• Responsible Before God: Human Responsibility in Karl Barth’s Moral Theology

      Clough, David; Fulford, Ben; Leyden, Michael (University of Chester, 2014-04)
      This thesis contributes to the recent scholarly re-evaluation of Karl Barth’s moral theology through an examination of the theme of human responsibility in his thought. The language of responsibility recurs throughout Barth’s ethical writings, and its frequency and strategic significance in his articulation of the nature of the active human agent in Christian ethics means it is worthy of scholarly consideration. To date, no extended study of this topic in Barth’s thought exists, and, apart from critical summaries of his use of responsibility language in select parts of the Church Dogmatics in corners of the secondary literature, responsibility-ethicists have tended to ignore Barth’s work on this topic. My intention, through exegetical reading of several key texts, is to provide explication, clarification, and analysis of his understanding of human responsibility. On the basis of this exegetical work I shall argue that the idea of responsibility is in fact a key component of Barth’s theological ethics and significantly informs his presentation of human agency. Following the introductory chapter, the central chapters of the thesis are exegetical readings of human responsibility in three major texts from the Barth corpus: the Ethics lectures; the ethics of CD II/2; and the special ethics of CD III/4. The fifth and final chapter is a synopsis of the development of Barth’s understanding and his articulation of human responsibility across these texts. My constructive proposal as to how we may understand Barth’s overall account is based on the preceding exegetical work. I argue that the ethics of the Church Dogmatics ought to be read together, and that in doing so we see that the mature Barth offers: 1) a theological description of human responsibility, which I argue is a kind of moral ontology in which the human agent is called to inhabit a particular space in relation to God; and 2) concrete indications of the kind of responsible actions that represent and enable the embedding of that description in human life. He develops what I term “indicative practices” which give shape to human lives, enabling human agents to navigate the moral space into which they have been placed. These two elements taken together are, I suggest, the sum of Barth’s account of human responsibility.