Tuesday 2 May 2006

Ode to Church Dogmatics

Of thee I sing, Church Dogmatics,
Of thee I sing, grandest and most lofty work,
Mountains of thought, cathedral of the mind,
Symphony of wonder and surprise.
Mighty sentences, I sing of ye:
Phrase upon phrase, tottering in the air, creating worlds
And vistas, heights and darkest depths.
Of ye I sing, black volumes:
Lined up and dressed in sombre orange overcoats, now turning
Autumn-yellow, crowding out entire shelves;
Groaning tomes as heavy as the earth,
With words as light as dust
Or music.

Of thee I sing, Volume One,
Doctrine of self-unveiling Trinity, and Trinity
In self-unveiling Word;
Volume Two, of thee I sing,
Doctrine of love and liberty, of liberating love,
Electing God, elected man, one person;
Volume Three, I sing of thee,
Doctrine of creation and of covenant,
Of heaven and earth called
Out of chaos to redeem, and of a creature
Loved by God.
Volume Four, I sing of thee (longest and best by far):
Doctrine of Immanuel, of God and man
And God-with-man in Jesus,
Doctrine of a servant who is Lord
And the Lord who is a servant;
Doctrine of God’s Yes-made-flesh
Forever in one person, forever for us all.

Of thee I sing, Church Dogmatics:
Work of astonishment and joy,
Work of one life, one struggle,
One long limping wrestling with an angel—
A young boy telling what he saw;
An old man talking on and on, till all his talk
Falls silent
Before the whisper of a Word.

Happiest work of witness, I sing of thee:
A crooked finger pointing
In the dark.


gracie said...

Powerful images - quite stirring, not at all odious or dogmatic! You should write odes more often.

Anonymous said...

Ben, mate. You need to get out more.

thunderbeard said...


Anonymous said...

Ben Myers' own version of Paradise Regained!

But if Kurt Anders Richardson is right that "We can be assured that there is nothing in CD . . . that lack [Charlotte von Kirschbaum's] substance and shape" - with Barth adding his own acknowledgement of his PA's intellectual as well as administrative contribution in CD III/3 - then perhaps "Work of one life, one struggle" may need amendment. And it would add a nice counter-typology to Eve in Paradise Lost to "sing" Charlotte too!

Rory Shiner said...

Love it!

Anonymous said...

Ben, I am in awe. I am completely amazed. I have no words to express my utter astonishment! This should be included in future anthologies of religious poetry.

Patrik said...

:) Whenever I walk past the shelf where the CD sits in our library, I just look the other way and try to ingore it in all its massiveness...

Ben Myers said...

Thanks for these comments. I think the situation is best summed up by the second comment: Yes, I really do need to get out more....

Anonymous said...

I think that if your being holed up reading and writing produces things like this, then you needn't worry about getting out more. Rather, you should spend more time at your desk.


-Jeff Reimer, a graduae student of theology at Regent College, Vancouver BC.

Anonymous said...


Your ode's excellent. Quite educational too, especially for the uninitiated to Barth's Church Dogmatics, in particular and theology in general. Yes, also an interesting and straightforward didactic method!

Penang, Malaysia

Anonymous said...

It doesn't rhyme.

Anonymous said...

Normally peoplle's versifying leaves me cold but I'm impressed almost thought Wallace Stevens had lent a hand. Nice one.
My only complaint is yoo're such a good saleman it's knackering me out doing the overtime to pay for the books and boy you weren't kidding about the rarefied clarity of his writing but through it you grasp that the man has tasted Christ.

pablo said...

No way . . . I bought a Hallmark card at a Christian bookstore and this poem was in it! JK LOL etc.

Charles Twombly said...

Ben, since Oliver Crisp nominated you as "the beatnik poet," I have a little ode of my own:

If I were a beatnik,
I know I'd go for Barth.
When picking theologians,
I do it a la carte.
I'm often alphabetical,
Which leaves out Zizioulas.
Why Aulen gets bypassed by me
Resembles how God chooses.

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