Thursday, October 19, 2006

What Am I Reading? Karl Barth's Letters

Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Ed. And Trans.), Karl Barth: Letters, 1961-1868, (Eerdmans, 1981).

This volume represents 350+ pages of Barth’s correspondence during the last years of his life, stretching from his retirement to his death. Also included are a number of replies from the recipients of Barth’s correspondence. In this volume Barth addresses such diverse figures as Emil Brunner, Pope Paul VI, Barth’s sons and other family, personages Barth met in the United States, a number of those whom Barth confirmed during his time at Safenwil, Hans Küng, Jürgen Moltmann, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Karl Rahner, Martin Neimöller, James I. McCord (former PTS president), Josef Hromadka, Paul Tillich, Eberhard Jüngel, Eberhard Bethge (Bonhoeffer’s close friend, student, and biographer), and numerous others. This really is a very fine collection, with excellent notes to help you grasp the many allusions, both literary and to Sitz im Leben. I heartily recommend it. One useful and gratifying thing that I learned through this volume is that Barth preached his last sermon precisely 19 years before the day I was born – if only the number ‘19’ was more symbolic. I’ve included two juicy tidbits from this volume below as a kind of teaser.

“That Hegel could still have a future, as I predicted…I still regard as probable, although in the meantime the flood of existentialism has risen higher and higher. Where I stand will be well known to you: I believe more than ever that as a theologian one should know philosophy but should not in any sense become or be a philosopher.” Letter 138

“Luther’s Romans was one of the books I read and had ready to hand at Safenwil in 1916-1918. But even then I had some mistrust of the man which become stronger during my fifteen years at German universities – the German soul is by nature Lutheran – and here at Basel when I held my seminar on Luther and the Fanatics. Calvin is not my man on every point, but he was and is the superior teacher.” Letter 254

5 comments:

Shane said...

I'd be interested in knowing more about why theologians can't be philosophers.

WTM said...

You cannot serve both God and mammon!

Seriously, I think it has something to do with what you said to me the other day - "Philosophers just think differently." For Barth, being a theologian means being one whose mind and thought patterns are shaped by Scripture and the Christian theological tradition. He woul much rather have you spending your time with those things than trying to diversify and do both theology and philosophy.

But, who knows? Care to try to prove him wrong?

Shane said...

hmm, i might. i have to think this through a bit.

shane

GoobyNelly said...

Shane, since you're into Aquinas, have you looked into Fergus Kerr's work at all?

Shane said...

Also, Hegel is a punk.