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Karl Barth

Direct Price: $15.99 $12.00
Format: Paperback, eBook
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781629958873
Publication Date 11/03/21

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Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886–1968) has made a monumental impact all along the spectrum of theology and ethics. Among evangelicals, however, myths and caricatures have arisen that must be dismantled to achieve a critically and selectively fruitful engagement with his work.

A fresh look at Barth is necessary. Inviting readers to suspend their assumptions and calling evangelicals and Barthians to mutually edifying dialogue, Professor Shao Kai Tseng, a notable Barth scholar, seeks to establish a fair interpretation of Barth’s writings that honors his texts and heeds his intellectual-biographical and intellectual-historical context. He also provides a valuable overview of Barth’s theological impact in both the East and the West to the present day. In the words of Professor George Hunsinger, “This welcome volume takes ecumenical dialogue [on Barth] to a whole new level,” and Professor Michael Horton writes, “I know of no other work that . . . explains Barth’s theology with such skill.”


“Believing that Karl Barth has often been misunderstood by evangelicals, Shao Kai Tseng makes a solid case for taking another look at the Swiss theologian and shows us a way to read him charitably and profitably. If Herman Bavinck engaged and even learned from Kant, Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Feuerbach, the author argues, we can and need to learn from Barth. He’s right about that, and one need not agree with every detail of Tseng’s revisionary reading of Barth to profit a great deal from it. This is a model of how to read theologians with whom one disagrees.”

John Bolt, Jean and Kenneth Baker Professor of Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Calvin Theological Seminary

“Evangelical and Reformed engagement with the theology of Karl Barth continues to develop and mature, and may enter a new era with Shao Kai Tseng’s work. He advances the conversation by bringing Barth into dialogue with the voices of Herman Bavinck and Geerhardus Vos and also by probing more deeply than either knee-jerk rejection or slavish acceptance of what Barth offers. This study will prove invaluable not just to those who teach on Barth but to all interested in some of the most pressing concerns of the Christian worldview in the twenty-first century.”

David Gibson, Minister, Trinity Church, Aberdeen; author, Reading the Decree: Exegesis, Election and Christology in Calvin and Barth

“Karl Barth died more than fifty years ago, but he keeps on being a provocative theologian to new generations. In this book, a fine summary of Barth’s Reformed theology, neo-Calvinist theologian Shao Kai Tseng enthusiastically proposes and participates in a conversation with evangelicals about the core value of Barth’s theology and theirs, to the benefit of both.”

George Harinck, Professor of the History of Neo-Calvinism, Kampen Theological University

“On many points, as Professor Tseng shows, Barth has been misunderstood by friend and foe alike. I know of no other work that, in brief compass, explains Barth’s theology with such skill and engages it from a confessional Reformed perspective. Tethered to the primary sources, this work also displays the continuities and discontinuities with post-Barthian scholars—in Asia as well as the West. This is a gem.”

Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology, Westminster Seminary California

“This welcome volume takes ecumenical dialogue to a whole new level when it comes to Karl Barth and the more conservative wing of the Reformed theological tradition. Gone are the wearisome caricatures of the past. Tseng knows how to treat Barth accurately and fairly without losing his critical edge. While many questions remain to be resolved, Tseng narrows the gap by bringing Barth within hailing distance of those who have long opposed him. The nature and function of Holy Scripture, the scope of universal hope, and the urgency of political responsibility—divisive issues in many older Reformed receptions of Barth—are now ripe for creative reconsideration. This is ecumenical theology at its best, and we are greatly in Tseng’s debt.”

George Hunsinger, McCord Professor of Systematic Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

“As a new-generation Sino-Christian theologian, Shao Kai Tseng has done a great service, not only for his global community of Reformed evangelicals (primarily in the Dutch lineage of Herman Bavinck), but for all others who study the methods of theology. The book is grounded in competent reading of the Barth oeuvre and its reception history, particularly in North America (where Tseng did a great deal of his early theological study) and in the wider Asian context. Tseng’s impressive learning, penetrating insight, theological and philosophical vocabulary, and incisive reasoning are complemented by highly intelligible writing. This introductory work is a valuable guide to the sweep of Barthian literature, now in its fifth generation. The refreshing expression of Tseng’s theological virtues (faith, hope, love) carries the reader along, including worthy critique of Barth when applicable. The benefit of the book is that theological acuity is at the service of theological practice, and it presents us with a substantial Chinese witness to the rich and enduring contribution of Barth to contemporary theology.”

Kurt Anders Richardson, Professor in the Faculty of Theology, McMaster University; Author, Reading Karl Barth

“Tseng accomplishes much in this little volume: he provides not only a brief overview of Barth’s theology, but also an account of its ongoing global significance, not least in Asia. Above all, Tseng is a confident interpreter who carries out a lively, constructive, evangelical engagement with Barth’s theology at a fundamental level.”

Fred Sanders, Professor of Theology, Torrey Honors College, Biola University

“Too often, party lines are hastily drawn between these neighboring streams of Reformed theology: do you follow Barth, Reformed orthodoxy, or neo-Calvinism? Resisting this temptation, Tseng offers a charitable presentation and critical engagement of Barth that triangulates admirably between Barth’s interpreters, Reformed orthodoxy, and Dutch neo-Calvinism, and in so doing charts a refreshing and eclectic way forward. More dialogues and cross-pollination need to happen between these conversations, and Tseng’s book now serves as an invitation to that end.”

Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, DC


The Author

Shao Kai Tseng

Shao Kai Tseng

Shao Kai (“Alex”) Tseng (MDiv, Regent College; ThM, Princeton Theological Seminary; MSt, DPhil, University of Oxford) is research professor in the philosophy department of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. He is the author of Karl Barth’s Infralapsarian Theology and Barth’s Ontology of Sin and Grace, as well as books on Hegel, Kant, and Barth in the Great Thinkers series, and a contributor to the Oxford Handbook of Nineteenth-Century Christian Thought.