O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
I recently wrote a paper analyzing Karl Barth's arguments against Emil Brunner's theses laid out in an essay called "Nature and Grace." Barth was deeply concerned about the consequences of a so-called "true natural theology" which ascribes a "point of contact" for divine revelation apart from God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ, witnessed by the Scripture. Here is how Barth defines "natural theology":
"By 'natural theology' I mean every (positive or negative) formulation of a system which claims to be theological, i.e. to interpret divine revelation, whose subject, however, differs fundamentally from the revelation of Jesus Christ and whose method therefore differs equally from the exposition of Holy Scripture."
We see an extreme example of this here. Sarah has indeed formulated a system (albeit a completely arbitrary and chaotic one which would have been way out of bounds even for "natural theologians" anywhere on the spectrum from Aquinas to Brunner) which claims to be theological, interpreting what she calls divine revelation, but whose subject differs fundamentally from the revelation of Jesus Christ, and whose method differs from the exposition of the Scripture.
Here is the paper, for anyone interested. It merely scratches the surface of this topic and probably raises more questions than it answers, but it did turn me into an unapologetic Barth fan! :)
Karl Barth's Answer to Emil Brunner's "Nature and Grace"
by Tami Jelinek
In 1934 Swiss theologian Emil Brunner (1889-1966) wrote an essay entitled “Nature and Grace” which he calls a contribution to the discussion with his fellow Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968), and in which he states “it is the task of our theological generation to find the way back to a true theologia naturalis.” Barth responded forcefully that same year with his own essay entitled “No!” Barth’s answer is a “no” first of all to the premise that there is such a thing as “a true theologia naturalis,” and furthermore to the “theology of compromise” toward which he sees Brunner’s theses concluding. Barth saw the natural theology of Brunner to be a “false movement of thought by which the church was being threatened.” This paper will summarize and evaluate Barth’s main arguments against Brunner from their common soteriological perspective of sola scriptura and sola gratia, and also with a focus on the nature and subject of divine revelation. Specifically, we will show that Brunner’s assumption of a “point of contact” and a “capacity for revelation” possessed inherently by natural, unregenerate human beings is indeed incompatible with the doctrines of grace he affirms, and represents a departure from the supremacy of the person and work of Christ as the subject of God’s self-revelation to us human beings for the purpose of our redemption. Finally we will confront some of the theological ramifications and consequences of Brunner’s error toward the way the Gospel is perceived and presented by the Church even in America today.