrast, perhaps because he was less invested in internal Protestant polemics than Zwingli, in Barth's judgement Calvin manages to avoid being trapped like him in what Burgess has called a ‘dialectic of presence and absence’.92 The subjectivism to which Zwinglian theology tends ‘has nothing to do with the Reformed intention as such’,93 Barth insists. Indeed, it can be avoided by tying the Spirit's work more closely to that of the risen and ascended Christ. For then, Christ's ascension need not only describe his departure from the world, but more significantly it emphasizes the gracious freedom in which he makes himself present, across the divide between heaven and earth.
(p.162) This is what Barth takes to be the theological achievement of the Calvinist text, the Confessio Fidei de Eucharistia.94 Here, the Spirit does not simply effect an ‘isolated relation’ between Christ and the believer, but one that is ‘borne and realized by the power of the presupposition, by contingent revelation. What the Spirit does is to create our fellowship with the caro Christi; otherwise he would not be the Spirit.’95 In this document, the ‘Reformed reservation, the decisive But’ still holds, over against the Lutherans: ‘We are and remain “peregrinantes in mortalitate”; our hands are still empty. No identification between divine action and human possession is ever reached; God remains God.’96 ‘[Christ's] flesh and blood are hidden from us. Christ the revealer is in a different space to our own, absolutely separated from the vale of mortality in which we make our pilgrimage.’97
And yet, crucially, Calvin leaves no room for any kind of psychological mediation in the surmounting of this difference:
The Lord is the subject of the participatio which occurs here. It is not our faith, but the Spirit from above that overcomes the difference in location, bringing near what is far off, uniting us with Christ's humanity, effecting our relation to contingent revelation, whose local presence we can still never and nowhere assert.98
We should note two features here. First, in Calvin (as read by Barth) the reality of the Offenbarungsverhältnis is based on its ‘objective’ grounding in an act of the Holy Spirit. This ensures that it is divinely established, rather than dependent on any mediating rational process. The ‘circle’ of revelation is fully completed by God; the distance (p.163) between Christ and us is not closed by the human act of reception, even if the closure of this distance does not exclude the act of faith. Secondly, however, according to Barth the action of the Spirit is to unite the believer not merely to God, but specifically to Christ in the flesh. This means that, without erasing the difference between Christ and us, the Spirit acts to establish the Christological ground for the Christian life, rooting the human act objectively a second time, by effecting a participatio of the Christian in Christ. The connection with Christ is not a total identity, so that it is possible to stress either the proximity, or the distance that nevertheless remains. In any case, the achievement of Calvin's text, as Barth describes it, was to have kept the connection tight so that, without making Christ in heaven identical with his spiritual presence, he could affirm that presence without further reservation.
However, notwithstanding this observation of Barth's, we shall find that, in the Göttingen Dogmatics, he has considerably more investment in the negative moment than Calvin in the widening of the gap. For he wants to prevent at all costs the stabilizing of the relation between Christ and the believer. Yet at the same time, as we shall see in the final chapter, he realizes that this creates a potential danger: for the destabilizing of the grounds of Christian existence opens up the possibility of that existence becoming self‐grounded, grounded (as with Zwingli) in the spontaneity of the subjective act, as this occurs externally to divine grace itself. It is only by developing an anthropology of the Christian as being always‐already‐baptized that he finds a way to avoid this, so that the sacrament (rather than the religious impulse) becomes the ground of human subjectivity.
(1) Busch, Karl Barth: His life from letters, 128–9.
(2) Herrmann, The Communion of the Christian with God, 313.
(3) Herrmann, The Communion of the Christian with God, 320.
(4) Barth, TZ, 251.
(9) Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches II, 465.
(10) Barth, TZ, 42.
(14) Freudenberg, Karl Barth und die reformierte Theologie, 294.
(15) Graf, ‘Die “anti‐historische Revolution” in der protestantischen Theologie der zwanziger Jahre’, 383.
(16) Barth, TC, 19–20.
(17) Stoevesandt, ‘Karl Barths Calvinvorlesung als Station seiner theologischen Biographie’, 112–13.
(18) For more detail here, see 6.3.1 below.
(19) Barth, TRB, 258.
(21) Barth, TRB, 315.
(24) Barth, TZ, 39.
(36) Barth, ‘Ansatz und Absicht in Luthers Abendmahlslehre’, 277–8 (This essay was a distillation of the argument in the Zwingli lectures, which Barth first published in the 1923 edition of Zwischen den Zeiten.)
(37) Barth, TZ, 271–2.
(40) Barth, ‘Ansatz und Absicht in Luthers Abendmahlslehre’, 272.
(41) Barth, TZ, 256; cf. 258–9, 319–20.
(48) Barth, ‘Ansatz und Absicht in Luthers Abendmahlslehre’, 288.
(50) Barth, TZ, 290f.
(54) For example, on 23 January 1923, he reports that he is now deeply embroiled in the controversies over the Lord's Supper, and that ‘I am reaching the painful but inescapable conclusion that the picture is turning increasingly against Zwingli.’ As a Christian humanist, Zwingli still stood for an important truth, but as a ‘Reformer’ he was of no greater quality than Sebastian Hofmeister or William Farel. And yet, it is as a theologian that Zwingli's shortcomings were most pertinent to Barth: ‘For his is simply the familiar modern Protestant theology to a T, albeit with a few ancient churchly egg‐shells: a pale and bland‐tasting spiritualism, an evident reconciliation between faith and knowledge, religion as experience, a fundamental conjuring away of the miraculous, an utter confusion between knowledge and enlightenment—all that and more. The puzzle of Luther's anger towards him is very sadly no longer puzzling to me’ (Barth, ‘Rundbrief’, in Bar.—Thu. Briefwechsel II: 1921–1930, 132).
(55) Barth, TZ, 96.
(59) ‘Luther's objections must be appreciated: as a criticism of Zwingli's position they were justified, even if Luther's position, which lies behind them, was not unobjectionable either. One would like to ask Zwingli, “Where's the humility? Where's the waiting”—and to ask Luther, “Where's the courage? Where's the hastening?” ’ (Barth, TC, 136).
(60) Barth, TRB, 238–320.
(61) ‘Like Luther, [Calvin] thought everything turned on God's objectivity, and like Zwingli, on his real relationship with humanity and the world. And so, the sacramentalism of the former must have been just as foreign to him as the spiritualism of the latter. Or rather, he took the true concern that lay behind both these “‐isms” to be a single one [eines], and therefore had to follow his own path between these two arguing brothers. Moreover, it must be said here that Calvin was not some kind of mediator, neither in this matter nor any other. He was no Bucer, busily rushing back and forth between Zurich and Wittenberg’ (Barth, TC, 232).
(62) Müller, Die Bekenntnisschriften der reformierten Kirche.
(63) Webster, Barth's Earlier Theology, 43–4.
(64) Barth, TRB, 110–28.
(68) Barth, TRB, 132.
(74) Webster, Barth's Earlier Theology, 54.
(75) Barth, TRB, 246–51–9.
(79) Cf. Williams, ‘Barth on the triune God’, 187.
(80) Barth, TRB, 266.
(81) Barth, TRB, 256.
(83) Barth, ‘Das Wort Gottes’, 178.
(84) Barth, TZ, 461.
(85) ‘In its own manner, Reformed doctrine will happily accompany Luther all the way, both here and elsewhere, so that, when the last word is spoken, the Lutheran Yes is crossed through, completed, explicated—not by a Reformed No, but by a But; a reminder that, when this last word is spoken, the path comes full circle, and the point is reached once again, from which Luther started out, where the identification [Gleichung] must become a likeness [Gleichnis] again, and the critical question come to life again, in order for the divine answer to be and to remain the truth’ (Barth, ‘Ansatz und Absicht in Luthers Abendmahlslehre’, 305).
(86) Ward, Barth, Derrida and the Language of Theology, 244.
(87) Barth, TRB, 314.
(89) Webster, Barth's Earlier Theology, 55.
(90) Barth, TRB, 262.
(92) This, in the author's view, is what Barth manages to avoid in his doctrine of the ascension in the CD (Burgess, The Ascension in Karl Barth, 95).
(93) Barth, TRB, 264.
(94) Freudenberg has remarked on a tendency of these lectures to regard the Calvinistic confessions as the dogmatic standard by which all others must be judged (Freudenberg, Karl Barth und die reformierte Theologie, 272). This may well be true, although it is perhaps the inevitable corollary of Barth's preference for a predominantly synchronic rather than a diachronic arrangement of the material. As regards Barth's historical judgements, one of the strengths of the Reformed Confessions lectures is to trace the ‘turn to the subject’ right back to the psychological and pastoral concerns of Beza's doctrine of predestination (Barth, TRB, 189–93); but arguably, one of its weaknesses is that he can slip into a pattern of regarding the history of Reformed doctrine as the history of its decline (ibid., 212ff.; also UCR I, 11).
(95) Barth, TRB, 264.