“Only Two Things are Needed” – The Dogmatic Theology of Karl Barth

How does one go about doing theology? What sort of tools are needed? A bible, some books, a library, maybe a good search engine like google or Wikipedia (just joking there). Karl Barth gives us an answer to this question –

What do you need to do theology?

According to Barth, dogmatic theology is a part of the work of human knowledge. Because it is a part of the work of human knowledge it demands some things that all fields of human knowledge demand:

1-“It naturally demands the intellectual faculties of attentiveness and concentration, of understanding and appraisal.” (CD 1.1 Section 1.3)

Yes it demands, intellectual rigor, with all the things involved in that. The dogmatic theologian must utilize his intellectual faculties and give himself entirely to this serious task. However this work of human knowledge is quite unlike other ways of acquiring and outlining human knowledge, e.g. physics, biology, history. Here is what makes dogmatic theology unique:

2-“Over and above this (i.e. intellectual rigor), however, it demands Christian faith.” (CD 1.1 Section 1.3)

This is because Christian theology is the work for the Christian church. As Barth says, there is no possibility for Christian theology outside of the Church. Ultimately Christian theology boils down to our talk about God as mediated through our knowledge of him in Christ. How can one talk about God without knowing Christ? To do so would be, as Barth says, “irrelevant and meaningless…. Even in the case of the most exact technical imitation of what the Church does (or says)… it would be idle speculation without any content of knowledge.”


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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