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Barth, Hitler, Etc.

May 20, 2012


Athanasius96 and I have had a brief (but important of course!) conversation on his blog at: It was mainly about Karl Barth (and Bonhoeffer a bit, as related). Even for an analytical kinda guy like me, with relevant education, Barth is tough to follow, but Michael does some great summarizing and deciphering!  Anyway, why bother at all with Barth? A few reasons:

 1) Both conservative and liberal leaders often rate him as the 20th century’s most influential theologian.

(Must have been doing SOMETHING right, huh?)

2) He listened “religiously” to the irreverent Mozart and felt Mozart “heard something ultimately gracious at the core of the universe and sought to express it.”

3) He did theology with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. (Oh… and he was a Swiss “Christian socialist.”)

4) Before you criticize him for #3b, he was among the very first to smell the rat that was Hitler and to write to Christians (and everyone) with severe warnings, ultimately becoming primary author of the important Barmen Declaration which at least supported the small proportion of German churches that opposed or resisted Hitler.  Refusal to sign onto support of Hitler got him kicked out of Germany–we’re lucky he was Swiss. 

 I figure anyone like that might have something useful to say once in a while. 

Any impressions about Karl Barth? Any curiosity?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. ajmnewma permalink
    May 20, 2012 11:11 pm

    Reading him at the moment (Dogmatics in outline) but really too early to get a strong impression. He has a certain way with words even in translation. Definitely prophetic rather than apologetic.

    • May 20, 2012 11:22 pm

      Thanks! One’s impression depends a lot on what you are reading. Parts of “Church Dogmatics” are very detailed and “technical” as well as not that well written (he went very fast). You might enjoy reading some of his sermons–one famous one I recall was something about the “Yes” and “No” of God. As to a “practical” piece of theology, the Barmen Declaration (pretty short as I recall) might be another (I should re-read it myself!… Been many years.)

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