Early life and education
Karl Barth was born in Basel, Switzerland and spent his early years growing up in Bern where his father taught at the university. Barth began his studies in Bern in 1904 where he was introduced to Kant, whose Critique of Practical Reason he called 'the first book that really moved me as a student'. Barth went on to study at Berlin, a center of Protestant liberalism, later studying at Tübingen and finally in Marburg in 1908. While at Marburg, Wilhelm Herrmann had a great influence on Barth. After Marburg, Barth spent ten years (1911 - 1921) as a pastor. This had a profound impact on his theology as "Barth's liberal assurances were initially undermined by his exposure to the Swiss social democratic movement... The outbreak of the Great War further disillusioned him... most of his former teachers signed a declaration of support for the Kaiser [in support of Hitler]." Barth described his experience:
- An entire world of theological exegesis, ethics, dogmatics, and preaching, which up to that point I had accepted as basically credible, was thereby shaken to the foundations, and with it everything which flowed at that time from the pens of the German theologians.
Barth returned to Scripture, especially studying the Romans in 1916 which resulted in his commentary, first published in 1919. His commentary resulted in a new-found prominence in Germany.
As a result, Barth was offered a position as Honorary Professor of Reformed Theology in Göttingen. Teaching at Göttingen from 1921 - 1925, he later held posts at Münster (1925–1930) and Bonn (1930–1935). Other key points involve Barth's first (and later abandoned) volume of the Christian Dogmatics (1927), his study of Anselm (1930), the first volume of the Church Dogmatics (1932), his debate with Emil Brunner over natural theology, the Barmen Declaration of 1934, and his travel to Rome in 1966 to talk with those involved in the Second Vatican Council among many other things. Barth retired at the end of the winter semester of 1961-62, and his health began to decline in 1964. Barth passed away on December 10th, 1968.
It has been said that "a 'Barthian theology' is just as impossible as an 'Einsteinian science', but just as there is a pre-Einsteinian science and a post-Einsteinian science, so there is a pre-Barthian and post-Barthian theology, for the contribution of Karl Barth to theology is, like that of Albert Einstein to nature science, so deep-going and fundamental that it marks one of the great eras of advance in the whole history of the subject"
Also visit these sites for more information on Barth-
Time Magazine Cover Story, Apr. 20, 1962