Karl Barth on Human Dignity in a Natural World
This paper examines the status and stature of the human in Barth’s doctrine of creation and covenant. Barth clearly advances some strong claims for human uniqueness and dignity in his doctrine of creation. He interweaves covenant and creation, so that the doctrine of creation is shaped by human, historical aims and laws. He considers the human relation of encounter the imago Dei, and even more, that Christ in his incarnate life is the goal and pattern and agent of the whole of creation. But there are other notes as well. Barth minimizes traditional claims that the human being is especially prized as creature above others, or that rationality and inwardness are gifts to honor above all other creaturely powers. Barth is more open to biological continuity in the whole natural realm than many traditionalists, and shows more interest in embodiment than those who focus on mind-body dualism or strong accounts of a separable soul. Barth is also well known as a critic of all things bourgeois, and considered elevated claims to human culture and the moral life so much puffery and self importance.