The Human as Encounter: Karl Barth’s Theological Anthropology and a Barthian Vision of the Common Good
Karl Barth was one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. Although he was prolific on many topics in theology, he is not often thought of as articulating a vision of the common good. This project attempts to glean from Barth’s theology the building blocks for such a vision, and takes some initial steps toward actually building it, given the material Barth provides. The paper begins by exploring the way Barth constructs his theological anthropology, arguing that its central theme is what he calls “encounter,” characterized by four main elements: seeing eye-to-eye, exchanging speech and hearing, giving and receiving assistance, and doing all these things in a spirit of gladness. The paper then progresses to build on his theological anthropology a structure for envisioning the common good. Claiming that Barth’s concept of encounter provides the nexus between his theological anthropology, social ethics, and what I claim would be a Barthian vision of the common good, the paper finishes by teasing out two main elements of such a vision: societal interactions as the Barthian encounter, and the relationship of the Church and society as a similar encounter.
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