Friday 28 October 2016

Postgraduate seminar on Karl Barth: what to read?

This year it was Origen; next year I’ll be teaching a postgraduate seminar on the theology of Karl Barth. It’s a 12-week course and I’m trying to decide on the readings. Barth presents special challenges here, given the huge slow expansiveness of his best work. The best seminar in the world would be one on Church Dogmatics IV – but where on God’s good earth are the students who would agree to read the requisite 3,000 pages?

Anyway, I’ve come up with three possible approaches so far, and I’d love to know what you think. Which of these would you prefer if you were doing a seminar like this? Which texts you would choose if you were the teacher? Anyone else out there have experience with a course like this?

First Idea. Barth’s early theology

The Word of God and Theology (2 weeks)
Epistle to the Romans (5 weeks)
Göttingen Dogmatics (5 weeks)

Second Idea. Barth’s dogmatics

Göttingen Dogmatics (5 weeks)
Michael Allen’s Church Dogmatics reader (5 weeks)
The Humanity of God (2 weeks)

Third Idea. Barth’s doctrine of creation

Parts of Church Dogmatics III/1 – creation and covenant (6 weeks)
Parts of Church Dogmatics III/3 – providence and evil (6 weeks)


Paul Walker said...

As a graduate student, I find the second idea (Barth's Dogmatics) far more appealing due to its wider reaching nature and interaction with Barth's more developed ideas. I guess if I took a course on Barth, I would want a sampling of everything he has to offer, but perhaps a post-graduate student wants focus?

Also, if you offered an online Udemy course on CD IV, I know twenty people that would be willing to take it. ;)

JohnLDrury said...

I like your first one best of these three. Though I imagine YOU, Ben, would enjoy option three a lot. :-)

If you wanna give volume IV a try, I've taught a funky version cross crossing the christology sections. I've done it three times and it has worked pretty well. Here's what I do:

Week 01 Orientation (Humanity of God)
Week 02 ​§57
Week 03 §58

Unit One: The Subject of Reconciliation
Week 04 ​§59.1: The Way of the Son of God into the Far Country
Week 05 §64.1-2: The Homecoming of the Son of Man
Week 06 §69.1-2: The Light of Life

Unit Two: The Act of Reconciliation
Week 07 §59.2: The Judge Judged in our Place
Week 08 §64.3: The Royal Man
Week 09 §69.3: Jesus is Victor

Unit Three: The Goal of Reconcilition
Week 10 §59.3: The Verdict of the Father
Week 11 §64.4: The Direction of the Son
Week 12 §69.4: The Promise of the Spirit

- John L Drury

AK said...

That looks pretty helpful.

Chris said...

They all sound fantastic, Ben! I'd personally love to do any of them. Especially #3. Although, I wonder if the other two would provide better entrees to Barth — #1 by crystallising some of the key factors in launching his project and #2 by giving a birds-eye-view.

Michael said...

Hi Ben,
I have taught a KB seminar before using Allen's book. I am scheduled to do it again next semester and will spend five weeks on orientation & Barth's early work, and eight weeks using Allen (I have 13 weeks to fill). Mine is a more introductory unit to KB rather than solely a PG seminar.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of including Romans in the curriculum. As an exegete who is a sworn enemy of Natural Revelation, Barth is wonderfully on display in Romans though in a jagged way. His strengths and weaknesses are there to see and Romans sets the tone for understanding subsequent changes in his thought.

Anonymous said...

Have your students work through "Knowledge & Service of God" , Barth's 1937-38 Gifford Lectures. 1) Barth in his prime. 2) ACCESSIBLE reading. 3) Covers most of Barth's major emphases. 4) Augment with side readings in CD.

Alan K said...

Third idea, hands down. If the students are ever going to be faithful readers of IV they must have gone through III or they will read Barth's Christology against the backdrop of whatever cosmology they knowingly or unknowingly carry around. Also, as sexy and tempting it is plunging into III.3 to devour "God and Nothingness", the foundation for reading IV is better laid by III.2, especially by "Man in His Time". There is no need to require your students to read parts of Barth that they would get to for curiosity's sake on their own good time outside the seminar room. Life itself will push them to read on evil and ethics. You, on the other hand, must make them ask, "Who or what is the human being?".

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