Hoe vertel hulle die storie? Oor Karl Barth

  • Dirkie Smith Sistematiese Teologie Universiteit Stellenbosch


The paper argues that the theme of the consultation on "How are they telling the story?", raises complex but intriguing questions when put to the theology of Karl Barth. In a straightforward way, the question seems to be whether Barth himself regarded story (or narrative) as the appropriate way "to gather the fragments" (Ernst Conradie) of the Christian faith, of the Biblical message, of the proclamation of the Church. Barth scholarship has been divided over this question for many years. While some well-known Barth scholars maintain that his theology was indeed a form of narrative theology, sometimes claimed about his doctrine of reconciliation, sometimes claimed about the whole of the Church Dogmatics, other prominent scholars disagree and argue that the structure or movement within his theology was much more determined by reflection and discursive argument than by story and plot. In an attempt to take the question (and this ongoing scholarly controversy) seriously, the paper points in a second section to six formal but characteristic ways in which Barth dealt with stories. In a next section the question is taken a step further, when it is argued that materially, behind these formal characteristics, Barth saw indeed no meta-narrative, but rather a Person, a Living One, about whom he spoke by means of a "Trinitarian grammar." A brief conclusion therefore claims that Barth's theology was called forth by "the scandal of particularity," indeed coming in story form, but calling for reflection and argument, witness and proclamation, and prayer and life, rather than for further story-telling.