The Anselm Moment: responding theologically to the current times. 39th International Barth Conference

21 until 23 March 2022

It was about 1930 and Karl Barth felt that his theological thoughts began to reach a deadlock. To get out of it, he consulted Anselm of Canterbury. It is a pressing venture to study the impasse Barth was in, and the solutions he found in his book on Anselm. How do we in 2022 relate to Anselm’s and Barth’s methodological instructions, and what do they imply for our own era? That is the focus of this 39th Barth Conference.

About the conference

It was about 1930 and Karl Barth felt that his theological thoughts began to reach a deadlock. For ten years, in a 'time between the times', he had stressed that the only thing theologians could do was to wait for the right word, until God Himself comes and speaks the Word. Theologians can only point out that this is what has to happen.

But do they have no other tasks? Can they never affirm anything about what God has to say and what has occurred in the Word? For ten years, Barth had sought his way in dogmatics with trial and error. He had taught two complete dogmatic lecture series (the so-called ‘Göttingen Unterricht’, repeated in Münster with some adjustments); and a first essay in dogmatical prolegomena had been published in 1927 (Christliche Dogmatik im Entwurf). But still the road to a tenable way of speaking substantively about God was not evident for him. Who could guide him out of this deadlock?

After wanderings along Luther and Augustine, Barth decided in 1930 to enter the lion’s den and to consult the patriarch of scholastic theology: Anselm of Canterbury. And with Anselm of all people, Barth found so much clarity for the path ahead, that --after writing a book on Anselm-- he found the road to what was to become his lifework, the Church Dogmatics.

Thus, Barth did not simply continue hammering on the anvil of a nearly negative theology (we have to speak about God, but we emphatically can’t), but he searched instead for a positive start (although we can’t decide about God, we have to speak about God). This had everything to do with the era he lived in. In the early 1930s, derailments in theology and society were so fierce, that opposition against them should be solid and substantial, in order to offer an alternative in the storms of the time. Becoming a pupil of Anselm was not Barth’s innocent intellectual exercise: it was a vital venture in order to speak a right word--which in the following years even became a straightforward confession (the Barmen Declaration).

It is therefore a pressing venture to study the impasse Barth was in, and the solutions he found in his book on Anselm. How do we in 2022 relate to Anselm’s and Barth’s methodological instructions, and what do they imply for our own era? In this way, the 39th Barth Conference will get a very actual focus.

In 2020 the first Dutch translation of Barth’s book on Anselm was published by Wessel ten Boom. He passed away on 2 October 2021. This Conference may be seen as a tribute to him.

Speakers

  • Prof. dr. Dr. Georg Plasger (Siegen) will introduce us to what Barth did and (especially) did not learn from Anselm, particularly with regard to the doctrine of atonement.
  • Dr. Timothy Stanley (Newcastle, Australia) will examine Barth's turn to Anselm from the context of philosophical issues of the time (1930) but also from central philosophical discussions of the moment.
  • Dr. Juliane Schüz will analyze and also assess the concept of faith in Barth's Anselmusbook (Fides quaerens intellectum: Faith in search of insight) from her own practice as a congregational minister.

Call for papers

During the conference, there will be opportunity to present short papers connected with the subject. It is possible to submit proposals for short papers until 31 December 2021 to Prof. dr. E. van ‘t Slot via the form below. Proposals and short papers must be written either in English or in German.

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