More on McGrath’s critiques of Barth
Some more reflections on Alister McGrath claims about Karl Barth, in "Karl Barth's doctrine of Justification for an Evangelical Perspective", in Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology, ed. Sung Wook Chung (Paternoster; Baker Academic, 2006), pp. 172-190
"Soteriology is necessarily secondary to the fact of revelation" (McGrath)
Is it? Or is it rather that soteriology is bound up together with revelation, for Barth. In other words, Barth challenges the distinction that McGrath seems to press.
The following comment really jarred me:
"For Barth, the death of Christ does not in any sense change the soteriological situation, in that this has been determined from all eternity" (McGrath)
I suspect this may underestimate the way time itself is reconfigured by Barth around Christ. It is not straightforward, working from eternity to Christ at some point. Rather, Christ’s time is the fulness of time, the time of God.
McGrath reasons: because "all people will be saved eventually" (the necessary logic, he claims, of Barth’s theology), it follows that "[h]umans are saved, but do not realise it". Therefore Barth has an inordinate stress on epistemological matters rather than soteriological. It follows that "Barth operates within much the same theological framework as … Schleiermacher and the liberal school at this point"
But I don’t think this follows the logic of Barth’s presentation (Barth, of course, famously resists Universalism, too, however problematic this may be. I refer to Tom Greggs on this!). I don’t think it is “universalism therefore the stress must be all about epistemology”, for Barth. Rather, his thinking is shaped by and begins with the Word of God.
I must say, I do not have half the theological mind of the incredibly learned McGrath, and perhaps I read Barth with too generous a hermeneutic. But McGrath’s comments seem questionable to me. Or am I missing the point?
I shall have to ask him myself as he is one of our illustrious visiting professors, after all!