Barth: Closing thoughts on chapter 1

Well what now that I have had time to reflect on my first Barth experience I must say I am quite impressed. Although initially I kept wondering to myself if I had not gotten into something that was going relieve my head of all its hair. Before I get into my thoughts about the chapter as a whole I would like to note a couple of things that I wish I would have known going into reading Church Dogmatics:
1.    The Church in the title appears to be there for a reason. This simple detail somehow failed to escape me and my first reading of the chapter frustrated me. Barth is not talking to everyone. He is talking to those who have a deep rooted and passionate trust in God. Non-believing critical scholars should not attempt to dissect this as it assumes things that they would not (this is his point in the Prolegomena section).
2.    I found that reading Barth slowly once does not do the trick. I devised a system that has a quick overview skim of a section in order to get the flow of the argument then I go back an read at normal pace underlining important phrases.
3.    Some sentences, clauses, uses of commas will be incomprehensible; its okay. That is why I am reading the blogs.

My final comment on the first chapter has to do with the unique experience that I had with this work. On my first reading I found myself frustrated because I was expecting (even demanding) that this work be just like everything else I have read in the last ten years. That is, an exegetically driven, background laden book that treats all views equally. Instead what I read was a book that assumes that the trust of God is a fundamental need to understand anything contained in its cover. In other words I thought I was reading a book for the academy and found out that I have undertaken a work for the Church. I think this has come at the right time in my life.

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4 Responses to Barth: Closing thoughts on chapter 1

  1. John says:

    Your reading method [quick skim followed by slow read] is much the same as mine. It seems to work pretty well for me.

  2. Thom says:

    Thanks for pausing to reflect on your expectations about reading Barth and how those expectations have been changed. I had read a little Barth before we began, but nothing like attempting the sheer face of the CD. So, far, though I have been astonished at the subtlety of Barth’s thought and how he goes so deeply down into the foundations only to circle round again and come at something from a different perspective. I’ve also found him much more the preacher and less the “theologian’s theologian” than expected. Who knows but Barth may become as much a devotional reading as a theological one done for the sake of checking Barth of the too-long list of “have to” texts.

    • I agree with you on the ‘preacher’ in Barth. I wasn’t ready for that aspect of his thought in CD but now I realize it is fundamental in understanding this whole project of his.

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