Do people know about God just by being human beings? Or do they need special divine assistance, through the Bible and the church? `Natural Theology' is the idea that human beings `by nature', that is just through being human, know something of God; or that perhaps they gain such knowledge from observing the world we live in. Its opposite is `revealed theology', or the knowledge of God communicated only through special channels - through Jesus Christ, through the
Bible, through the church. Natural theology was long accepted as a basic ingredient in all theology, but in the twentieth century it was rejected by important theologians, especially Karl Barth. His views denied all natural theology and placed greater emphasis on the Bible. But what if the Bible itself
uses, depends on, and supports natural theology? In this book, Professor Barr pursues these questions within the Bible itself and within the history of ideas, earlier and more recent; and he looks at their implications for religion and theology in the future.
`This is an important book for guiding much Protestant theology back from a strange byway it took under the pressure of Karl Barth. Barr's treatment once again locates faith and theology in the natural openness of the human spirit to God, making us radically able to receive as pure gift the self-revelation of God in his word to the ancient people of the covenant, and in his Son Jesus Christ.'
Theological Studies, December 1993
`As usual, a very thought-provoking book, vintage Barr.'
Old Testament Abstracts Vol 16, 1993
`This is a book from which much can be gained and on many levels. Not only is it written with an admirable clarity of thought and style, it is also rich and rewarding, shedding a great deal of light on many subjects along the way of exploring its main theme ... The dialogue with Karl Barth throughout the book provides a thoughtful and valuable commentary on contemporary theology and its methods ... excellent book.'
`those concerned with biblical theology will find matters re-assessed and fresh balances struck, chiefly in relation to Old Testament examples, with Barr's usual authority and clarity'
`Students of Natural Theology must surely be grateful that an Old Testament scholar of Professor Barr's distinction should have elected to treat in his Gifford Lectures the complex question of the treatment of that topic in the literature of Old Testament, Apocrypha and New Testament. They will not be disappointed by this wide-ranging and fearlessly controversial work ... I do not expect to read a better treatment of Paul's speech on the Areopagus ... It
is likely to prove an indispensable guide in the field indicated by its title.'
`a handsome volume'
The Expository Times, Volume 104, July 1993
'Barr is obviously in sympathy with his subject'
Christian Century, July/August 1993
'there is much here to provoke and stimulate thought on many themes ... Barr writes in an engaging manner - he is never less than interesting - so the encounter is all the more enjoyable. For any who are concerned with how the Bible relates to theology, this encounter should not be missed.'
Regent's Review 3, Autumn 1993
'Barr has written a major work ... Barr in compelling fashion invites us to rethink and reorder our ways of interpretation.'
Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary, Modern Theology, 10:2, April 1994
'The Gifford Lectures for 1991 make a splendid book, with bibliographies and indexes included. As usual, Barr makes complex problems appear in a different, and usually clearer, light, yet without undue simplification.'
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 64 (1994)
`This book is surprising ... because of its move towards theological reflection ... I could never come within touching distance of the scholarly authority with which Barr marshals his forces ... Biblical Faith and Natural Theology emphasizes once again James Barr's significant contribution to British theology.'
`Barr's critique of Barth's views on natural theology at the exegetical, historical, and theological levels is powerful and persuasive ... Barr's exegetical skills and theological insights have always impressed me, as they do again in this instance.'
Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology
`Straightforward to read ... its combativeness makes it lively ... Its relevance for current concerns makes it a timely addition to a renewed debate. The footnotes make for convenient consultation and give useful additions.'
An important milestone in biblical interpretation...Barr's work has even wider implications than on the supposition that it is simply about natural theology in its own right...it is an informative guide to all the biblical material relevant to natural theology, and more besides.
`The book raises profound questions about what Scripture is. This book, like all Barr's previous works, is courageous, stimulating and freshing.'
Walter Vogels, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Theology and Religious Reflection
1: Natural theology in this century: Concepts and approaches
2: Paul on the Areopagus
3: St Paul and the Hebrew background
4: Natural theology in the Jewish tradition
5: Within the Old Testament
6: A return to the modern discussion
7: Religion, tradition, and natural theology
8: The image of God and natural theology
9: Science, language
11: Natural theology and the future of biblical theology