As some of you know, I spent 3 1/2 weeks in June reading through Church Dogmatics 4 as preparation to begin work in earnest on my dissertation (which I began writing in earnest today: ~1000 words isn’t a bad start!). Here are some reflections on the experience.
(1) Reading Barth (like Calvin) makes me want to read the Bible. This is about the highest praise one can give a theologian (as far as I’m concerned).
(2) One of the things that drives in the direction of my point #1 is Barth’s own exegesis. Right now I’m thinking specifically of his OT work in CD 4.2, and his exegesis of Job in CD 4.3.1. And who can overlook § 59.1 in this regard?
(3) Barth is incredibly repetitive. This is great if you’re dipping into one § and want to get a sense of the whole, but it is murder when you are trying to blitz through large tracks. It can easily become a tedious redundancy under such conditions.
(4) Barth’s theology is beautiful, by which I mean, the architecture of his thought is breathtaking. It is simply incredible how the various pieces fit together, and do so consistently. This demands that those who aspire to writing on Barth (alas, wretched man that I am!) labor long on this dimension of their own thought.
(5) Barth’s sections on sin might just be the best things to make beginning students read. They are incredibly insightful as far as the human situation is concerned, they come packed with great exegesis (often of the Old Testament, which is a joy to read), they are closely coordinated with his christological sections, and they are a concrete demonstration of his theological method.
(6) I didn’t much like The Christian Life, the posthumously published, fragmentary lecture material that would have been included in a full version of CD 4.4. There are certainly some great sections, but I found it very hard to get through. Perhaps it just needed good revision.