Stephen Thorson


Among many achievements, Barth redefined the problem of objectivity in theology as well as proposed a theological anthropology of continuing influence. The question of objectivity also exercised the minds of C. S. Lewis and his close friend, Owen Barfield, during that same decade, leading to their own versions of idealist anthropology. Although Lewis claimed that the resulting epistolary controversy between them was a “major turning point” in his life,6 scholars of Lewis’s life and works, including biographers, have largely ignored this hint, and skipped this part of his intellectual conversion.7 Their debate began over objectivity in human knowledge, especially in human imagination, and ended as a wide-ranging argument over the nature of the human soul and its relationship to Spirit. Analyzing the development of Barth’s views on the two major philosophical points at issue between Lewis and Barfield in the 1920s can help us discern the different final positions of each of these three thinkers on a single scale.