Book Review: An Explorer's Guide to Karl Barth
Author: David Guretzki
Publisher: IVP Academic
Reading Level: Leisure-Moderate
There are many theological guides to the theology of Karl Barth. Whether regarding his theology as a whole, his ominous Church Dogmatics, or a particular doctrine, many well written high-level introductions exist to serve the church. In An Explorer's Guide to Karl Barth, David Guretzki has provided a friendly and inviting introduction for people who have only the faintest idea of who Karl Barth even is.
Starting with "Getting to Know Karl Barth" (Chapters 1-5) and moving to "Exploring the Church Dogmatics" (Chapters 6-9), Guretzki provides the perfect amount of in-depth dives and glossary coverage necessary for a proper introduction to the man Karl Barth, and his theology.
Guretzki's opening "Why Karl Barth?" (Chapter 1) is personal and powerful. Barth's theology and writing continue to speak to the church in fresh ways that are difficult to ignore. The biography of Barth is short (Chapter 2) but provides useful information to correlate with Barth's different writings throughout his life (e.g. the "Pre-Church Dogmatics Tour" in Chapter 5). However, it is the "Frequently Asked Questions" (Chapter 3) and "Glossary of Concepts and People" (Chapter 4) that will be most valuable to people unfamiliar with Barth.
There is no need to read any of these chapters in any specific order. Guretzki's has written the material in such a way to be a resource that can be asked questions and provide valuable answers. Also, the end of each chapter provides an excellent list of recommended reading from Barth and Scholars. The condensed nature of An Explorer's Guide to Karl Barth means that not everything can be addressed. Yet with concise writing, Guretzki does not ultimately leave much out.
The final chapters provide the best introductory overview and guide to reading the Church Dogmatics that is available to new readers of Barth. Guretzki provides a general primer on the Church Dogmatics (Chapter 6), a guide for reading and studying in a group (Chapter 7), and a topical overview that should be valuable for its precision and concise nature (Chapter 8). The Church Dogmatics can be an intimidating piece of work. Guretzki provides all the necessary encouragement and aids to help a new generation enjoy this mammoth from Karl Barth.
In conclusion, An Explorer's Guide to Karl Barth is the best available resource for introductory readers of Karl Barth. This is an excellent resource for study groups and book clubs on Karl Barth, his writing, and the Church Dogmatics. Those intimately familiar with Barth will benefit from being able to hand out this resource or use it as introductory material.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.