Augsburg Fortress

A Theology of the Third Article: Karl Barth and the Spirit of the Word

A Theology of the Third Article: Karl Barth and the Spirit of the Word

Toward the end of his career, Karl Barth made the provocative statement that perhaps what Schleiermacher was up to was a “theology of the third article” and that he anticipated in the future that a true third-article theology would appear. Many interpreters, of course, took that to indicate not only a change in Barth’s perception of Schleiermacher but also as a self-referential critique. The author investigates this claim, contesting the standard interpretations, and argues for a Barthian pneumatology—a doctrine of the Holy Spirit grounded in the scriptural witness and connected to the vital Christological and dialectical theology found in Barth’s project.
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  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9781451464719
  • eBook ISBN 9781451469578
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 240
  • Publication Date June 1, 2014


"Dr. Smith surprises us with a fresh look at the theology of Karl Barth and shows that this fascinating theologian still has aspects that so far have not been dealt with sufficiently. The content and the style of this book make reading it a stimulating, intellectual pleasure as the author manages to combine high quality academic research with relevant insights for preachers and all other theologians active in the church. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is one of today’s key issues in Christianity and Dr. Smith’s book brings in Karl Barth as a voice that still matters."
—Herman Johan Selderhuis
Theologische Universiteit Apeldoorn

"This meticulous study of Karl Barth's voluminous theology writings is thrilling to read. It turns out as an anti-spiritualistic way of interpreting the third article with special attention to pneumatology. This modern—American—reading of Karl Barth allows, after long years of antagonistic reception of Schleiermacher’s theology in the light of Barth’s contradiction to it, first steps to a late reconciliation. Smith shows intriguingly how deep even the earlier Barth was impacted by his reading of the fountain head of liberal theology and, even in his critique, shared some of Schleiermacher's ideas on modernity and a certain understanding of secularism. I recommend the book with greatest enthusiasm as a step forward to a more complex and thus better understanding of Barth and his relation to the earlier theological tradition."
Markus Wriedt
Fachbereich Evangelische Theologie, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main
"This book is more than a clarifying exposition of Karl Barth's pneumatology, though it certainly is that. It makes a fresh case for renewed attentiveness to the often-neglected, frequently-diminished third person of the Trinity. Most significantly, perhaps, it points out the Holy Spirit’s deep, organic, and enduring connection to the divine revelation in Jesus Christ. Whether the tide of contemporary Christian spirituality, which appears ascendant everywhere, will remain Christian as it broadens and develops may well depend on whether the vision of this fine study prevails."
Glen G. Scorgie
Bethel University

"Smith puts forth a powerful argument, aptly captured in the trope 'inverberation,' for the ever-renewing actuality of the Holy Spirit in 'the continuing reality of the singular Word made flesh,' as that Word is proclaimed in and by the Church. His insightful reading of Barth's theology of the third article provides coordinates from which the actualism of the Holy Spirit serves to chart a path to a constructive convergence of Barth with Schleiermacher."
Philip J. Rossi, SJ
Marquette University

"Using Barth's lectures on the Fourth Gospel as a point of departure, Aaron T. Smith offers a powerful account of Barth's pneumatology; he joins with the growing number of scholars who challenge the (wholly misguided) claim that Barth's 'Christological concentration' makes for a neglect of the Holy Spirit. But Smith's book is much more than an interpretative achievement. It also commends Barth's pneumatology as an invaluable constructive provocation—an occasion for theologians to think newly about God's redemptive activity in the here-and-now, about the nature of created time and space, and, last but not least, about community and faith in a fallen world. I recommend it with great enthusiasm."
Paul Dafydd Jones
University of Virginia