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Matthew Boulton’s recent work justly celebrates Barth as liturgical theologian, a characterization shared with a few of Barth’s leading interpreters.[1] Using Barth’s theology as a key source, Boulton’s constructive claim is that “the catastrophe of sin is liturgy’s original and continual work; the miracle of reconciliation is liturgy’s decisive transformation in Jesus Christ; and the glory of redemption . . . is and will be liturgy’s end.”[2] Given Barth’s critique of religion, the origin of worship is itself a break in the creature’s “friendship with God.”[3] While Boulton acknowledges that the Spirit and Jesus Christ take up worship in order to reconcile worshippers to God, this is simply part of God’s project of ending worship at the eschaton.[4]

Boulton’s claim is interesting, but it misleads Barth’s readers as an entry to Barth’s theology of worship. For Barth, as this essay will show, creaturely worship will indeed never end. Boulton’s interpretation of Barth demonstrates that Barth’s theology of worship is misunderstood without grasping its connection to glory. To avoid that misunderstanding among others, this essay will argue that, for Barth, God’s glory attracts its own creaturely recurrence in worship because God’s glory encapsulates the enduring freedom and vulnerability of God’s electing love in Jesus Christ. The argument of this essay has three parts. First, it will explore the thesis through Barth’s doctrine of glory in his discussion of the divine attributes. Second, it will consider how his approach to glory shapes his doctrine of election, especially how it allows Barth to express the joyfulness of this doctrine. Finally, it will return to Boulton’s proposals in order to highlight the importance of the connection between glory and worship in Barth’s theology.

The vocabulary and dynamics of God’s glory: Attracting Worship

Barth’s treatment of the divine glory was meant to establish that the triune God loves creatures by making God’s own life accessible to them.[5] As he writes, “In the fact that He is glorious He loves.” [6] If receiving the grace of the incarnation – the fulfillment of God’s love – is at the mercy of human beings, then the reception of that love, that grace, is in jeopardy. For Barth, God’s own life of glory provides creatures with access to God. God’s glory “is God Himself in the truth and capacity and act in which He makes himself known as God.”[7] For Barth, glory is God’s capacity to be communicated and expressed, and thus be recognized.[8] Since God is communicative in this way, human action can be remade and perfected as worship, as a reception of God’s grace.

As indicated in the thesis, one of Barth’s priorities in his doctrine of glory is to mark the attractive character of God’s inclusion of creatures into the divine life. God is absolutely sovereign over the creaturely inclusion in the divine life. But, the “absolutely sovereign grasping of human beings by God” is not “an act of force,” but instead “means attraction and activity in relation to the . . . direction received from the One who gives and requires human freedom.”[9] God’s glory has a “superior force” because it is a “power of attraction.”[10] How is this the case? Before we can answer this, we will need to delineate the basic concepts that populate Barth’s approach to glory. The following description includes these concepts: “the indwelling joy of his divine being which as such shines out from Him, which overflows in its richness, which in its superabundance is not satisfied with itself but communicates itself.”[11] In short, Barth expresses the attractive power of God’s glory with three notions: joy, form, and overflow.

God’s glory, for Barth, is “overflowing, self-communicating joy.”[12] What is joy? Barth never offers analytical definitions of joy, but we can gain some traction by considering its use. Joy (Freude) is simply one among many terms which perform similar and undistinguished semantic functions, including Wohlgefallen (pleasure), Genuss (satisfaction), Jubel (jubilation), even Begehren (desire, demand, yearn) and Lust (appetite, desire).[13] We will be particularly concerned with his use of the word Wohlgefallen, or, in English, good-pleasure. Barth he writes, “To what extent, when God is present to Himself and others, does he convince and persuade? In what way does he move Himself to glorify Himself, and move others, others outside himself, to join in His self-glorification?”[14] It seems that, for Barth, joy is a power to be moved, to be vulnerable to God’s own life. God’s joy is God’s acting capacity to recognize and acclaim God’s life. God is God’s own audience of recognition and acclaim. Joy is the power-in-act in which God recognizes and acclaims God’s life. We might say that, for Barth, God makes God conspicuous in that God recognizes and acclaims God’s self.

Joy goes hand in hand with the concept of form. God’s glory is not simply the power of joy; God’s joy has a shape or form. Indeed, God is “the perfect form,” God is beautiful.[15] Most broadly, Barth means that “the form of the perfect being of God is . . . the unity of identity and non-identity, simplicity and multiplicity, inward and outward, God Himself and the fullness of that which He is as God.”[16] This unity of identity and non-identity includes the perfections of God, the triunity of God, and the incarnation. Yet, God’s triunity is the key to God’s form.[17] In part, Barth describes God simply as effusive, eccentric self-impartation, such that the unity of God occurs as the Father begets the Son and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. With regard to glory, Barth concludes from this that God has an outward shine in God’s immanent life.[18] The Father, the Son and the Spirit are differentiated and so can be each other’s audience. Thus, God’s own life is a “radiating outwards.”[19] Joy, then, is the vulnerable self-acclamation that occurs in and through the effusive self-impartation among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God’s triune eccentric self-impartation is the form of God’s joy. God’s joy is the vulnerability and thus the self-acclamation of the giving within God’s life. In sum, God imparts and acclaims God’s own life to God’s self. That is God’s glory.

The last term is overflow, which has to do with glorification. In sum, God’s glorifies the creation – honors and acclaims the creation – by including the whole creation in God’s own self-glorification. Barth describes creation’s participation in God’s glory in various ways, but worship is a dominant description. God’s glory is a presence which “which also looses at once tongues which were bound.” [20] God’s glory is “the answer evoked by Him of the worship offered Him by his creatures.”[21] Primarily, it is Jesus Christ whose tongue is loosened for praise.[22] Worship is also how human beings participate in Christ’s life by offering their whole lives to God and the gathered worship or liturgy of the Christian community.[23] Worship is praise offered by angels and other creatures.[24] All creatures can recognize and respond and acclaim the Triune God because of God’s glory, God’s form and joy as it overflows into creation. As a whole, in Christ, this is “divine-creaturely worship.”[25] God does not simply free creatures to worship with God’s glory; worship is, by participation, God’s own self-glorification.

How does Barth account for the attractive character of glory? Why is the creature drawn into worship by God’s glory? Barth’s central point is that glorification draws because it is a gift. Indeed, it must be a gift given from the outside to creatures.[26] Christopher Holmes observes that, for Barth, “God’s power and dignity persuade because they originate only in relation to a communion of persons.”[27] We should add that God’s power and dignity persuade because God’s three modes of being are absolutely different from the creation. Of particular relevance is the perichoresis of the three persons, unique to God’s life.[28] There are only three modes of being who fully possess divine being as they fully pervade one another. No creature can enact a simplicity born of perichoresis. Thus, only God can recognize the shine of God’s life. On their own, creatures cannot recognize God because they cannot contain the triune life in the way that the three persons contain one another. Creatures will have to be gifted with glory.

Why is this an attractive gift? The relationship between God’s self-sufficiency and human worth draws human beings to worship. Insofar as the triune God is itself filled with gift and acclaim, “He has full satisfaction in Himself. Nothing else can even remotely satisfy Him. Yet he satisfies Himself by showing and manifesting and communicating Himself as the One who He is.”[29] God’s triune self-satisfaction makes God self-sufficient – God has thus no need for the creation. In relation to the creature, then, the overflow of God’s joy and form into creatures has nothing to do with the worth of creatures. God’s love is “not conditioned by any worthiness to be loved on the part of the loved.”[30] Instead, “it is the object of the divine good-pleasure (Wohlgefallen) which follows the preceding love. The object of the love of God as such is another which in itself is not, or is not yet, worthy of His good-pleasure (Wohgefallen).”[31] Nothing in creatures can provoke, condition or necessitate God to take pleasure in creatures because God is triune. However, when God delights in creatures, this is neither a self-deluding delight nor a heuristic assurance for anxious creatures.  God’s delight in creatures creates their delightfulness. In a sentence, “Amabilis wird der von Gott Geliebte als amatus.[32] The overflow of God’s glory gives worth to creatures when God needs absolutely nothing from them to enjoy them, including their worth. Once creatures become awakened to the gratuity of their worth, creatures become grateful and thus worship.[33]

Why are human beings drawn to worship? Human beings are drawn to worship by God’s glory because worship bears a likeness to God’s glory.[34] To what do creatures correspond when they worship? They correspond to Jesus Christ, the act in which “God does not keep to Himself the fullness and . . . sufficiency of His divine being.”[35] Barth writes, “God gives Himself to the creature. This is His glory revealed in Jesus Christ, and is therefore the sum of the whole doctrine of God.”[36] When the Father begets the Son, the Father gives all of his divinity to the Son and likewise with the Spirit. When God includes the creation in that divine life in and through Jesus Christ, all of God’s divinity is being given to the creation as well. Indeed, the donation of the incarnation “is not strange” to God because God just is the eternal self-donation that is the triune life.[37] Human glorification will then take a form that conforms to God’s own self-donation. In Jesus Christ, when a creature is drawn into God’s glory, its worship is offering “nothing more and nothing less than itself.”[38] A double offering or glorification occurs in Jesus Christ: God offers everything in creation and creation offers everything in return, or worships.

Also, as noted above, the overflow of God’s glory into creation is unnecessary to God, and so free and gratuitous. As a result, when God’s free glory is shared with the creation, it begets a correspondingly free worship. Barth is even willing to say that “when we establish and expound the praise of God given by the creature . . . it is quite untrue in the abstract to say that the creature is under an obligation to serve the glory of God.”[39] As Barth says, “what can ability and obligation and necessity mean when everything depends on the gift of the divine love . . . ?”[40] God has freely chosen to include creatures in God’s own glorification, to be “the echo of God’s voice.”[41] God freely acclaims God’s self and shares that self-acclaim with creatures. The creaturely echo would also then be a voice – a voice of praise. Creatures cannot be an echo of God’s glory if they are simply obligated to be that echo of praise. They can only be an echo if they are freely attracted to being God’s voice, just as God glorified them in freedom. When creatures catch on to the freedom of God’s glory which has been poured out on them in Christ, they too begin to act in freedom. They freely enjoy offering a voice of praise to God’s glory.

Lastly, worship corresponds to “the jubilation with which the Godhead is filled from eternity to eternity.”[42] In Christ and through the Spirit, God gives freely and gratuitously joy, God’s own power to be moved by God. In correspondence to God’s joy, Barth describes worship in vulnerable terms. As such, honoring, thanking and serving God happens when human beings have “a heart’s willingness and readiness to live unto Him.”[43] Given that joy is a sharing in God’s self-satisfaction, the joyful are confident that “life will reveal itself as God’s gift of grace.”[44]  For God’s joy is an acclaim at God’s own completeness, God’s own perfection. When human beings worship, they joyfully and gratefully entrust their lives to the God who will perfect their life with God’s own perfect glory. And so, worship is what happens when the church “exchanges its working clothes for its festal attire.”[45] Worship is the creaturely form of God’s jubilation, God’s own vulnerability before God’s own perfected form.

God’s Joy and the Election of Christ

In Barth’s theology, the doctrine of God also includes the doctrine of predestination. Within Barth scholarship, Barth’s revision of the traditional Reformed approach to predestination is considered to be a definitive feature of Barth’s theology.[46] Barth considered the doctrine of predestination to have a problematic legacy in most Reformed discussions and put forth a revision that had deep implications for his theology as a whole. Although not often discussed, his doctrine of glory shaped both his critique and overall approach to predestination. In light of the argument of this essay, we will explore how Barth reshaped the Reformed doctrine of predestination in order to strengthen its capacity to both express God’s joy in Christ and to elicit joy in other human beings, resulting in their attraction to worship.

One of Barth’s critiques of the traditional Reformed doctrine of predestination was that it did not properly elicit joy in human beings. For Barth, one purpose of predestination is that humanity “may be joyful in time and eternity as the beloved of God, and as a partner in the covenant.”[47] In contrast, for Barth, the traditional Reformed doctrine of predestination is “a mixed message of joy and terror, salvation and damnation.”[48] The use of the language of God’s good-pleasure is at the heart of this mixed message. The traditional Reformed doctrine uses the language of God’s good-pleasure to describe the inscrutability of God’s eternal choice to elect and reprobate. For Barth, the traditional accounts would affirm as “a bald statement of fact” that to elect or condemn was a matter of God’s good-pleasure.[49] Those who receive the gift of faith unto salvation do not receive it based on foreseen faith, but solely on the basis of the good pleasure of God – this is God’s decree of election.[50] Those who end up without faith, and thus incur damnation, are also decreed to be passed over on the basis of God’s good-pleasure, resulting in their damnation for their sin – this is God’s decree of reprobation.[51]Appealing to God’s good-pleasure means simply affirming that God does whatever God pleases with election and reprobation. [52]  For Barth, this description of God’s predestinating decree could not be “unequivocatingly” presented as “good news.”[53] God’s relationship with the creature appears arbitrary or capricious. Either recipients of this doctrine fear that they are on the wrong side of God’s choice or they become arrogant about where they are placed.[54] Either way, this doctrine undercuts the joy that the revelation of God’s decree is meant to elicit.

The chief problem with the traditional accounts is that they describe the decree of election and reprobation without appealing to the history of Jesus Christ as the revelation of that decree.[55] God’s decree becomes asserted through scriptural text, but its form is obscured and inscrutable because God’s actions in Jesus Christ’s history does not provide a “witness to His glory” exercised in predestination.[56] Thus, Barth writes:

In this decree we do not have to assert a God of omnipotence and to cower down before Him. In all His incomprehensibility we may know Him and love Him and praise Him as the One who has truly revealed to us His wisdom and mercy and righteousness, and who has revealed Himself as the One who is Himself all these things. God’s glory overflows in this the supreme act of His freedom: illuminating, and convincing, and glorifying itself; not therefore demanding a sacrificium intellectus but awakening faith.[57]

God’s glory is God’s joy or good-pleasure, as seen earlier. Thus, God’s eternal joy in electing is being obscured by the traditional Reformed doctrine of predestination.[58] In turn, when God’s good-pleasure or joy is obscured, the joy meant for the recipients of election is transmuted into the cowering down of fear before God’s absolute power. If God’s glory – God’s joy – is to be seen in God’s decree, then the doctrine of predestination will need to look to the history of Jesus Christ in order to see God’s glorious and thus, joyful, decree.

The positive claim undergirding this critique is that Jesus Christ is the subject and object of election.[59] Since Jesus Christ is the subject and object of election, God’s eternal decree is “identical with what is disclosed to us time” and thus should be interpreted in light of Jesus Christ’s history.[60] Using Jesus Christ’s history as a point of entry means that predestination has many permutations or movements – God elects God’s self to be a human being, God receives that election as a human being in Jesus Christ, God elects other human beings in Jesus Christ, God elects God as a human being in Jesus Christ, as well as other distinctions.[61] In part, by identifying these movements, Barth argues that “Jesus Christ is not merely one object of the divine good-pleasure (Wohlgefallen) side by side with others . . . He Himself is this good-pleasure.”[62] When Barth had identified God’s glory as a reality that overflows in his doctrine of the divine attributes, he was simply abbreviating the doctrine of predestination. In sum, for Barth, Jesus Christ shows that God’s predestination is how “the overflowing of the inner perfection and joy of God” happens.[63] Insofar as Jesus Christ is both God and creature, he both constitutes and reveals the overflow of God’s joy in electing.

One result of this approach is that the good-pleasure of God no longer connotes the sense it has in traditional Reformed accounts of predestination. As seen above, those accounts depicted God’s good-pleasure simply as God’s absolute and inscrutable freedom to dispense salvific grace to whom God chooses. With Barth, the good-pleasure spoken of in Ephesians 1.5, 1.9, Matt. 3.17 and elsewhere unveils that God’s election in Christ accords with God’s joy, God’s vulnerable power to be moved by God’s own form.[64] For Barth, this pleasure of God in election still marks God’s freedom in election.[65] Yet, God’s good-pleasure in election summons worship because it connotes the eternal exuberance God has in electing: “In this primal decision God did not remain satisfied with His own being in Himself . . . this decision can mean only an overflowing of His glory.”[66] God’s good-pleasure draws out worship because election is God eternally, and thus essentially, enjoying a choice to be God for creatures in Jesus Christ.[67] Out of God’s joy, God has elected to put God’s very joy at stake in giving eternal life to creatures.[68] For Barth, if God’s electing good-pleasure is inscrutable and deserves worship, it is because it is “incomprehensible compassion” – it almost seems too good to be true.[69]

             But perhaps the most significant and attractive implication is that human beings can worship a God whose joy encompasses both election and reprobation in the cross. As noted above, in previous versions of predestination, God’s good-pleasure has two ordained results: election and reprobation. Barth agrees, but only because Jesus Christ’s history provides access to both election and reprobation. Barth writes that “There is no . . . mystery of the divine good-pleasure, in which predestination might as well be man’s rejection. On the contrary, when we look into the innermost recesses of the divine good-pleasure, predestination is the non-rejection of man. It is so because is the rejection of the Son of God.”[70] The cross is the definite site of God’s rejection of creaturely resistance to God.[71] This means that the cross is the Son of God receiving the fruits of reprobation. The God who is joy or good-pleasure God has rejected God’s self in Christ on the cross. That makes God’s eternal joy compatible with rejection. As the subject and object of God’s good-pleasure, then, Jesus Christ is the one who receives both election and reprobation.

            For Barth, the primary point of access to God’s joy in Christ’s election and reprobation is Jesus Christ’s steadfastness in the face of the cross and God’s steadfastness in the resurrection. Barth locates Jesus Christ’s steadfastness in his finding his way “to pray that he may give himself to Him” at Gethsemane.[72] In this prayer, Jesus Christ definitely elects God as a human being by submitting to the rejection incurred on the cross.[73] God has joyfully elected to have a covenant partner in the creature, and when Jesus prays it is a result of his “finding of his good-pleasure in God.”[74] Just as God’s joy is the capacity to be moved by God life, Jesus Christ finds that capacity to be vulnerable in assent to God’s will.[75] Barth reiterates that this election of God by the man Jesus is free – indeed, it must be if it emerges with joy.[76] Even more, Jesus Christ has done this as one who has taken on the nature of “the lost son of man.”[77] Jesus Christ, incarnate in a fallen human life, has found a way to be steadfast because he has found himself in God’s good-pleasure even as he undergoes judgment.

Yet, all of this would be unconfirmed without God’s steadfastness to Jesus in resurrecting him. Yes, God is pleased with Jesus on the cross. Yes, Jesus has become pleased with God. Yes, God’s joy in electing creatures to eternal life will not be disturbed or threatened by creaturely sin.[78]  But, all of this cannot be known without the confirmation of the resurrection, which Barth defines here as “the actualization of the overflowing of the inner glory of God.”[79] The resurrection, then, is the further outpouring of God’s joy which communicates to Jesus Christ and other human beings that God is pleased with Jesus’ steadfastness.[80] As such, the resurrection is God’s own vulnerability in the face of Jesus Christ’s steadfastness, God’s own being moved at the site of God’s life on the cross.[81] With this outpouring, human beings can participate in Jesus’ steadfast and ongoing prayer because they are participating in the joy that sustained Jesus Christ’s steadfastness in the first place.[82] The cross and resurrection reveal the good-pleasure of God’s electing, and thus provoke worship, because the cross and resurrection are themselves constituted by God’s eternal joy.

For Barth, all of this means that human beings need not oscillate between joy and terror in the face of the divine predestination. There is now no need to wonder whether one receives election or reprobation. Jesus Christ is both elect and reprobate on behalf of all. If Jesus Christ can be both elect and reprobate, then all other human beings can and will be elect and reprobate as well. Even more, given the finality of the resurrection, the reprobation of the cross is “a stage on the road, an unavoidable point of transition, to the glory of the resurrection.”[83] Human sin and reprobation now belong to the “vanished past” due to the resurrection.[84] Thus, human beings can love, thank, praise and obey the God who has risked everything in joy.[85] Predestination is no longer a mixed message; the reality and doctrine of predestination can “awaken only joy, pure joy.”[86]

Conclusion: Glory and the Ending of Worship

This essay concludes by returning to Matthew Boulton’s claim that, in Christ, God brings worship to an end. Boulton’s work is constructive, but it is also an appropriation of Barth’s theology. Boulton tells the reader to go elsewhere for “more comprehensive treatments” of Barth.[87] Yet, large portions of the book appear to be a straightforward analysis of Barth’s approach to worship that draws out the implications of Barth’s theology of worship in his thesis. This is satisfactory on its own. However, with regard to the thesis and central lines of argument, Boulton offers no disagreements with Barth. In fact, with regard the central lines of argument, the text does not distinguish Boulton’s ideas from Barth’s voice, except through quotation. This style, in combination with a lack of notation about his disagreement with Barth, means that Barth’s voice can become distorted in Boulton’s work.

 Boulton’s argument turns on the claim that worship is a way for human beings to “disengage themselves from the divine embrace” and shift from an I-Thou relationship to a “third-person point of view.”[88] Using the imagery of the opening chapters of Genesis, he describes it thus: “The crisis of sin, of separation, of being away and apart from God, takes place as the human attempt to carry out – apart from God – the ‘work of the people.’ The original walking with God in the cool of the day could only be disrupted and displaced by an attempt to walk – indeed, to stand – before God.”[89] Worship transmutes the creaturely difference from God into a distance indescribable as mutual friendship. In terms of speech, in worship human beings are not speaking with God, we are speaking to or about God. The acts of worship in which human beings praise or thank or appeal to God begin as a means of establishing our place before God. Those acts can be remedied, such that they can be turned into acts of gratitude enacted with Christ and the Spirit.[90] But, finally, at the eschaton, “Prayer and praise and thanksgiving will end . . .  the work of reconciliation will, in the end, pass away – and so will worship.”[91] Even working “with God” in worship will cease.[92] Jubilant friendship will remain, but worship will cease.

How does Barth’s approach differ? At outset, Barth does not believe that worship ends at the eschaton. Barth writes straightforwardly that “the church does not forget the total thanksgiving and service which it will one day offer God in all its members . . . and which is already given God on high by His angels. The church finds comfort in this future, post-temporal, but already supra-temporally eternal worship.”[93] For Barth, worship will never end.

Why do Boulton and Barth come to such different conclusions? Boulton’s conclusion represents an appropriation of Barth’s theology of worship without considering Barth’s doctrine of glory. For Barth, worship is a creaturely reiteration of the divine glory, both originally and eschatologically.[94] God’s glory is the unity of identity and non-identity insofar as God exists in relationship and communion. As Wilfried Härle observes, “Indem Gott in den drei Seinsweisen als Vater, Sohn und Geist existiert, existiert er ‘in Beziehung und Gemeinschaft.’”[95] Even more, God has elected from all eternity to have a covenant partner who is a witness, or a “demonstration in time . . . of His (God’s) eternal self-differentiation.”[96] If worship is the creaturely participation in the vulnerability, acclaim and self-donation of God’s life – God’s joy and form – then offering worship is a way of participating in the relationship between subject and object within God’s own eternal life. Worship is the “echo,” “reflection,” and “witness” of God’s eternal jubilation.[97] As such, for worship to end, God’s glory would have to be something less than eternal. Barth does not go so far as to say that the internal life of God is a life of worship. But, if creatures are to participate in that life of acclaim, one would expect that it would take the form of praise and thanksgiving. For these modes of acclaim recognize that the worshipper is not the source of one’s own being, redemption or perfection. Praise does not happen in God’s immanent life because God is God’s own source of life, peace, and joy. Not so for creatures.

In addition, for Barth, the fact that glory draws out the eternal worship of human beings is demonstrated first and foremost by Jesus Christ. For, as Barth says, “as true Son of Man He is also the normative original of the praise to be ascribed to God by man, the prototype of all doxology as the self-evident response to, and acknowledgment of, the self-demonstration which has come to man from God.”[98] Boulton fails to learn an important lesson from Eberhard Jüngel with regard to Barth’s anthropology: “that man in whose historical existence God defined himself and, in the act of his self-definition, also defined us: the man Jesus.”[99] For Barth, Jesus Christ’s existence does not simply unveil that glory is the “supreme characteristic of the divine being and action.”[100] Indeed, just as glory is the supreme characteristic of the divine being and action, worship is also the supreme characteristic of human being and action. Indeed, because glory is that supreme characteristic of the divine life, worship is the supreme and defining characteristic of human life. If God were to end worship, then, God would be ending human life. But, for Barth, and for others, God’s partnership with humanity in Jesus Christ is eternal, and results from God’s eternal joy. And so, worship will not end.

For Citation:

“No Cowering Down: Glory, Election and Worship in Karl Barth’s Doctrine of God,” in Exploring the Glory of God: New Horizons for a Theology of Glory, ed. Adesola Akala (Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2021).


[1] Matthew Boulton, God Against Religion (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008);  Idem., “’We Pray By His Mouth’: Karl Barth, Erving Goffman, and a Theology of Invocation,” Modern Theology 17, no. 1 (January 2001), 67-83. See God Against Religion, 7-8, for a discussion of the scholarship on Barth’s theology of worship.

[2] God Against Religion, 2. Cf. 12.

[3] Ibid., 37.

[4] Ibid., 122-135.

[5] This section contains a considerable reworking, expansion and recontextualization of some of the ideas in Keith Starkenburg, “Glory, Beauty and Trinity in Karl Barth and David Bentley Hart,” in Karl Barth in Conversation, ed. W. Travis McMaken and David Congdom (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2014), 157-160.

[6] CD II/1, 641. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1956-1975). Hereafter all references to Barth, unless otherwise noted, come from this source, cited according volume, part and page number (with or without the CD abbreviation). When Karl Barth, Die Kirchliche Dogmatik, (Zürich: Evangelischer Verlag, 1932-1967) is being used, it will be cited as KD, volume, part and page number.

[7] II/1, 641.

[8]As Wolf Krötke puts it, “Voraussetzung dieses Verständnisses der Herrlichkeit Gottes ist . . . dass die Herrlichkeit Gottes eigentlich darauf zielt, gesehen zu werden (Wolf Krötke, “Gottes Herrlichkeit und die Kirche,” Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte 2 [1989]: 445). Christopher Holmes writes that “glory . . . reiterates God’s divinity in his act of establishing covenant fellowship” (Christopher Holmes, Revisiting the Doctrine of the Divine Attributes [New York: Peter Lang, 2007], 74).

[9] IV/3.2, 447. Translation modified.

[10] II/1, 650.

[11] II/1, 647.

[12] II/1, 653.

[13] See KD II/1, 734, 738-739 for examples of this.

[14] CD II/1,649/KD 732.

[15] CD II/1, 657. The terms Art, Form, Weise, Gestalt overlap in usage and meaning for Barth, similar to how Barth uses multiple words for joy. For examples, see CD II/1 672/KD 757-758; CD II/1, 664/ KD 749, and especially CD II/1, 657/KD 741.

[16] CD II/1, 657/KD II/1, 741.

[17] CD II/1, 660.

[18] CD II/1, 659/KD 743.

[19] CD II/1, 659/KD 743.

[20] II/1, 647.

[21] II/1, 647.

[22] II/1, 668.

[23] II/1, 676.

[24] II/1, 648.

[25] II/1, 668.

[26] II/1, 671.

[27] Holmes, Revisiting the Doctrine of the Divine Attributes, 82.

[28] II/1, 660.

[29] II/1, 666-667.

[30] II/1, 278.

[31] CD II/1, 278/KD II/1, 312. Translation modified.

[32] KD II/1, 313/CD II/1, 278.

[33] CD II/1, 669.

[34] II/1, 674.

[35] II/1, 645. Cf. II/1, 282.

[36] II/1, 671.

[37] II/1, 662.

[38] II/1, 674.

[39] II/1, 671.

[40] II/1, 672.

[41] II/1, 668.

[42] II/1, 648.

[43] II/1, 674.

[44] III/4, 378.

[45] IV/2, 697.

[46] Bruce L. McCormack, Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology : Its Genesis and Development, 1909-1936 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). See also Shao Kai Tseng, Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016) for a recent discussion of the debates surrounding election in Barth.

[47] II/2, 412.

[48] II/2, 13. 22.

[49] II/2, 156.

[50] Canons of Dort, First Head of Doctrine., Art.10. A translation of the Synod of Dort can be found in Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions (Grand Rapids: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 1988).

[51] Ibid., First Head of Doctrine, Article 15.

[52] This is quite common in Reformed sources (See Heinrich Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics: Set Out and Illustrated from the Sources, Trans. G.T. Thomson [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978], 155, 178-189; Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2: God and Creation, Trans. John Vriend [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004], 385-386. The Synod of Dort, along with later Reformed sources, was able to countenance a human cause of reprobation (that is, sin) in addition to the divine good, at least on one layer. The Synod made a distinction in I.15 between preterition (not choosing to elect) and predamnation (the positive choice to damn). God’s good-pleasure was the sole cause of preterition, but predamnation included sin as the cause for being damned. See Donald Sinnema, The Issue of Reprobation at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) in Light of the History of this Doctrine (Ph.D. diss., Univ. of Toronto, 1985), 427-435. For recent work on Dort, see Revisiting the Synod of Dordt, ed. Aza Goudriaan and Fred van Lieburg (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2011).

[53] II/2, 13.

[54] II/2, 332.

[55] II/2, 64, 154-155.

[56] II/2, 141, cf. II/2, 64, 156.

[57] II/2, 157.

[58] II/2, 140, 103, 115, 134, 136, 138.

[58] II/2, 102.

[59] Idem.                                                                                                                           

[60] II/2, 154-155.

[61] II/2, 102-127.

[62] II/2, 104.

[63] II/2, 412. Cf. II/2, 121.

[64] II/2, 102.

[65] II/2, 30.

[66] II/2, 168.

[67] II/2, 102, 184-185.

[68] II/2, 173.

[69] II/2, 558.

[70] II/2, 167.

[71] II/2, 127.

[72] II/2, 180.

[73] II/2, 123.

[74] II/2, 184-185.

[75] II/2, 126.

[76] II/2, 179.

[77] II/2, 164.

[78] II/2, 169-170.

[79] II/2, 126.

[80] IV/1, 307-308.

[81] II/2, 347.

[82] II/2, 127, 125.

[83] II/2, 173. Cf. II/2, 237.

[84] II/2, 174.

[85] II/2, 412, 163.

[86] II/2, 174.

[87] Bolton, God Against Religion, xviii.

[88] Ibid., 69.

[89] Ibid., 50. Cf. 125.

[90] Ibid., 111-122.

[91] Ibid., 184.

[92] Ibid., 194.

[93] II/1, 675, Cf. 648-649.

[94] II/2, 648 and 675.

[95] Wilfried Härle, Sein und Gnade (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1975); 57-58.  Härle quotes from KD III/2, 390.

[96] II/2, 142.

[97] II/2, 648-649.

[98] IV/3.1, 48.

[99] Jüngel, Theological Essays, Trans. John Webster (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989), 154.

[100] IV/3.1, 47.


Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics. 4 vols. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1956-1975

_____. Die Kirchliche Dogmatik. Zürich: Evangelischer Verlag, 1932-1967.

Bavinck, Herman. God and Creation. Vol. 2, Reformed Dogmatics. Translated by John Vriend. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004.

Boulton, Matthew. God Against Religion. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.

_____. “’We Pray By His Mouth’: Karl Barth, Erving Goffman, and a Theology of Invocation.” Modern Theology 17, no. 1 (January 2001): 67-83.

Goudriaan, Aza and Fred van Lieburg, eds. Revisiting the Synod of Dordt. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2011.

Härle, Wilfried. Sein und Gnade. Berlin: De Gruyter, 1975.

Heppe, Heinrich. Reformed Dogmatics: Set Out and Illustrated from the Sources. Translated by G.T. Thomson. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1978.

Holmes, Christopher. Revisiting the Doctrine of the Divine Attributes. New York: Peter Lang, 2007.

Jüngel, Eberhard.. Theological Essays. Translated by John Webster. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989.

Krötke, Wolf. “Gottes Herrlichkeit und die Kirche: Zum Gottesverständnis der

            Auseinandersetzung zwischen Karl Barth und Otto Dibelius.” Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte 2 (1989): 437-450.

McCormack, Bruce. Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.

Muller, Richard. The Divine Essence and Attributes. Vol. 3, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003.

Sinnema, Donald. “The Issue of Reprobation at the Synod of Dort (1618-1619) in Light of the History of this Doctrine.” Ph.D. diss., University of Toronto, 1985.

Tseng, Shao Kai. Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2016).

Author Bio:

Keith Starkenburg is Professor of Theology at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL. His research explores the theology, ethics and spirituality of land and place, as well as the theology of Karl Barth.

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