This chapter traces the theology of the sacraments of perhaps the greatest Protestant theologian of the twentieth century, the Swiss Reformed theologian and pastor Karl Barth. Regarding Baptism and Eucharist as addressed in Barth’s magnum opus, Church Dogmatics, sacraments, along with preaching, are deemed the two primary ways the church proclaims Jesus Christ as the Word of God. Barth emphasizes sacraments as signs of the “secondary objectivity of God,” signs of receiving the self-giving God. While linking Christian baptism with the baptism of Jesus, fascinatingly, Barth eventually argues that baptism is not an actual sacrament. In fact, ultimately Barth actually denies any sacrament except Jesus Christ. Thus, when it comes to sacramental theology, Barth “acts as a healthy foil to those tempted to inflate the role of human institutions and practices.”
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