Frame: Neo-Orthodoxy

I can only deal with Barth in this post. Others will follow.

If there is one single chapter in this book that is just bad, it is this one.  I am not trying to defend NeoO (in fact, I share Frame’s problems with Tillich and I can take it a step further), but he took cheap shots on Barth and failed to get at the heart of the matter.

He says the critics “Must face the task of explaining away what Barth appears to say in my quotations” (Frame 366).  This is easy: we don’t agree with Barth on all points.  Further, we can acknowledge Barth said this, but he said this under specific horizons.

He advances the typical rejection that Barth says the Bible becomes God’s word “from time to time.” Let’s try to look at something first.  When we see the phrase “revelation” or “God’ Word” in the Bible, does it univocally means the enscripturated canon?  Of course not.  This should take some pressure off of Barth.

But here is a bigger point:  Can “God’s Word” be a predicate of a creaturely entity?  No, it cannot it–otherwise you divinize that creature.  Not surprisingly, Barth’s Reformed Christology controls his doctrine of Scripture–as it should.

Frame calls Barth “an extreme nominalist” (367).  This is just false.

When Barth talks about dialectical unveiling, it means that God is indirectly identical with the medium of his self-revelation.  God makes himself present in the Word, but there is also a veiling of God in the flesh of Christ.

Frame writes: “This view of Scripture encourages us to hear  the Bible tentatively, selectively, critically” (370).  This is just silly.  It encouraged Bonhoeffer to die.

When Barth talks about Geschicte, he doesn’t mean a gnostic “not-quite-real” history.  He means that salvation and revelation come from God’s realm of reality and do not arise from within creaturely reality.  In other words, Pelagianism is false.

In conclusion, Frame focuses all of his attention, with a few exceptions, on CD I.1.  This leads to a distorted picture of Barth.  The reader is encouraged to read any random essay by Bruce McCormack for a better picture.


About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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