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AAR Annual Meeting
Denver, CO
November 17-20, 2018

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  • Books under Discussion
Karl Barth Society of North America
Theme: Karl Barth's The Epistle to the Romans
George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary, Presiding
Saturday - 9:00 AM-11:30 AM
Convention Center-Mile High 1B (Lower Level)

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the publication of Barth’s The Epistle to the Romans, the Karl Barth Society of North America is beginning a multi-year series of sessions dedicated to this book and its legacy. For the 2018 meeting, the Barth Society will be discussing Barth’s commentary on Romans 1-4.

Unregistered Participant
The Voice of History: Barth on the Religion and Faith of Abraham in Romans 4

This paper highlights Barth’s unique contribution to the recent history of interpretation of Romans 4, drawing attention particularly to his thesis that, for Paul, the account of Abraham in Genesis illustrates the ‘negation’ of religion by the righteousness of God, which Abraham received in faith. In The Epistle to the Romans, Barth offers a striking reading of the text of Chapter 4, showing how, in Paul’s view, Abraham is both a paragon of religion and a type of Christ and of the faith that justifies. According to Barth, these two aspects of the story of Abraham fold back upon each other in Paul’s paraphrase of the Genesis account, revealing the true problem of religion and the otherness of divine righteousness. In this way, Barth explains, the story of Abraham epitomizes the ‘moment’ at which visible religion and invisible faith meet, the latter always the ‘crisis’ of the former.

Greg Cootsona, California State University, Chico
The World of Barth's Second Edition of The Epistle to the Romans

This paper analyzes Barth's use of "the world" in the 1922 second edition of Romans (hereafter Romans II) chapters 1-4. The first section lays out (1) a succinct description of Barth in the early 1920s (2) and his definition of "the world" (German die Welt). (3) It outlines a method that focuses on Romans II with reference secondarily to commentators on Romans and on Barth, e.g., Dunn, Cranfield, Fitzmeier, Hunsinger, McCormick, Webster. The longest section analyzes Barth's world-concept in this early period as a diastasis between God and the world. In Romans II, Barth works key theological topics (creation, sin, and justification) in commenting on Romans 1-4 and employing "the world." The third section takes Barth's comments in Romans II and connects them with his reflections on "other lights" and "parables of the kingdom" in CD IV/3.2. It concludes by analyzing these revisions and formulating leading questions for future research.

Sarah Keough, Boston University
Human Subjectivity, Karl Barth, and the Women's Mosque Movement of Egypt

This paper is a reading of Karl Barth’s theology through Saba Mahmood’s analysis of female subjectivity in Egypt’s mosque movement. Some feminist theologians find Barth’s theology problematic due to his androcentrism and patriarchal assumptions, as well as his insistence on conceptualizing God as wholly Other and beyond human understanding. Barth’s theology positions humans in total subjection to an authoritative Other who cannot be known and whose character must not be questioned. Feminists often resist this understanding of God due to its potentially negative implications for marginalized people groups. Barth’s work, however, is a reaction to the conflation of Christian theology with the political agenda of the Third Reich, and thus his theological objectives should be explored with these conditions in mind rather than dismissing his project as primarily a method of subjugation. By reading Barth’s work alongside Mahmood, his notion of human subjectivity can be interpreted in more charitable terms.

Timo Helenius, Brown University
Night Creatures: Barth’s Phenomenology of Sünder Mensch

This paper will offer a critical reflection of the wrath-invoking “Night” (in The Epistle to the Romans) by exploring Barth’s phenomenological anthropology or “the frailty of human existence” in light of his Church Dogmatics. The main thesis of this paper is that, according to Barth, human being is a self-contradiction, the state of being in a demonic tension with itself, in-between in itself, or in the search of possessing itself without a clear vision either of the “from” or “to.” What this paper attempts to show is that in spite of his criticism, Barth’s work includes a detectable phenomenology, albeit a different kind that he had in mind. The paper does not, therefore, amount to an attempt at misrepresenting Barth’s theocentric thought. On the contrary, the gravity and radicality of Barth’s theological principles is made apparent by focusing on the “Night” that has and knows no notion of grace.

Keith Johnson, Wheaton College
Andrea C. White, Union Theological Seminary