Devotional Barth

Devotional Barth began as a sabbatical project. I had long wanted to spend time reading Church Dogmatics and the sabbatical seemed like an ideal opportunity. The project which I proposed was to read portions of Church Dogmatics “devotionally.” I am not sure that at the outset I really knew what a devotional reading of Barth might be, it just sounded like a good thing to suggest. What I did have in mind was in contrast to what might be call an “academic” reading. I wasn’t going to read Barth for the sake of an argument, either an argument with Barth, or one on Barth’s behalf. When I have read Barth previously it has been in that way. I think the aim of an academic reading might be to understand Barth so that I can explain his theology to someone with less time than I have to read theology books. Proverbially, I might think of a “wood” and “trees” situation. A conventional academic reading might be characterised as an attempt to “see the wood for (in spite of) the trees.” That is, to gain an overall picture of Barth’s theology so that some sort of summary of it might be made. What I have attempted to do, in contrast, is to see the wood by paying attention to the trees. Church Dogmatics is very long, less a wood than an immense forest, there are lot of trees. Barth in his own time was accused of verbosity, an accusation which he acknowledged but defended on the basis of the nature of his subject matter and the character of his project. As I read Church Dogmatics I found that my reading slowed down, there is so much to pay attention to in everything that Barth says. His argument is so tight, his exposition so exhaustive and his logic so consistent that each page contains, in a sense, the essence of the whole. It is possible to spend time examining the individually trees and in so doing be impressed by the forest that surrounds you. As my reading slowed down I also came to realise what it was that I meant when I suggested a devotional reading of Barth. I read Barth, not to understand Barth, but to let Barth help me to become a more faithful disciple of Jesus Christ, and then to use Barth to help others’ discipleship in the same way. I am convinced that is, in truth, what Bath intended for his theology.

The posts which you will find here are the product of my sabbatical and my continued reading of Church Dogmatics and Karl Barth’s theology. Often the posts are attempts to simply translate the language of prayer and worship, at other times they are my responses, as a follower of Christ and as Christian minister, to what I have found reading Barth’s words.

Karl Barth

Church Dogmatics