Bonhoeffer, Barclay, and Barth.


It’s like a recurring nightmare. I walk into a Reformed Baptist assembly, and there on the bookshelf is a book dedicated to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a ‘hero of the faith’! Yet this happened when I visited the two Reformed Baptist assemblies in my area. The pastors rejoice in ‘the Confession’, and point out that other Christians ought to follow it, yet, these pastors have a ‘theologian’ on their shelves who denied the word of God! It reminds me of the Reformed Baptists from the north of Scotland who were looking for a pastor who fitted their exact profile. Nobody was good enough, it seems. Yet, right there in the living room of the main elder of this congregation was a picture of a renowned Roman Catholic cardinal. When my friend told the elder this, he immediately, with great embarrassment, removed the picture. Why was the picture there? Because he thought the man was a hero of the faith!

Of course, most evangelicals will think I’m blathering about saint Bonhoeffer. I’ll give just one quote (because I can’t stand to read the endless gibberish he writes):

“A bit more about ‘religionlessness’. I expect you remember Bultmann’s paper on the demythologizing of the New Testament? My view of it to-day would be not that he went too far, as most people seem to think, but that he did not go far enough. It is not only the mythological conceptions, such as the miracles, the ascension and the like (which are not in principle separable from the conceptions of God, faith and so on) that are problematic, but the ‘religious’ conceptions themselves.” [Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, 155.]


Let’s listen, then, to the second man who walks into the bar. He’s on many a pastor’s bookshelf, or at least is read by them online on some evangelical website or other. Barclay writes:

“But in one thing I would go beyond strict orthodoxy- I am a convinced universalist. I believe that in the end all men will be gathered into the love of God….

…If God was no more than a King or Judge, then it would be possible to speak of his triumph, if his enemies were agonizing in hell or were totally and completely obliterated and wiped out. But God is not only King and Judge; God is Father- he is indeed Father more than anything else. No father would count it a triumph to obliterate the disobedient members of his family. The only triumph a father can know is to have all his family back home. The only victory love can enjoy is the day when its offer of love is answered by the return of love. The only possible final triumph is a universe loved by and in love with God.”[William Barclay, A Spiritual Autobiography (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1977), 65, 67.]

Notice how Eerdmans, supposedly an ‘evangelical’ publisher, published this heresy!


Then there is the last man to enter the bar, Barth! I never forget my conversation with two high-ranking theologians-statesmen of Trinity, Deerfield a number of years back. I asked them whether they considered Barth to be a Christian. They were taken back by the question, but both said that they thought he was, or might be. One answered that his writings were so voluminous that it was hard to judge him. Yet, my former professor, Paul Badham, an old-school Liberal theologian, told me that he believed that Barth’s theology was deceptive: it took traditional evangelical terms and theology, eviscerated them, and poured into them his own Neo-orthodox theology. A rank Liberal could see what was as plain as the nose on one’s face, but the great evangelical scholars could not!

Barth was in a very weird sexual relationship. Barth was married with five children. He hired a secretary, Charlotte von Kirschbaum, fell in love with her, and wanted to marry her. His wife did not consent to a divorce, so he moved his girlfriend into the family home. (Yes, the children still lived there.) His wife hated the arrangement, but put up with it. This went on for thirty-five years in the same home. On the same gravestone are the names of Barth, his wife, and his lover! [Mark Galli, Karl Barth: An Introductory Biography for Evangelicals (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2017), 67-69, 91, 93, 129, 136.]

To Barth, we’re all in one big happy family:

“On the basis of the eternal will of God we have to think of every human being, even the oddest, most villainous or miserable, as one to whom Jesus Christ is Brother and God is Father; and we have to deal with him on this assumption. If the other person knows that already, then we have to strengthen him in the knowledge. If he does not know it yet or no longer knows it, our business is to transmit this knowledge to him. On the basis of the knowledge of the humanity of God no other attitude to any kind of fellow man is possible.  It is identical with the practical acknowledgment of his human rights and his human dignity. To deny it to him would be for us to renounce having Jesus Christ as Brother and God is Father.” (Karl Barth, The Humanity of God, 53)

And I could repeat endlessly Barth’s drivel, but I spare the reader.

Concluding thoughts

I know, I know, my critics will say that, I’ve haven’t studied them in context; I haven’t read them fully; I haven’t appreciated the volume of their writings. Have I read every word? No chance! Barth’s pseudo-theological volumes are the equivalent to reading tomes of Biden’s babbling speeches. I can only take so much!

Simple fact is, that most of those- not all- who esteem these three men have not really read them. Please, please, please stop making excuses for them. Please read the actual theologians to find out what they really believe. Don’t naively trust every elder and theologian out there. Do your own research.