Karl Barth: Theological sketches and biographies....
This much is certain, that we have no theological right to set any sort of limits to the loving-kindness of God which has appeared in Jesus Christ. Our theological duty is to see and understand it as being still greater than we had seen before." - Karl Barth
My journey with Barth began last year discovering him by reading various modern theologians. I have heard about Barth for many years and always wanted to read his Church Dogmatics. This past year I was able to finish a couple biographies and small versions of his Dogmatics—even still I'm clawing at the hill of a colossal mountain. There is much that has and will be said on Barth, nothing in this short post will make a dent in the volumes written on him and his theological convictions. The most significant theological point that comes out of reading Barth is Jesus Christ. Barth's views circle around Christology and the belief that God has acted decisively in the person of Jesus Christ (The God man).
Who Was Karl Barth?
Karl Barth was born May 10, 1886 in Basel, Switzerland. His own father (Fritz Barth) was a pastor and his mother's father was a minister. Barth did not much care for school as an early lad and was involved in little street gangs, but when he started to grow up he decided to follow in father's footsteps teaching and training as a pastor of the people. Barth lived and studied in Germany at the universities of Berlin, Marburg and Tübingen. He was ordained and served as a pastor in Geneva, teaching the people. It was during 1913 that he married Nelly Hoffman and together they had 5 children (one daughter and four sons).
Barth was teaching in a small town called Safenwil. It was here that he encountered the hard working class people; he pushed for the people's education and social rights. During this time, he had been working on his Romans commentary and it was during this work that a great change began to stir within him.
From the years 1925-30 he taught dogmatics in Munster and in 1930 to 1935 Barth taught systematic theology in Bonn. It was during these latter years that he began working on his massive volumes, Church Dogmatics. He never did complete this project—but have fun attempting to read all of what he did write! In 1935 Barth would not pledge an oath to Hitler and this resulted in him losing his job and being asked and welcomed to teach at the university of Basel (Switzerland).
Barth is a prominent figure who has impacted global Christianity, in his life he sought for unity amongst the churches throughout the world. Barth in later life would go on lecturing across the United States speaking at different universities, even being placed on the cover of time magazine for his impact on the christian faith. In 1968 Barth died at his home in Bruderholz Lane in Basel. Barth's legacy lives on in and through the church of Jesus Christ.
In the letter of Hebrews the author exhorts the believers with this admonishment,"Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith." May we all learn from Barth and remember his legacy, it's in his legacy that we see the risen Christ at work in and through the teachings left behind for all of us to read. - Casey Dayton