Thursday 8 December 2005

Church Dogmatics: more personal choices

Most exegetical volume: III/1—this whole volume is essentially a massive and brilliant theological exegesis of the creation stories in Genesis 1 and 2. Also, the volume on election (II/2) offers a massive theological exegesis of Romans 9-11.

My favourite preface: Readers of the Church Dogmatics will know that Barth’s prefaces are charming, funny and altogether delightful. My favourite is the preface to III/4, in which Barth refers to some Dutch Calvinists who had been criticising and attacking him. He tells these “Neo-Calvinists” that he forgives them for all their attacks on him, but then he adds: “But it is going too far that in their attacks, obviously to offend me the more, they so far forget themselves as to use unrepeatable terms in disparagement of W. A. Mozart. In so doing they have, of course, shown themselves to be men of stupid, cold and stony hearts to whom we need not listen” (p. xiii).

Volume in which Barth’s style is best: I think Barth’s prose is never better than in the little fragment on baptism, IV/4. This was the last piece of the Church Dogmatics that Barth wrote, and by this time his writing style had evolved into a sort of narrative theology, in which the whole argument develops through a narrative-like exegetical reflection on the biblical witness. If you wanted to start reading the Church Dogmatics, it might even be a good idea to start with this remarkable little fragment.

My favourite study of the Church Dogmatics: Eberhard Jüngel, God's Being Is in Becoming: The Trinitarian Being of God in the Theology of Karl Barth: A Paraphrase (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, [1965] 2001)—I have listed some other favourites here.


Paul W said...

I couldn't agree with you more about IV/4 as a good place to start reading Barth. It was the part of the CD that I began with and then I went back to read II/1.

tchittom said...

Ben, Eberhard Busch's recent survey of Barth's theology is very engaging. I'd recommend it to anyone new to Barth.

Ben Myers said...

That's good to hear, Paul. And since the CD is structured not according to any "system" but according to a number of distinct loci, one can really begin to read it anywhere. One Barth scholar (I can't remember who) has even suggested that it would be best to read the whole CD backwards!

Thom: You're definitely right about Eberhard Busch's introductory volume, The Great Passion. On the whole, I reckon this is probably the best single-volume introduction to the CD -- a new Barth-student could start with this, and then move on to George Hunsinger's brilliant methodological introduction, How to Read Karl Barth.

JohnLDrury said...

It was Lesslie Newbigin who read the CD backwards.

Also, on the matter of introductions, a highly introductory book by John Franke is coming out this summer entitled "Karl Barth for Armchair Theologians". It will be very accessible for the untrained reader.

by the way, just found your blog and I enjoy it!

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