Brief Book Review: Reading Barth with Charity

readingbarthcharityTitle: Reading Barth with Charity: A Hermeneutical Proposal

Author: George Hunsinger

Bibliographic info: 208 pp.

Publisher: Baker Academic, 2015.

Buy the book at Amazon

With thanks to Baker Academic for the review copy!

For those familiar with the world of Barth scholarship, George Hunsinger (McCord Professor of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary), will undoubtedly be a familiar name as a Barth scholar. He has, after all, been the president of the Karl Barth Society of North America for over a decade now.

In this slim volume, Hunsinger tackles those who he believes misrepresent Barth’s theology. The Barthian revisionists dealt with here are Paul Nimmo, Paul Daffyd Jones, and Bruce McCormack. These Barthian revisionists point out supposed inconsistencies in Barth’s theology, with the key inconsistency that Hunsinger examines is Barth’s views on the Trinity and election. Barth’s stance on such matters, in the eyes of some, leads to the question of whether (in his theology) election gives shape to the economic Trinity. This question of when the election of the Son happened in eternity matters because it could mean that the formation of the Godhead follows the plan of redemption. Hunsinger claims, however, that in Barth’s theology, “election presupposes the Trinity, rather than constitute[s] it.”

Hunsinger uses his hermeneutic of charity throughout to show that the alleged inconsistencies in Barth are able to be explained in a much more coherent manner. What is meant by “reading with charity” is that one should approach Barth with the assumption that his theology is indeed coherent and that one can then, with this assumption, attempt to settle any apparent inconsistencies or contradictions in Barth’s thought. Essentially, it is applying the “golden rule” to hermeneutics.

This book is not intended for the average person in the pew. However, this is definitely a book for anyone interested not just in the question of what Barth himself gets right, but also the question of who gets Barth right. While I am by no means overly familiar with Barth’s writings, I think that Hunsinger has done a fine job in showing that what Barth wrote actually contradicts the claims of inconsistency by the revisionists, though it will be interesting to see the responses that this book  generates.

So if you’re interested in Barth studies then this is, of course, a fine book for you to pick up and read. If this sort of thing isn’t your cup of tea, however, you may just end up wondering about the importance of properly understanding Barth’s view on the relationship between election and the Trinity.

One response

  1. Great review – the ‘slim’ aspect is a real plus, I think. It’s nice to have a serious work that isn’t 400-500 pages long. Hunsinger has a great style – I’ve read this book several times thru and keep on finding new gems.

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