I am tempted to buy Barth....why should I?

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Mike Tourangeau | Forum Activity | Posted: Mon, Nov 30 2020 5:11 PM

What do you think about Barth? He seems to be a titan worth having? Why? Why not?

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Ken McGuire | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 5:56 PM

Mike Tourangeau:
What do you think about Barth?

He is generally considered to one of, if not THE most important theologian of the 20th century. At the very least, it is next to impossible to tell the story of Protestant theology in the 20th century without talking about what all he did, and how he changed it. Personally, I have learned quite a big deal from him - even if I disagree with him on many things.

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Sean | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 6:13 PM

I would second what Ken said.

Reading Barth is worthwhile as he has amazing insights in many different areas. His writing and approach are very different from many other works in systematics/dogmatics.

Additionally, I've found that many (most?) secondary sources about Barth do a rather poor job in explaining his thought, and some greatly misrepresent it. There's no substitute for reading Church Dogmatics yourself. Although it is a extremely long (!) work, I found it an easier read than many other German theologians in translation (e.g., the earlier Moltmann, and Schleiermacher, who was an absolute chore to get through).

Finally, on a personal note, reading Barth changed my life, greatly strengthening my faith at a time when I needed it.

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 6:18 PM

Sean:
Finally, on a personal note, reading Barth changed my life, greatly strengthening my faith at a time when I needed it.

Isn't your avatar a photo of the spines of the complete paperback set of Barth's Church Dogmatics?

I thought I recognized it, and then looked it up, and I think I've confirmed my guess.

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Steve Maling | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 6:32 PM

I join Sean in gratitude for Barth's early and continuing impact on my life.

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Mike Tourangeau | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 6:32 PM

Ok...I bought it. Great price....

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David Wanat | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 6:51 PM

I would have picked it up for that price but, alas, I wouldn’t have the funds until mid-December 

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Mark | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 6:54 PM

Link please

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Sean | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 6:57 PM

Rosie Perera:

Sean:
Finally, on a personal note, reading Barth changed my life, greatly strengthening my faith at a time when I needed it.

Isn't your avatar a photo of the spines of the complete paperback set of Barth's Church Dogmatics?

Yes it is! That is the edition I had available in the library at my college at the time, though I actually did my reading of it in Logos. The Logos edition has a great feature: there's an * by all foreign language quotes (not English or German). Mouse over it and you get the translation in English.

Reasons the Logos edition is vastly superior:

  1. Aforementioned mouseover translations
  2. Doesn't weigh anything or take up any bookshelf space
  3. Some of the text in the print edition is absolutely tiny!
  4. No need to fumble with propping it open while eating & reading

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Sean | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 7:01 PM

Mark:

Link please

https://www.logos.com/product/5758/barths-church-dogmatics  $90.

I paid $300 for it when it first came out in 2008 on CD. Worth every penny.

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 9:00 PM

Sean:

https://www.logos.com/product/5758/barths-church-dogmatics  $90.

I paid $300 for it when it first came out in 2008 on CD. Worth every penny.

Wow! Great price now, and even back then. I paid $549.95 for it in Logos in 2010. Should have waited for a sale, but I was in a very acquisitive phase at the time. I've slowed down in my purchasing in recent years.

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Olli-Pekka Ylisuutari | Forum Activity | Replied: Mon, Nov 30 2020 11:21 PM

Mike Tourangeau:

What do you think about Barth? He seems to be a titan worth having? Why?

Pope Pius XII has allegedly said Karl Barth was "the greatest theologian since Thomas Aquinas." If Barth is recognized at such an official level at Christendom and between the Catholic and Protestant divide, then there must be something to him?

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Dec 1 2020 1:21 AM

Mike Tourangeau:

What do you think about Barth? He seems to be a titan worth having? Why? Why not?

I remember my mother saying something about being suspicious of Barth when I was a young believer. She had heard he was "liberal", so she didn't want to read some book of his that had been given to her, so she was getting rid of it.

Barth was rehabilitated in my mind some years later (still in my 20s), by my pastor in Seattle (Earl Palmer) who sang the praises of Barth. He had been quite influenced by him in seminary at Princeton. He heard Barth when he came on his speaking tour in the US in 1962. At one point during the Q&A, Barth was asked to summarize the essence of his life's work. He replied in the words of the children's song, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so." Another questioner referenced the recent arrest and execution of Adolf Eichmann for his crimes in Nazi Germany. He asked "Now that Eichmann has been put to death, would you say that the crimes of Germany have been laid upon his shoulders?" Barth responded, "No, the crimes of Germany are on quite another man's shoulders." (referring of course, to Jesus).

Earl used to quote regularly from Barth's little book Dogmatics in Outline: "Tell me how it stands with your Christology, and I shall tell you who you are." (Dogmatics in Outline, Harper & Row, 1959, 66) “Christian faith is the gift of the meeting in which men [and women] become free to hear the word of grace which God has spoken in Jesus Christ in such a way that, in spite of all contradicts it, they may once and for all, exclusively and entirely, hold to his promise and guidance.” (p. 15) “Here I am in front of you, like a teacher in Sunday school facing his kiddies, who has something to say which a mere four-year-old can really understand. ‘The world was lost, but Christ was born, rejoice!’” (p. 67)

Other Barth quotes I remember from him were "You can't separate the word from the work" (i.e., you can't separate what Christ said from what he did). I couldn't find that exact quote in Barth, but I found this: "The work of God is revealed in this Word in its totality, being there revealed in such a way that there can be no depth of the knowledge of the divine work except in God’s Word, and the knowledge of the divine work cannot lead us to any depth which is not that of God’s Word." (Church Dogmatics II/2, 150). "What we have is a total crisis, for which we need total help." I couldn't find that exact quote in Barth, but I found this: "And so the limit becomes visible, total help over against total guilt." (Dogmatics in Outline, SCM Classics, 107). "What we discover in the gospel is that the power of evil cannot do ultimate mischief." I cannot find that exact quote in Barth either, but I've found Earl also referring to it as "Even our sins are boundaried; that’s why we cannot do ultimate mischief."

You should check out the Facebook Page Karl Barth for Dummies."The purpose of this page is to make sure that Karl Barth is heard and understood. Our core business is translating Barth into simpler English in order to understand him on his own terms. Too many people rely on what other people think to make judgments about his contribution to theology. We also try to be faithful to his sense of humour to get his message across."

There's also a very good series on The Life of Karl Barth by a friend of a friend of mine here (as yet incomplete).

I confess that I have not read any Barth myself, but I have admiration and awe of him from multiple sources and have been wanting to dig in at some point. I just haven't found the time.

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Sean | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Dec 1 2020 1:35 AM

Rosie Perera:
I remember my mother saying something about being suspicious of Barth when I was a young believer. She had heard he was "liberal", so she didn't want to read some book of his that had been given to her, so she was getting rid of it.

Technically, Barth was the diametric opposite of a liberal theologian. What that resulted in differs from what some might expect, but it's a fact.

Rosie Perera:

You should check out the Facebook Page Karl Barth for Dummies."The purpose of this page is to make sure that Karl Barth is heard and understood. Our core business is translating Barth into simpler English in order to understand him on his own terms. Too many people rely on what other people think to make judgments about his contribution to theology. We also try to be faithful to his sense of humour to get his message across."

There's also a very good series on The Life of Karl Barth by a friend of a friend of mine here (as yet incomplete).

Thanks for those references. When was beginning my Christian studies, I read many things about his theology him that were off-putting. When I got around to reading him, I was blown away by the depth of his faith--both his own personal faith and the faith he was teaching. I actually resented some of the things that I heard about him from what should have been reliable sources--some of them in Logos base packages!--that were 180 degrees away from what he actually said.

Rosie Perera:
I confess that I have not read any Barth myself, but I have admiration and awe of him from multiple sources and have been wanting to dig in at some point. I just haven't found the time.

I started reading the Church Dogmatics during my doctoral studies (largely unrelated) and finished it about a year later. It was a very rewarding experience; it became part of my morning devotional after my Bible. And yes, it does have somewhat of a devotional character to it. I found that after developing a habit of reading it regularly, Barth has a certain cadence and becomes relatively easier to follow. It was a very rewarding experience that, like I said, changed my life. (How specifically I don't know that I can say without out stretching the border of the forum's rules.)

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Dec 1 2020 2:39 AM

Sean:
Technically, Barth was the diametric opposite of a liberal theologian.

Yeah, well, back in those days, to my mother, anything other than strict biblical literalism and even bibliolatry was "liberal".

Sean:
I started reading the Church Dogmatics during my doctoral studies (largely unrelated) and finished it about a year later. It was a very rewarding experience; it became part of my morning devotional after my Bible. And yes, it does have somewhat of a devotional character to it. I found that after developing a habit of reading it regularly, Barth has a certain cadence and becomes relatively easier to follow. It was a very rewarding experience that, like I said, changed my life. (How specifically I don't know that I can say without out stretching the border of the forum's rules.)

This makes me want to start reading it devotionally.

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Sean | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Dec 1 2020 3:52 AM

Rosie Perera:
Yeah, well, back in those days, to my mother, anything other than strict biblical literalism and even bibliolatry was "liberal".

Barth helped save my faith when those things began to collapse for me.

Rosie Perera:
This makes me want to start reading it devotionally.

I'm reminiscing going through my reading notes of CD. Here are some quotes I clipped from the first two half-volumes on "The Doctrine of the Word of God":

CD I.1

87. Quotes Ambrose: “God has no desire to save His people through argument. The kingdom of God is found in simple faith and not in verbal disputes.”

138. “The doubtful thing is not whether God is person, but whether we are.”

156. "If the Church believes what it says it believes, then it is the place where the victory of Jesus Christ is not the last word to be heard and passed on but the first."

164-165. "It is for this reason and in this sense that we finally speak of the Word of God as the mystery of God. The issue is not an ultimate "assuring" but always a penultimate "de-assuring" of theology, or as one might put it, a theological warning against theology, a warning against the idea that its propositions or principles are certain in themselves like the supposed axioms of the mathematicians and physicists, and are not rather related to their theme and content, which alone are certain, which they cannot master, by which they must be mastered if they are not to be mere soap-bubbles." 

225. "If a man, the church, Church proclamation and dogmatics think they can handle the Word and faith like capital at their disposal, they simply prove thereby that they have neither the Word nor faith. When we have them, we do not regard them as a possession but strain after them, hungering and thirsting, and for that reason blessed."

279. "Fear of scholasticism is the mark of a false prophet." Stick out tongue

 CD I.2

29. “Revelation itself is needed for knowing that God is hidden and man blind. Revelation and it alone really and finally separates God and man by bringing them together."

114. “The Easter story, Christ truly, corporeally risen, and as such appearing to His disciples, talking with them, acting in their midst—this is, of course, the recollection upon which all New Testament recollections hang, to which they are all related, for the sake of which there is a New Testament recollection at all.”

122. “The mystery of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ consists in the fact that the eternal Word of God chose, sanctified and assumed human nature and existence into oneness with Himself, in order thus, as very God and very man, to become the Word of reconciliation spoken by God to man. The sign of this mystery revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the miracle of His birth, that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” 

133. “If we wish to state who Jesus Christ is, in every separate statement we must also state, or at least make clear—and inexorably so—that we are speaking of the Lord of heaven and earth, who neither has nor did have any need of heaven or earth or man, who created them out of free love and according to His very own good pleasure, who adopts man, not according to the latter’s merit, but according to His own mercy, not in virtue of the latter’s capacity, but in virtue of His own miraculous power. He is the Lord who in all His action is always Himself entirely and unalterably, in a manner free of all complications or ties, who in His works in the world and on man never ceases in the very slightest to be God, who does not give His glory to another. In this, as Creator, Reconciler and Redeemer, He is a truly loving, serving God. He is the King of all kings just when He enters into the profoundest hiddenness in “meekness of heart.” This has to be said in every statement we make about Jesus Christ. It must never be obscured or denied. Every statement about Jesus Christ that contradicts it is thereby at once unmasked as a false, heretical statement.”

184. “Brunner’s denial of the Virgin birth is a bad business.”

457 "The Word of God is God Himself in Holy Scripture. For God once spoke as Lord to Moses and the prophets, to the Evangelists and apostles. And now through their written word He speaks as the same Lord to His Church. Scripture is holy and the Word of God, because by the Holy Spirit it became and will become to the Church a witness to divine revelation.”

489-490. "If Christ has risen from the dead, then the understanding of the Old Testament as a witness to Christ is not a later interpretation, but an understanding of its original and only legitimate sense."

719. “Scriptural exegesis rests on the assumption that the message which Scripture has to give us, even in its apparently most debatable and least assimilable parts, is in all circumstances truer and more important than the best and most necessary things that we ourselves have said or can say.”

720. “The Bible becomes clear when it is clear that it says this one thing: that it proclaims the name Jesus Christ and therefore proclaims God in His richness and mercy, and man in his need and helplessness, yet living on what God’s mercy has given and will give him. The Bible remains dark to us if we do not hear in it this sovereign name, and if, therefore, we think we perceive God and man in some other relation than the one determined once for all by this name.”

867. “ In the last resort we may say that dogmatic method consists simply in this: that the work and activity of God in His Word are honoured and feared and loved (literally) above all things.”

 

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Bruce Dunning | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Dec 1 2020 10:53 AM

Sean:
I started reading the Church Dogmatics during my doctoral studies (largely unrelated) and finished it about a year later. It was a very rewarding experience; it became part of my morning devotional after my Bible. And yes, it does have somewhat of a devotional character to it. I found that after developing a habit of reading it regularly, Barth has a certain cadence and becomes relatively easier to follow. It was a very rewarding experience that, like I said, changed my life.

I started to read the series and finished the first volume before I was distracted by other reading. Hearing you speak of this is a motivation for me to return. Which volume do you like the best and why? Perhaps I will read it next.

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John W | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Dec 1 2020 11:31 AM

Wow what a great and helpful post Rosie! We attended Univ Pres Ch (UPC) until we moved in 2006. I remember Earl often speaking admiringly of Barth.

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Mike Tourangeau | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Dec 1 2020 11:54 AM

Great thread...thank you everyone

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Rosie Perera | Forum Activity | Replied: Tue, Dec 1 2020 3:23 PM

John W:

Wow what a great and helpful post Rosie! We attended Univ Pres Ch (UPC) until we moved in 2006. I remember Earl often speaking admiringly of Barth.

Cool! People used to jokingly call him Earl the Pearl, but he really was (and still is) a pearl. I left UPC when I came up to Vancouver to study at Regent College, and Earl was instrumental in my decision to come here, since he had taught summer school classes at Regent before. He wrote a recommendation for me for my application, and he and Shirley took me out to lunch to celebrate my decision to leave Microsoft to go do this.

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