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Karl Barth’s definition of church in politics and culture: Growth points for the church in South Africa

Wessel Bentley

HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies; Vol 63, No 4 (2007), 1643-1661. doi: 10.4102/hts.v63i4.263

Submitted: 07 May 2007
Published:  07 May 2007


The article describes briefly Karl Barth’s views on church, its role in politics and how it relates to culture. This is done by identifying the way in which the church participates in the social realm through its relationship with the State. The historic religious question asks whether there is a natural mutual-determining relationship between church and State. The church may ask whether faith and politics should mix, while a secular state may question the authority which the church claims to speak from. To a large extent culture determ-ines the bias in this relationship. History has shown that church-State dynamics is not an either/or relationship, whereby either the authority of the church or the authority of the State should function as the ruling norm. Karl Barth describes the dynamics of this relationship very well, within the context of culture, in the way his faith engages with the political status quo. Once the relationship is better understood, Barth’s definition of the church will prove to be more effective in its evangelical voice, speaking to those who guide its citizens through political power.

“Fürchtet Gott, ehret den König!” (1 Pt 2:17)

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Author affiliations

Wessel Bentley, University of Pretoria, South Africa



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ISSN: 0259-9422 (print) | ISSN: 2072-8050 (online)

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