March Book ‘O the Month

It’s time for a new book of the month! This month, DET will feature the little collection of Barth’s late occasional writings entitled Fragments Grave and Gay. Those of you who read DET closely and have good memories for detail might recall that this is one of the books that I read cover-to-cover last year. While reading I noted a number of juicy bits that I wanted to share with you all, gentle readers, so I will be doing that as the month progresses. But for now I would like to point out that this collection contains short theological appreciations of both Kierkegaard and Calvin that are both substantive and whimsical. Below I include a quote from the text wherein Barth discusses the role of a theology faculty vis-à-vis both its subject matter and the church. 

Karl Barth, Fragments Grave and Gay, 23–24. 
The Bible speaks of Jesus Christ – the name is unavoidable since he is the very essence of it. This source of theology (which can also be called Gospel) is also its subject-matter, to which it is tied just as all other branches of knowledge pursued at the university are tied to their subject-matter. Without it theology could and would quickly dissolve into amateurish excursions into history, philosophy, psychology, and so on. Being tied in this way means that it is no more at liberty to choose its themes than is, say, ophthalmology . . . . It searches for the truth (there is only one truth) within its field, within which its various problems are ever posed afresh and by which alone it allows its methods from first to last to be prescribed. Bound to its subject-matter though it is in this way, it enjoys complete freedom of inquiry and doctrine . . . and it accepts no instructions or regulations from anyone; it even serves the Church in the independence of its own responsibility. And since the God from whom it takes its name is no dictator, it cannot behave dictatorially. Bound only by its subject-matter, but also liberated by it, the teacher of theology can have and desires to have only pupils who are free in the same sense. If he is sometimes seen in a different light, that may be his own fault, since he is not an angel. But it may be the result of the use of distorting mirrors by means of which distant observers have made up their minds in advance to view him.



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