Karl Barth's unnatural exegesis : an inquiry into Barth's biblical interpretation with special reference to Christ and Adam
This thesis is an enquiry into the problem of Barth’s unnatural exegesis. Previous attempts to account for the distinctiveness or strangeness of Barth’s exegesis have emphasised its theological character or its context in Church dogmatic tradition. This thesis judges this approach inadequate; in place of theological or dogmatic principles, this thesis searches for a basic hermeneutical principle which will render Barth’s exegesis intelligible and constructive. It is argued that this basic hermeneutical principle is that human subjectivity is predetermined by trans-individual structures of sin, self-deception and self-interest. This means that apparently impartial or spontaneous perceptions or judgements are predetermined by deep structures of sin concealed from our awareness. Barth’s theology is intended to expound what it means to speak of salvation through Christ in view of this trans-individual, trans-subjective nature of sin. Barth’s basic hermeneutical principle is constructively compared with R.Niebuhr’s concept of corporate self-deception, and with the thought of H.-G.Gadamer, who recognised that human subjectivity is predetermined by structures which transcend immediate awareness. In consequence, Barth held that apparently impartial or critical interpretations of Scripture serve to reinforce hidden structures of culturally ingrained forms of sinful self-interest. This is illustrated by means of a case study of Christ and Adam which represents Barth’s mature interpretation of Romans 5. It is demonstrated that Barth’s concern was with how interpretations of Romans 5 were covertly determined by the corporate self-deception of the West in the context of the Cold War and western anti-communism. Finally, it is argued that Barth’s theology and scriptural interpretation were closely grounded in his early political involvement and in his reaction to the outbreak of the First World War.