Far Too Crude
My affinity for Karl Barth knows no bounds. Despite my disagreements with the man, my study of him is borderline obsessive. I've received joking laments over "my Barthianism." I have even been asked how I rectify my Barthianism with my love for creeds which promote inerrancy (see my foreword in We Believe).
The short answer is that I'm not Barthian. I am just always reading something from or about Karl Barth. Currently, I am working through his Dogmatics in Outline which is a systematic commentary on the Apostle's Creed. Every line of the creeds has taken on new meaning for me. I have written briefly in a couple other places, but I find myself with more pages of thoughts and notes then I could wish to publish here.
Instead, I would prefer to make a general statement about Karl Barth's theology and the content Dogmatics in Outline before a formal review. And I'd like to steal that statement from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
In Thy Word is Truth (my review here), A. Katherine Grieb has a beautiful quotation from Bonhoeffer in a letter to Barth upon near completion of The Cost of Discipleship,
"The whole period was basically a constant, silent discussion with you, and so I had to keep silent for a while. The chief questions are those of the exposition of the Sermon on the Mount and the Pauline doctrine of justification and sanctification. I am engaged in a work on the subject and would have asked and learnt a very, very great deal from you...." He adds that usually, "most of us who feel that they had to keep away from you for a while…Seem to find that afterwards, in a personal conversation with you, they learn that once again they have seen the whole question in far too crude terms." (96)
No single quote can better summarize my engagement with Barth. Whether in agreement or disagreement I am flabbergasted at the clarity and sharpness of his use of Scripture, the confessions, and theologians. Barth addresses texts, quotations, and words that I believe myself familiar with and turns them into unexplored questions of faith in Jesus Christ. I find that on many subjects I have "seen the whole question in far too crude terms."
I understand that for many, the answers of Karl Barth scare them away from his questions. But for my money, there are few theologians who have so intimately loved Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures more than Karl Barth. If I were to reflect, I would admit that I have now been in almost five years of "constant, silent discussion" with Barth. Though I would also be forced to admit that I could not well "keep silent" about it.