Karl Barth’s “French Connection” – how Pierre Maury gave a ‘decisive impetus’ to Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Election.

Just after my thirtieth birthday, my wife and I took our three young children to live and work in France during the 1970s and 1980s. There I had the privilege of ministering amongst a large congregation in the university city of Montpellier, and was also involved in outreach to students. I then engaged over several years in church planting and evangelism in the Massif Central region bordering the famous Cevennes mountain ranges and the plateaus of the Grands Causses.[1] Over the years I often had the privilege of listening to some of the finest preachers I have heard in my fifty years of active adult Christian discipleship and ordained ministry. So it is not surprising that I have the greatest respect for the erudition and evangelical warmth of someone like Pierre Maury. While this book is not a biography of Maury, his personality and influence are such strong factors that we cannot but throw the spotlight on this amazing man, who gave such a decisive impetus to Barth in his famous reconstruction of the doctrine of election.[2] While much has been written about the problems raised by this reworking, this book, in the main, seeks to assess it positively.

Having retired from active ordained pastoral ministry at the end of 2012, I was able to continue reading Karl Barth’s rich theology that I had begun to chip away at in 2002, when I engaged in postgraduate studies in ministry. In the intervening years, though absorbed as I was by pastoral demands, I had managed to read much secondary literature, which reframed certain aspects of the theological “grid” to which I was exposed during my time at a ministry training college in the early seventies, which was often wary of the so-called neo-orthodox theologians, who, it was claimed, taught that “the historic, orthodox position with reference to inspiration, revelation, and biblical criticism can no longer be maintained.” This revealed an underlying deep suspicion, typical of the day and still common in our time. Neo-orthodox theologians were described time and again as holding to the idea that the Bible only contained the word of God, and this understanding was seen as a dangerous compromise, an erosion of scripture’s authority. Another critique at that time held that Barth was indebted to and overly influenced by existential philosophers such as Kierkegaard. This assessment tended to pigeon-hole him and consequently dismiss him as not worthy of consideration.[3] Much of what I learned during that time of preparation for pastoral ministry was very helpful and constructive, but subsequently treading a path between what was considered off limits on the one hand and on the other a somewhat rigid approach to Christian revelation, was at times a rocky road. However, on reading Bernard Ramm’s 1983 book After Fundamentalism in the early 2000s, in which he wrote that he had come to the conclusion that “Barth’s theology is a restatement of Reformed theology written in the aftermath of the Enlightenment but not capitulating to it,”[4] I found his cautious yet balanced thinking very persuasive. Like Donald Bloesch in his Jesus is Victor, Ramm had reservations about aspects of Barth’s corpus and took issue at various points, but remained an appreciative critic. It goes without saying that many Evangelicals still have a strained relationship with Barth, but I concur with the irenic attitude of a theologian such as Mark Thompson, who, while also parting company with Barth in some areas, observes that we should engage with him “not as an enemy but as a fellow disciple of Jesus Christ.”[5]

Once anyone begins to engage seriously with Barth’s massive corpus, it demands a herculean effort of time and energy. His work represents a lifetime of hard work and indefatigable single-minded attention to his task.[6] It was during a three week Lenten retreat in 2013 that the link between Barth and Maury and its significance for the doctrine of election came into sharper focus for me, when I focused on reading and summarizing Eberhard Busch’s The Great Passion. However, in the final week I read Bruce McCormack’s Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology: Its Genesis and Development, 1909–1936, which challenged the traditional view of the evolution of Barth’s theology from dialectic to analogy espoused in particular by the late Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar.[7] It wasn’t until I had worked my way through all 467 pages of this outstanding piece of historical theology, which the British theologian Graham Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, described as a “major intellectual achievement and interpretative act of great courage, in which Barth studies will never remain the same,”[8] that I discovered how significant the contribution of Pierre Maury was. Naturally I was intrigued. I had discovered a French connection in Barth’s theological development!

A major focus of my book’s second edition was still Maury’s famous 1936 paper “Election and Faith”  and on the impact of this paper on Barth’s subsequent reworking of the doctrine of election in Church Dogmatics II/2 (published in 1942),[9] where Maury’s “impressive treatment” of this theme is acknowledged.[10] However, it is important for us in this study, as Suzanne McDonald stated in her foreword, to understand who exactly was Pierre Maury, the man, Karl Barth’s close friend and confidant, the one who was instrumental in introducing Barth’s theology to the church in France in the twentieth century.

Many authors have taken into account Pierre Maury’s seminal influence on Barth’s doctrine of election,[11] but in the English speaking world he is often neither known nor appreciated for who he was in his own right, despite the fact that in his own time he was awarded honorary doctorates by the universities of Budapest, St Andrews and Chicago. His groundbreaking paper “Election and Faith” gets a mention in the literature, but until the first edition of this work had never been translated into English. Meeting Pierre Maury’s biographer Françoise Florentin-Smyth[12] and some of the Maury family in Paris in September 2013 heightened my sense that here was someone and something that needed to be brought to the attention of a wider readership. Hopefully this work has encouraged more readers to reflect on what it was that Maury gave to Barth not just in terms of a fresh insight into a Christological focus in the doctrine of election but to explore how an amazing friendship helped to foster a different approach to what has been described as a “vast dogmatic minefield”![13] The essays that follow the translations of Maury’s works in my book attempted to address some of these issues. Maury’s work merits serious attention on its own, especially as he wrote from the perspective both of a pastor and a preacher, which remained a strong focus of his life up until his untimely and much regretted death. My hope was that pastors and church workers would find inspiration in these extracts from Maury, which are transcripts of addresses that he gave often in the midst of a very busy life. He said that his famous paper on Election and Faith was hastily put together in just two days.[14] They have an immediacy that is often difficult to convey in translation. Many phrases were reworked and retranslated in the secoind edition.[15]

In my book we first encounter Maury in the seminal paper he gave at the Calvinist Congress at Geneva in 1936. This was an initiative of young neo-Calvinists of that time to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of the first edition of Calvin’s Institutio Christianae Religionis (Institutes of the Christian Religion). Then, from a year later we engage with a sermon (“The Ultimate Decision,” 1937), part of a Lenten series (The Great Work of God), preached at the Reformed Church of the Annunciation at Passy, Paris. Lastly we meet Maury as pastor/theologian in a revised translation of his sessions on Predestination to delegates at the Second World Council of Churches Assembly at Evanston, Illinois, in 1954, just two years before his death.

In “Election and Faith” Maury grounds his view of election in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, giving it a very strong Christological focus:

Election is really an election initiated by God, that is to say, before the foundation of the world, in God’s eternity. Because it is election in Christ and by Christ, the One by whom and for whom all things have been made, it is a choice whose origin is elsewhere than in our time, a decision taken outside of all the sequences in which we are without end enclosed.

The uniqueness of Maury’s contribution is found in this Christocentric grounding of election, a focus of hot debate in Barthian studies[16] and seeing election as part of the doctrine of God and not so much as part of a subjective soteriology. Election, for Maury, is a theological, not an anthropological, doctrine (as seen in the title of a chapter in Predestination).

These three works of Maury are outstanding examples of original, biblically-grounded exposition in the Reformed theological tradition. Maury seeks to be faithful to Calvin but is not bound by him.

We see the significance of these two orientations in a letter Barth wrote to Pierre Maury on the 21st August 1936 in response to “Election and Faith”:[17]

My dear friend Maury! I have just read, no, worked on your lecture on predestination and I hasten to say how much I approve and admire these pages. I am in the process of doing some research on this subject for the lectures which I have to give in Hungary, so I am at this time competent to pass judgment. I have to admit frankly and without wanting to flatter you, that it is the best presentation on this question that I know, much better than that which I myself gave seven years ago in my Dogmatics course. The direction in which I was seeking—you know my interpretation of Romans 9 to 11—was the same, but you were so right to insist much more energetically on the “in Christ” and the way in which you did it is very clear and revealing and still gives me a fresh line of thought. I will need to take a lot of trouble to attain and to maintain in my Hungarian lectures the high standard where the problem is laid out after your elucubrations and intensive efforts . . . Besides, I wonder if you see clearly enough the enormity of the change of the character and the importance of the doctrine of predestination, if it is understood as on page 216 of your work.[18] Would Calvin recognize himself here or would he not mount proceedings against us similar to what he did with the unfortunate Bolsec? Do you not find it also quite astonishing, that, despite his assertions on the “mirror” etc., his own explanations on the role of Christ in this matter are—different from yours!!—rather thin and obscure: repeated propositions rather than explanations? You are quite right to say that the disagreement is secondary. It is also secondary as far as the question of natural theology is concerned. Only, we should not hide the fact that while being good disciples of the Reformation, we are perhaps moving away, further than our liberal predecessors, from their way of thinking. There really is no “Calvinism”![19]

It needs to be kept in mind that the evolution of Barth’s mature doctrine of election was part of an ongoing conversation that went back many years. Barth recalled this in 1956: “Pierre Maury and I had of course often spoken of this problem.”[20] We have another hint of this in a recent work of Satyaranjan about the great Sri Lankan Methodist preacher D.T. Niles:[21]

In 1935 Niles attended the General Committee of the World Student Christian Federation at Sophia, Bulgaria, as a delegate of the SCM of India, Ceylon and Burma. This marked the beginning of his entry into the ecumenical world outside his native confines and opened doors to meet with the world’s great theologians and spiritual leaders. At Sophia, Niles found a “guru” in Pastor Pierre Maury of France, a spiritual guide who led the Bible study. Niles met Karl Barth, the great theologian, at Basel the same year after the first Missions Conference of the World Student Christian Federation, and asked Barth his opinion of Pierre Maury’s understanding of predestination. Niles later reminisced about Barth’s reply: “He [Karl Barth] underlined the point that Pierre Maury makes, that predestination is a mystery of light and not of darkness, a mystery of grace even when one is speaking about the judgement of God . . . [Pierre Maury] helped me to understand between going to the Bible for answers to questions we ask and approaching the Bible with our answers to the questions it raises. Pierre Maury would say, ‘Only God has the right to ask questions.’” (Niles, Karl Barth, 5, 7, 8).[22]

Another indication of an anterior grappling and ongoing conversation around this issue is also borne out in Barth’s lecture cycle at Göttingen, published as The Theology of the Reformed Confessions, in which he was treating “Reformed doctrine as a whole” and within this broad overview looking at what he called “the positive doctrine of Christianity.” On 21st of June 1923 (fourteen years before his Gifford Lectures of 1937–8)[23] he was focusing on the Scots Confession of 1560:

It is truly regrettable that in the seventeenth century the Scots Confession became obsolete and today only has historical significance . . . We note how clearly the meaning of the doctrine of predestination is handled. This doctrine treats of what God does, not what happens to the human person . . . We see how the unclassical problem of the assurance of salvation, this problem whose very emergence is an indicator of confusion and wrong questions, never commands any attention in this context. That is certainly the best thing that can happen to it. It is my opinion that, because of all of this, the Scots Confession, like a few others, may speak to us as a normative and model confession for our pursuit of the question of the positive doctrine of Christianity.[24]

So it would appear that predestination had been a longstanding topic of conversation between Barth and Maury over many years before 1936, but that Barth himself had seen certain “flaws” that troubled him. He considered, as he was to say in his 1937 Gifford Lectures, that Article Eight of the Scots Confession, “Of Election,”seemed at first sight to be of a purely Christological character, something which he considered to be a noteworthy innovation in the way the subject matter was ordered:

By this arrangement its authors have made it known unambiguously that they wish the whole body of material which is called the doctrine of predestination to be explained through Christology and conversely Christology to be explained with the doctrine of predestination.[25]

He concluded his lecture on God’s Decision and Man’s Election by claiming that

The Scottish confession is right in principle in the position it takes. God’s eternal decree and man’s election and thus the whole of what is called the doctrine of predestination cannot but be misunderstood unless it is understood in its connection with the truth of the divine human nature of Jesus Christ.[26]

~

In my book I included selections from five witnesses, concerning the man that was Pierre Maury. Firstly, Jacques Maury, Pierre’s son, shared his testimony to the impact of this beloved pastor/theologian as an evangelist. Secondly, Gustave Monod, a senior French government official and past Chief of Staff of the Minister of Education and Inspector General of Education gave a moving personal tribute. Thirdly, a much loved and respected fellow French Reformed Minister and theologian Jean Bosc, who with Albert Finet founded the journal Réforme, spoke of Maury’s bi-partisanship in matters theological. Fourthly, Robert Mackie, a contemporary and close collaborator of Pierre Maury, shared his memories in an abbreviated introduction to the original English translation of Predestination. Fifthly, Karl Barth in the same edition just mentioned gave a moving and eloquent testimony to the strength of his friendship with Maury and the enormous respect that the Professor of Basel had for his “never-to-be-forgotten friend.”

Following these tributes, there were three of Pierre Maury’s works. In the chapters that follow these, seven theologians all engaged with Maury and Barth from historical, textual, pastoral, and theological standpoints, and sought to draw conclusions for us in our contemporary setting, sixty to eighty years from their original composition.

In “Pierre Maury, Karl Barth and the Evolution of Election”Mark Lindsay outlined the major aspects of Barth’s articulation of election, describing the political-rhetorical context in which Barth’s reflections on this subject were made. Having written in some detail[27] on Barth’s theology in the light of the Holocaust, he also shows how the particularities of Barth’s doctrine of election stand in self-conscious resistance to the National Socialist war against the Jews.

In “Harmony without Identity: A Comparison of the Theology of Election in Pierre Maury and Karl Barth” Matthias Gockel took a closer look at Maury’s thinking on election in comparison with Barth’s view. He maintained that, despite their principal agreement about the need to put the doctrine on a new Christological basis, minor differences remain. He canvassed a number of subtle changes of the French text in the German translation, which was undertaken by Barth’s confidante Charlotte von Kirschbaum, as well as the most significant translation changes raising the vexed question of interpretation in the task of translation.

John Capper’s paper “Serious Joy of the Ultimate Decision” focused on Maury’s 1937 sermon “Ultimate Decision.” What he found profoundly troubling from a pastoral perspective is that many who hear the good news of the Gospel do not come to know the saving gift of God. Therefore, pondering election and its polarities in predestination is a means of making sense of this reality, and a step to encouraging steadfastness in the lives of the faithful. This points to some connections between the theological and pastoral aspects of both Barth and Maury.

Damon Adams in “Karl Barth & Apokatastasis All’s Well That Ends Well . . . Yes! . . . No?!” cogently suggested, in line with a classical Reformed position, that “attached to Barth’s newly formulated doctrine of election came explanations that have left many a reader of Barth to conclude that he was effectively teaching a form of Christian Universalism.’

However, the last two essays by Leo Stossich “The Human Election of God” and Michael O’Neil “The Light of the Gospel – Election and Proclamation”, took a positive view of what has been described as Barth’s reworking of the Reformed doctrine and classical understanding of election/predestination. Stossich in part draws our attention to the rich theology of the Holy Spirit in Barth and the issue of human freedom and, I would add, the balancing of divine and human agency in the economy of salvation, while O’Neil explored “..the relation between election and proclamation in Barth’s doctrine, in hope of highlighting more explicitly Barth’s pastoral and homiletical orientation.” Does Barth hold together the objective and subjective poles of salvation and is his logic leading in the direction of universalism?[28]

Finally, in a comprehensive concluding afterword, John McDowell developed many rich themes in “Barth after Maury.” He showed that Barth “had not only developed and deepened in his own work that which he appreciated about Maury’s “Election et Foi,” but .. he had pressed this material in all kinds of quite distinctive and theologically rich directions.”

~

It was the great British Methodist preacher W.E. Sangster who reputedly said, “Behind the message, the man.” The five moving tributes that followed gave a sense of what Maury gave to so many. It is not surprising, therefore, that Barth and Maury enjoyed such a unique and significant partnership and friendship, marked by strong mutual respect. This was the hallmark of Maury’s relations with so many. As the book of Proverbs puts it, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17).

The three testimonies and especially the twenty-eight years of correspondence between Pierre Maury and Karl Barth, between 1928 and 1956, reveal an intense friendship of two very different men. This type of friendship calls to mind biblical examples such as David and Jonathan, Daniel and his companions, and Paul and Barnabas, along with the tensions that often existed. Church history, too, is replete with records of people growing and sharing ministry together: Luther and Melanchthon, Calvin and Bucer, and the Wesley brothers. Bernard Reymond recounts the beginnings of this unique friendship:[29]

In the summer of 1931, Maury had already thought of the idea of visiting Barth in Bonn, along with Visser ‘t Hooft.[30] Circumstances obliged them to put off this visit until March 1932. Many years later, Barth himself still vividly remembered that time: “The two of them came to see me at my mother’s house in Bern where I was on holiday. It was of course Pierre who led the discussion. I can still see him before me and feel the fresh air that he brought with him.”[31] From then on the ice had been broken; their letters abundantly bear witness. The reciprocal attraction must have quickly given place to an ever-growing friendship, especially from the moment when they stopped using the more formal vous and adopted the intimate tu, when Barth went to Paris in April 1934. “We understood each other so well,” Barth recalled in his article in 1956 for Réforme. “We were so naturally in agreement on all the great and important things, and yet also so sharply in disagreement on secondary questions, that our coming together could never have become unfruitful or boring. We never wondered what to talk about as we were always so eager to exchange our ideas.”

Willem Visser ‘t Hooft was a name that had been mentioned in connection with Maury and Barth. He said of his own significant friendship with Maury:

Of the men and women with whom I worked over the years none had a deeper influence on me than Pierre Maury . . . For us, as for so many others, Pierre Maury became the pastoral friend and the friendly pastor. He saw my weaknesses and did not spare his criticisms, but he saw more in me than I saw in myself, and so he gave me courage to do things which I would not have done without him . . . This man combined in a unique way the deep passion for the discovery of the great objective divine truth with an equally deep interest in persons and in all manifestations of human life.[32]

Barth’s own testimony concerning what Maury brought to their friendship is striking not just for the intellectual stimulus but for the warmth of his personality. Maury was that kind of person.[33] Joan Chittister has observed that “differences . . . broaden us . . . (and) make us bigger people than we could ever have been had we stayed locked in our tiny little intellectual ghettoes.”[34] Homan and Pratt concur: “Encountering those who are different from ourselves . . . stretches us; it dislocates stiffness and opens us up to new possibilities.”[35] In a discussion of the place of community in the pilgrim life, Eugene Peterson goes further, stating, “We mediate to one another the mysteries of God. We represent to one another the address of God.”[36] John Macmurray, the Scottish philosopher (1891–1976), showed the self in proper existence within a community of relational beings and asserted that “there can be no man until there are at least two men in communication.”[37]

When we consider the interpersonal dynamic of this friendship, we also discover an interesting parallel between Barth’s doctrine of Creation in Church Dogmatics III, the second volume of which appeared three years after the end of the Second World War in May 1948, and Maury’s Lenten sermons of the same year.[38] After volume one of CD III, in which Barth famously integrates creation and redemption, he explores the theme of “being in encounter” in volume two:

Being in encounter consists . . . in the fact that we render mutual assistance in the act of being . . . In the very fact that he lives a man is summoned by his fellow-man. The latter does not wish to be left alone or to his own devices in his action. I cannot represent him. I cannot make his life-task my own. He cannot expect this from me. He must not confuse me with God. And he will certainly have no reason to do so. I must try to help myself, and he will have to do the same. But as he tries to do so, he has the right to expect that I shall be there for him as well as myself, that I shall not ignore him but live with him, that my life will be a support for his, that it will mean comfort, encouragement and alleviation for him.”[39]

So in the same year that Barth’s discussion of the theme of “being in encounter” appeared in print for the first time, one of Maury’s sermons, “To know Jesus Christ is to know man,”expressed concepts markedly similar to Barth’s development of an anthropology developed from a Christologically determined doctrine of creation. For Barth, being in encounter involves human beings looking each other in the eye, where there is mutual speech and hearing, and where we render assistance to each other in the act of being, all of which occurs in reciprocal gladness. Maury declared in his Lenten sermon:

Without Jesus Christ, I am without you. More than that, I am without myself (51) . . . In any event, for Jesus Christ, to be human, is to understand and love what is “the other” (54).

Not only is this similarity of expression interesting as the joining of two great minds but it bolsters Visser ‘t Hooft’s sense that Maury gave him the courage to do things which he would not have done without him. Could not the same be said about Karl Barth? Wolf Krötke, in a discussion of Barth’s anthropology, claims:

If we take seriously the fact that the eternal God has here bound himself with a man, then the history which here takes place is to be understood as a history really grounded in the eternity of God. Barth set this out in an interpretation of the doctrine of election, one of the most genuine accomplishments of his theological thinking, and at the same time a place at which essential decisions about the structure of theological anthropology are taken.[40]

In a subsequent discussion of humanity as co-humanity, he also postulates that

In Barth’s understanding, in the light of faith in Jesus Christ, it is evident that it is no accident that the human creature exists structurally in relations . . . The human person is human only in relation to fellow human beings. Human “existence with fellow humans” is the basic form of humanity in which a person is “the parable of the existence of his creator.”[41]

I would suggest that perhaps the most significant factor in this story of a unique friendship is this interpersonal dynamic of companionship and mutual encouragement. But let Barth have the last word in a letter to Albert Finet, director of the weekly Réforme (Reformation) journal, after Maury’s death:[42]

It was always refreshing for me to be with him (Maury) one or two times every year for several hours or several days. It did not matter where, in Switzerland, or in Paris, sometimes at a conference, in a particularly fruitful way in Amsterdam in 1948 . . . We were great friends. In all likelihood he underestimated what he brought to our friendship. If he learned this or that from me, he never in any way became my student. At an important stage in my theological journey, when I was concerned with the doctrine of election, he gave me a decisive impetus. Very often he led me much further, simply by his questions, his reservations or his objections. He was a legend, when some considered him as my blind partisan. He was too good a Frenchman, and a Christian, to be someone else’s passenger. Besides, I didn’t have either the intention or the capacity to do that with him. Read his writings and his publications and you can see to what degree he thought everything through and expressed and defended it in his own way. And he had such gifts that I never possessed, which I could only admire in him.[43]

Bibliography

Balthasar, Hans Urs von. The Theology of Karl Barth. San Francisco: Communio, 1992.

Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics, Volume II: The Doctrine of God, Part 2. Edited by G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance.Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2004.

———. Church Dogmatics, Volume III: The Doctrine of Creation, Part 2. Edited by G. W. Bromiley and T. F. Torrance.Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 2004.

———. The Knowledge of God and the Service of God According to the Teaching of the Reformation: Recalling the Scottish Confession of 1560. Translated by J. L. M. Haire and Ian Henderson. The Gifford Lectures, University of Aberdeen 1937–1938. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1938.

———. The Theology of the Reformed Confessions. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002.

———. Christ and Adam: Man and Humanity in Romans 5. Translated by T. A. Smail. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2004.

Berkouwer, G. C. The Triumph of Grace in the Theology of Karl Barth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956.

Blocher, Henri. “Karl Barth’s Christocentric Method.” In Engaging with Barth: Contemporary Evangelical Critiques, edited byDavid Gibson and Daniel Strange, 21–54. London: InterVarsity, 2008.

Bloesch, Donald. Jesus is Victor! Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Salvation.Nashville: Abingdon, 1976.

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Chittister, Joan. Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical, 2010.

Dietrich, Suzanne de. 50 ans d’histoire: la fédération universelle des associations chrétiennes d’étudiants, 1895–1945. Paris: Editions du Semeur, 1945.

Fernandez-Armesto, Felipe, and Derek Wilson. Reformation: Christianity and the World 1500–2000. London: Bantam, 1996.

Florentin-Smyth, Françoise. Pierre Maury, Prédicateur d’Evangile. Geneva: Labor et Fides, 2009.

Gockel, M. Barth and Schleiermacher on the Doctrine of Election: A Systematic-Theological Comparison. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Greene, Colin J. D. Christology in Cultural Perspective: Marking Out the Horizons.Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2003.

Gunton, Colin. “Election and Ecclesiology in the Post-Constantinian Church.” Scottish Journal of Theology 53/2 (2000) 212–27.

Hunsinger, George. Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth.Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000.

———. How to Read Karl Barth: The Shape of his Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press,1991.

Krötke, Wolf. “The Humanity of the Human Person in Karl Barth’s Anthropology.” In The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, edited by John B. Webster, 159–76. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Macmurray, John. Persons in Relation. Vol. 2 of the Gifford Lectures, 1953–54. London: Faber, 1961.

Maillot, Alphonse. “P. Maury Prédicateur.” Foi et Vie 90/3–4 (July 1991) 13–34.

McCormack, Bruce. Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology: Its Genesis and Development, 1909–1936. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.

McDonald, S. Re-imaging Election, Divine Election as Representing God to Others and Others to God.Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.

Maury, Pierre. Le Grande Œuvre de Dieu. Paris: Je Sers, 1937.

———. Jésus Christ, cet inconnu: six allocutions pour le carême 1948. Strasbourg: Oberlin, 1948.

———. La Prédestination. Geneva: Labor et Fides, 1957.

———. Predestination and Other Papers. Translated by Edwin Hudson. London: SCM, 1960.

Migliore, Daniel. Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

Peterson, Eugene. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Downers Grove, IL: 1980.

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 ———. Théologien ou prophète: Les francophones et Karl Barth avant 1945.Lausanne: Symbolon, Éditions l’Age d’Homme, 1985.

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[1]. Any missionary/church worker who has served in France, as I did, particularly in those regions that became bastions of the Reformed faith, such as the Cevennes, cannot remain unmoved by the example of those who stood firm for nearly a hundred years up until the revolution of 1789, during a period which became known as L’Église du desert—“the Church of the wilderness.” In this region many brave men and women were martyred or imprisoned for their faith, particularly after Louis XIV in 1685 revoked the Edict of Nantes, which was an edict of religious tolerance instituted by Louis’ grandfather Henri IV in 1598. From Calvin onwards, French Protestants were forced into exile all over Europe and to the four corners of the earth. The spiritual descendants of those who survived that terrible period of persecution have kept the flame burning. Whilst that era has long passed, it still remains a significant backdrop of the life of Protestantism in France and has left an indelible mark.

[2]. In November 1950 Karl Barth wrote a moving letter to Pierre Maury, which reveals not only how much he esteemed him but also how strong was his emotional attachment to his French friend. “Unforgettable the day that I saw you for the first time with such a strong impression: that face, and what a character, a man whom I love! . . . the expectation of that day has never failed: I have been the reason for many disappointments and caused you many worries . . . But I have always found you to be compelling, remarkable, exasperating (in the best sense of the word) and always faithful to the Cause as well as to your friend with and despite his outrageous thoughts, words and attitudes” (Reymond, Karl Barth, 225, my translation).

[3]. Hunsinger (How to Read Karl Barth, x) in countering various critiques of Barth, seeks a fairer and more adequate response, observing that “reading what the critics have to say of Barth’s theology is usually like looking at an old map, the kind drafted before the dawn of modern cartography in the 18th century. Certain basic aspects of the theology may be present, but the distortion factor is high. Topographic features may be lacking in detail. Whole promontories may be absent or diminished. Monsters, lions, and squash lines may do duty for factual content. The task of responsible criticism presupposes a more reliable depiction of the overall terrain, as well as of the proportional relationships among the various segments, than has usually been the case. A quest for better cartography would seem to be the place to begin.” Nearly ten years later, he also observed that “Barth has set the terms for debate in a field where almost everyone seemed to disagree with him, even though they could not ignore him, and even though, as was also often the case, they had only just begun to understand him, if at all” (Hunsinger, Disruptive Grace, 253). Perhaps he had in mind works such as Van Til’s Christianity and Barthianism, whose critique was far from superficial but rather comprehensive in its scope and in its day had a marked influence, engendering a cautious attitude toward Barthian theology. However, Van Til, while censuring Barth for his many “errors,” respected his scholarship: “The Church Dogmatics is a truly monumental work. In reading it one’s admiration for Barth knows no bounds . . . in the Church Dogmatics we have the ripe fruition of arduous reflection and research” (2).

[4]. Ramm, After Fundamentalism, 14.

[5]. Thompson, Witness to the Word, 196.

[6]. A leading Australian Uniting Church minister friend told me of his visit to Basel many years ago and standing outside Barth’s old home. An elderly gentleman enquired about the purpose of his visit and shared his memory of often seeing the light from Barth’s study in the night hours. He said that he told his sons, “So you want to succeed in your studies? Look at Professor Barth. Follow his example!”

[7]. Balthasar, The Theology of Karl Barth.

[8]. Ward, “Review of Karl Barth’s,” 88–89. 

[9]. Barth wrote in 1956, “At an important stage in my theological journey, when I was concerned with the doctrine of election, he gave me a decisive impetus.” This was part of Barth’s tribute to Maury, in a letter titled Un homme libre (A free man), written to Albert Finet, director of the weekly Réforme (Reformation) journal, 18 Feb 1956 (my translation).

[10]. “The Christological meaning and basis of the doctrine of election have been brought out afresh in our own time, and with an impressive treatment of Jesus Christ as the original and decisive object of the divine election and rejection. This service has been rendered by Pierre Maury in the fine lecture which he gave on Election et Foi at the Congrès international de théologie calviniste in Geneva, 1936 (published in Foi et Vie, April–May 1936, and in German under the title “Erwählung und Glaube” in Theol. Studien, Heft 8, 1940). That Congress dealt exclusively with the problem of predestination, and its records will easily show how instructive was Maury’s contribution, and how it stood out from the other papers, which were interesting historically but in content moved entirely within the circle of the traditional formulations, and were almost hopelessly embarrassed by their difficulties” (Barth, Church Dogmatics II/2, 154–5).

[11]. McCormack, Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology, 455–63; Gockel, Barth and Schleiermacher, 158–64; McDonald, Re-imaging Election, 31–37 (“Barthian theology and that of Maury were made to meet each other.”); Maillot, “P. Maury Prédicateur,” 26.

[12]. Florentin-Smyth, Pierre Maury.

[13]. Gunton, Election and Ecclesiology, 220. Similar sentiments are shared by Migliore (Faith Seeking Understanding, 87): “Few doctrines in the history of Christian theology have been as misunderstood and distorted, and few have caused as much controversy and distress, as the doctrine of the eternal decrees of God, or double predestination.” Fernandez-Armesto and Wilson (Reformation, 87) succinctly canvas the dilemma that has confronted theologians down through the centuries: “If the bestowal of grace is absolute, it must be predestined; if the individual soul can neither attract nor resist it, God must be supposed to have made up his mind about it independently of the behaviour of the person saved or condemned.”

[14]. “Between you and me confidentially (and I am not very proud of it) I can tell you that I put together the outline and wrote the text in 2 days! It’s disgraceful. Naturally since then I discover all sorts of things that should have been said and others that I could have been able to develop and put differently” (Reymond, Karl Barth—Pierre Maury, 102).

[15]. I thank Matthias Gockel and Stuart Rochester for their willing input and assistance. For this edition Professor Pierre-Sovann Chauny of the Faculté Jean Calvin, at the Institut de Théologie Protestante et Évangélique (Aix-en-Provence, France) pointed out some errors and omitted phrases in the first edition, which have now been rectified. Garrett Green observed in his preface to his translation of Barth on the topic of religion in CD 1/1 “…translation is as much an art as a science, requiring not only linguistic expertise in two languages but also a sense of style and tone in both” (Green, On Religion, vii).

[16]. This raises the issue of Barth’s “Christomonism,” which H. Richard Niebuhr named “a new unitarianism of the second person of the trinity.” The “Christocentric concentration” in Barth’s whole corpus is reviewed by Henri Blocher (“Karl Barth’s Christocentric Method”), who gives instances of the use of such words as “panchristism” and “Jesucentric” to characterize Barth’s thinking (26–27), and says that “some attempt must be made to sound the strength of its foundations and to probe the durability of its cement and linkages” (43). Berkouwer (in The Triumph of Grace) claims that Barth developed an extreme Christomonism, but Colin Greene (Christology in Cultural Perspective, 288) says that this “would be analogous to an imploding star: the sheer power of the Christological gravitational forces would eventually drag everything into the ‘black hole’ of the eternal person and being of Christ.” However, in striking prose, he believes that it is more accurate to speak of a “Christological prism, where the iridescent light that shines from the person of Christ is refracted through that prism to illuminate the landscape of Christian theology in a way not previously attempted.”

[17]. Reymond, Karl Barth—Pierre Maury, 99–101 (my translation). Reymond, the editor of the correspondence, writes, “This letter from Barth presents a special interest: it gives his warm reaction before a text of Maury, which we know had influenced him, but concerning this we were only aware of the preface that Barth wrote for the posthumous edition of Maury’s study on Predestination (Geneva 1957). Barth took the trouble to write this letter directly in French.”

[18]. The pagination referred to here is in Foi et Vie 1936, where Maury’s study first appeared. Reymond comments, “These are the pages where Maury insisted on the fact that it is Jesus Christ who is at one and the same time both the object of the election and the condemnation of God, different from Calvin, who distinguished between the elect on the one hand and the condemned on the other, independently of Jesus Christ.”

[19]. This was, of course, Van Til’s assertion: that Barth was not true to the Reformation heritage.

[20]. See Karl Barth’s original foreword to Maury’s Predestination in this volume (see page 29).

[21]. Daniel Thambyrajah Niles (4 May 1908—17 July 1970) was a Ceylonese pastor, evangelist and president of the Ceylon Methodist Conference. He once famously defined the task of an evangelist as “one beggar telling another beggar where to get food.”

[22]. Satyaranjan, The Preaching of D. T. Niles, 24.

[23]. Barth, The Knowledge of God and the Service of God.

[24]. Barth, The Theology of the Reformed Confessions, 133.

[25]. Barth, The Knowledge of God and the Service of God, 69.

[26]. Ibid., lecture VII.

[27]. Mark Lindsay’s works include Covenanted Solidarity: The Theological Basis of Karl Barth’s Opposition to Nazi Antisemitism and the Holocaust (2001); Barth, Israel and Jesus: Karl Barth’s Theology of Israel (2007); and Reading Auschwitz with Barth: The Holocaust as Problem and Promise for Barthian Theology (2014). More recently (2020) he has published with IVP God has Chosen: The Doctrine of Election Through Christian History, in which he updated and revised his chapter from my book renaming it Karl Barth’s Reconsideration of the Doctrine of Election, ch 6 160-183.

[28].  Zahrnt observed that “Whenever Barth came to speak of Apokatastasis, he denies it. He skirts it by appealing to the same freedom of God which makes his grace so unlimited. Grace forbids faith to turn the open number of the elect in Jesus Christ into a closed number, on the pattern of the classic doctrine of predestination. But to reckon with the redemption of all men would equally result in a closed number..” (CD II/2:421f.) Zahrnt also picks up on the theme of O’Neil’s essay on the relation between election and proclamation: “The fundamental openness of the number of the elect has to be reflected in the ‘open situation of proclamation.’ Consequently, Barth answers the charge that he teaches an Apokatastasis by constantly referring to preaching: The Church’s mission is not to define and contemplate the divine choice, but to preach it, thereby perfecting the destination of the elect. Predestination is not an object for inquiry and discursive description, but for faith and personal address: ‘It is meant for you!’ See Zahrnt The Question of God, Protestant Theology in the Twentieth Century, 110.

Ten years after the publication of CD II/2 in 1952, Barth published his Christus und Adam nach Römer 5, in which he stated that “The very existence of this individual (Christ) is identical with a divine righteous decision which potentially (my emphasis)includes an indefinite multitude of other men so as to be manifest and effective in those who believe in Him in a way that is absolutely decisive…” See Barth, Christ and Adam. 12.  Barth’s use of the adverb potentially reveals a certain caution. He was specifically dealing with verses 12 -21 of Romans 5, in which, as Morris has clearly pointed out, “There is an objectivity to this section that we should not miss. In verses 1-11 and again in 6: 1-9 the pronoun “we” is constant, but in 5:12-21 there is not one “we”. Paul is concentrating on objective facts, irrespective of our participation.” See Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 228, (my emphasis.) In a similar vein Barrett concurs in his commentary on verse 19, stating that “Adam’s disobedience did not mean that all men necessarily and without consent committed particular acts of sin; it meant that they were born into a race which had separated itself from God. Similarly, Christ’s obedience did not mean that men did nothing but righteous acts, but that in Christ they were related to God as Christ himself was related to his Father.” See Barrett, The Epistle to the Romans, 117 (See also Barrett, From First Adam to Last, 68-119.) Bloesch distances himself from Barth’s position on the scope of salvation:  “In my view the victory of Christ over the powers of darkness benefits all, but it does not liberate all. It makes their liberation and reconciliation viable but not inevitable” (my emphasis). See Bloesch, Jesus is Victor! Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Salvation, 123. This is an issue that still haunts the church in our day. However, Ramm’s discussion in his chapter on Barthian Universalism in After Fundamentalism, 165-172, draws attention to something that he senses is at the heart of Barth’s concern with the “significance of people who are not Christian” He says that what Barth is essentially asking us is “Does the Gospel consign to meaninglessness all those people who have never heard it or never believed it? Are non-Christians the waste products of the plan of salvation?” (my emphasis).

[29]. Reymond, Théologien ou prophète, 54, (my translation).

[30]. Visser ‘t Hooft was the first General Secretary of the World Council of Churches from its foundation until his retirement in 1966.

[31]. Réforme, 18 February 1956. Barth mentions this visit in a letter to Thurneysen, 24 March 1932.

[32]. Visser ‘t Hooft, Memoirs, 36.

[33]. Suzanne de Dietrich wrote of Maury and Visser ‘t Hooft, “For three years they shared the same office . . . This partnership between an expansive Southern Frenchman and a reserved tenacious Dutchman must have been very amusing at times” (50 ans d’histoire, 93).

[34]. Chittister, Uncommon Gratitude, 34.

[35]. Pratt and Homan, Radical Hospitality, 65.

[36]. Peterson, A Long Obedience, 165.

[37]. Macmurray, Persons in Relation, 12. Macmurray claimed that “If . . . we isolate one pair as the unit of personal community we can discover the basic structure of community as such. The relation between them is positively motived in each. Each then is heterocentric; the centre of interest and attention is in the other, not in himself. For each, therefore, it is the other who is important, not himself. The other is the centre of value. Persons in Relation, ch. 7.

[38]. Maury, Jesus Christ, cet inconnu.

[39]. Barth, CD III/2, 260, 263.

[40]. Krötke, “The Humanity of the Human Person,” 163.

[41]. Ibid., 168. Krötke’s quotations are from CD III/2, 203.

[42]. Un homme libre (A free man), published 18 Feb 1956 (my translation).

[43]. Reymond, Karl Barth—Pierre Maury, 249.

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