I have just finished reading 350 pages of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics.  That would feel like an accomplishment were it not for the fact that the entire work weighs out at 9000 pages.  So after the past week or so of slugging through Volume VI, Part 1, Sections 57 through 59, I have read less than %4 of Dogmatics

It was like wading in a thick, dense, soupy mass of the Gospel.  Really, that is the image that comes to mind.  The prose is tough to follow.  The logic sprawls and spirals all over the place.  But everything is seeped and soaked in the wonder, shock, and glory of the Gospel.  Christ’s undoing of sin’s undoing of humanity, the great Yes of God to our desperate plight, the aching dark of the cross and the awkward surprise at the empty tomb… these realities of our confession are explored in strange heights and depths.  Though reading Barth has been hard intellectual work, I found myself at certain moments reading with the alertness of a hungry soul in need of a divine word to strengthen and challenge.  I was not disappointed.

My evangelical intellectual upbringing has instilled within me a sense of dread and suspicion when it comes to 20th century German theologians.  Some of this is well-founded, of course.  But even though Barth is controversial in some aspects, I have to say that reading “The Way of the Son of God into the Far Country,” “The Judge Judged in Our Place,” and “The Verdict of the Father” was like reading sophisticated—yet heartfelt—doxology rather than dry, theological palaver.  It is the reading of a preeminent pastor-theologian whose vocational disposition was that of a wide-eyed child spelunking and hiking in theological chasms and peaks that most of us are content to simply know are out there somewhere should an overly-interested explorer want to take up the trailhead.

I will keep following Barth along those high and deep paths, as I have maturity in mind and heart to do so.  I hope to expand the measly %4….

Any other Barth-readers out there?  What makes him controversial?  What about his work and life has challenged or helped you?  Curious….

4 thoughts on “CD VI.1 57-59

  1. I have read very little of Barth directly, I let PhD-types (and PhD students!) read for me and then tell me what Dr. Barth said. I just listened to a lecture by Charles MacKenzie from Westminster Theological Seminary on Barth, which reminded me of some of the controversy surrounding Barth.

    For evangelicals the issue is Barth subjective view of Scripture…i.e. the Bible is not objectively the “Word of God” but rather as Scripture is proclaimed it becomes the Word of God in the hearts of believers by the Spirit. There is much truth here although I do not want to removed all objectivity in my view of Scripture. The strength of Barth’s argument is that Jesus is the truth Word of God, the revelation of God’s truth. This idea is extremely helpful against the biblicism so prevalent in American evangelism. The ill-formed argument is that Barth did not believe in the authority of Scripture, which I do not believe is true. Barth simply believed the Word and Spirit had to work together. (Really this is more of an issue of linguistics than theology.)

    The other controversy of course, was his ongoing debate with Brunner over Natural Theology. While I am sympathetic towards Barth’s rejection of natural theology, I think Brunner has won the day.

    Last thought: I appreciate Barth’s Trinitarian framework. I think he is one of the catalysis in the revival of Trinitarian theology in recent times, but I share the critque of others that Barth followed in the Augustinian tradition of depersonalizing the Spirit.

    So read on! And distill Barth for the rest of us.

    1. For a non-Barth reader, you may know Barth better than me, Derek! I am actually reading his Doctrine of the Word of God right now, and finding it much less disturbing than some have made it out to be. I am not sure I agree on every point, though I am not sure how to disagree with it yet, either. As for Brunner vs. Barth, I am at a loss. I am sure I will get into one day.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. The question I hear people asking Barth (MacKenzie from WTS did this in his lecture) is this: Is the Bible, as a written text, objectively the Word of God? As I mentioned above this is more of a question of linqistics than theology. I would frame it this way: Are the words inspired or the ideas behind the words inspired. My gut says Barth would say the ideas are inspired and at this time I would agree with that. Does this mean the Bible is objectively true? I would say yes, if by the Bible we mean the ideas. Yet I think Barth would stick to the subjectivity of the Bible in that it becomes the Word of God in the heart of the believer. Not sure if I a making sense or not.

    Thanks for posting the book on your Facebook!

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