What Am I Reading? Karl Barth's Letters
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