Fortress Press

The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth

The Sign of the Gospel

Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth

W. Travis McMaken (Author)


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The theology of the sacraments is one of the most contested parts in Barth’s theology, none more so than the doctrine of baptism. Barth’s proposals on baptism have generated intense conversation and disagreement, not only on its application to Protestant and ecumenical theology but even on its own consistency with Barth’s larger dogmatic project. McMaken takes up this controversial question, sets it in its proper context within the history of doctrine and Barth’s systematic work, and argues for a constructive reclamation of infant baptism that accords with Barth’s overarching theological concerns and insights, notably from Barth’s mature theological commitments. Pivotally, this volume claims that a reorientation of the doctrine of baptism opens up a new perspective on the practice of infant baptism on the basis of Barth’s theology; this new perspective, as well, holds the potential for wide, ecumenical application as a form of the proclamation of the gospel and a vital dimension of the church’s missional vocation. A commanding volume for scholars and students in systematic theology, ecumenical studies, and sacramental theology.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800699994
  • eBook ISBN 9781451465372
  • Dimensions 6 x 9
  • Pages 352
  • Emerging Scholars category Theology
  • Publication Date August 1, 2013


“The rejection by the 'mature' Barth of infant baptism has long been problematic for paedo-baptists, raising the question of whether there is a contradiction with and departure from his earlier theological position. In this thorough and careful study, Travis McMaken demonstrates that Barth's view is a quite logical development from the earlier theology of election, but not the only logical development. This work is an important contribution to both Barth studies and the theology of baptism.”
—Bryan D Spinks
Yale Divinity School
“This wide-ranging, insightful, and sophisticated work is, without doubt, a signal contribution to Barth studies: a fascinating explication of the Church Dogmatics, and related texts, that will be gratefully received. Yet it is also a valuable intervention into contemporary discussions, and will be of especial interest to those who wish to think well—and to think better—about baptism.”
—Paul Dafydd Jones
University of Virginia

“Exhibiting lucid analysis and deep insight, The Sign of the Gospel offers an impressive exploration of the doctrine of baptism in the theology of Karl Barth. McMaken traces the historic and scriptural backdrop to Barth's position, analyses his mature rejection of infant baptism, and constructs one way of accepting infant baptism within Barth's framework. The result is a welcome and significant contribution to Barth studies in particular and sacramental theology in general.”
Paul Nimmo
University of Edinburgh