Saturday, 15 December 2007

Eleven Funky Barth Quotes

I'm currently reading through Karl Barth's Einführung in die evangelische Theologie, and I have to say, I quite like the chap.

Here are some funky Barth-quotes from Wikepidia (numbered, in case people want to comment on them):

1) “Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is Himself the way."

2) "The best theology would need no advocates: it would prove itself."

3) "Belief cannot argue with unbelief, it can only preach to it."
4) “There is a notion that complete impartiality is the most fitting and indeed the normal disposition for true exegesis, because it guarantees complete absence of prejudice. For a short time, around 1910, this idea threatened to achieve almost a canonical status in Protestant theology. But now, we can quite calmly describe it as merely comical. ” (Church Dogmatics 1:2, 469)
5) "The center is not something which is under our control, but something that controls us.” (Church Dogmatics)
6) "Barth’s dedication to the sole authority and power of the Word of God was illustrated for us… while we were in Basel. Barth was engaged in a dispute over the stained glass windows in the Basel Münster. The windows had been removed during World War II for fear they would be destroyed by bombs, and Barth was resisting the attempt to restore them to the church. His contention was that the church did not need portrayals of the gospel story given by stained glass windows. The gospel came to the church only through the Word proclaimed. …the incident was typical of Barth’s sole dedication to the Word. "
Elizabeth Achtemeier
7) "To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world."
8) "In the Resurrection the new world of the Holy Spirit touches the old world of the flesh, but touches it as a tangent touches a circle, that is, without touching it." (Barth 1933, p. 30)
9) "What expressions we used — in part taken over and in part newly invented! — above all, the famous ‘wholly other’ breaking in upon us ‘perpendicularly from above,’ the not less famous ‘infinite qualitative distinction’ between God and man, the vacuum, the mathematical point, and the tangent in which alone they must meet." (Barth 1960, p. 42)
10) "It may be that when the angels go about their task of praising God, they play only Bach. I am sure, however, that when they are together en famille they play Mozart and that then too our dear Lord listens with special pleasure."
11) Once a young student asked Barth if he could sum up what was most important about his life's work and theology in just a few words. The question was posed even with gasps from the audience. Barth just thought for a moment and then smiled, "Yes, in the words of a song my mother used to sing me, 'Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'"[2]
Princeton Seminary has a Centre for Karl Barth Studies, where you can download a bunch of interesting-looking articles for free. One essay that's caught my eye is Hans Küng: "Barth and the Postmodern Paradigm" (1998)


Drew said...

In relation to quote #5 and Kung's article, William Stacy Johnson's book "The Mystery of God: Karl Barth and the Postmodern Foundations of Theology" strikes a chord. His thesis of Barth's Christocentrism as de-centering is particularly intriguing in this regard.

voxstefani said...

I adore Barth, and I'm very glad that you've started to explore, as you recently put it, Child's indebtedness to his hero. Calvin and Barth have been essential points of reference in my own feeble attempts to understand the canonical project, and I'm excited to see how your (far abler) work will develop as you engage in conversation with them.


John said...

I'm glad you're reading Barth in German. It makes a difference. You have a lot of excellent reading ahead of you.

Phil Sumpter said...

Drew, that is really helpful, thanks! I've put his book into my reading list. My main interest is 'theological exegesis', especially as Childs understood this, and it's becoming clear to me that Childs was very close to Barth. As such, the question of the identity of God, the centre of our faith, and epistemology is important to me.


that's kind, thanks. One area that is important for me to get my head round is the understanding of canon within church history. I'd love read something on Orthodox views of Scripture and its relation to tradition and the implications of all this for a canonical approach. Perhaps subject matter for a series on your blog ... ?


I haven't read Barth in English yet, but I wonder how on earth a translator would do it! He averages at about six sentences a page. You'd have to totally reconstruct what he says in order to maintain the coherence of his argument. I have to say, I'm finding it strenuous, but it's healthy exercise.

Just a random thought: I wonder if his style is connected to his thought ...? He seems to be concerned with particularity and the peculiar shape of the specifically evangelical God, who makes himself known in a particular story which cannot but have a particular impact on us limited and particular humans. The obvious awe he has when making statements like "God is love" is totally derivative of the particular content this sentence assumes within the context of the gospel. As such, it makes sense, that he would he would qualify each noun in the sentence with paragraph-long participle clauses, where every statement simply begs to be requalified by another series of thoughts on what it actually is that characterises this element of the nature of God. My wife, who's not into this kind of thing, calls his style "unverschämt." I find it's growing on me.

Anyway, thanks for the encouragement! If he's inspired you then he's worth looking into.

voxstefani said...

Phil, that would be a wonderful series to write indeed, but I'm afraid that such an undertaking is far above and beyond my quite limited competencies! (But some day there will be my dissertation to read. ;-)

As for Barth's style, I've met a number of German students who always read the Church Dogmatics in English. I don't quite know what to make of that, but at least gives me some consolation when I remember that I was largely unable to crack it in the original!


Burrito said...

Cool blog!