Friday, December 10, 2010

the angels laugh...

The Episcopal Church today celebrates the provisional feast day (and the anniversary of the death) of the theologian Karl Barth. In a reaction to the prevailing theological liberalism of his day, Barth, in his "The Epistle to the Romans" and, of course in his magnum opus, "Church Dogmatics" argued for the complete otherness of God and His perfect revelation in Jesus Christ. An author of the Barmen Declaration, Barth stood for Christ against Hitler and became a founder of the Confessing Church.

Feast Day Prayer:

"PRAYER Almighty God, source of justice beyond human knowledge: We offer thanks that thou didst inspire Karl Barth to resist tyranny and exalt thy saving grace, without which we cannot apprehend thy will. Teach us, like him, to live by faith, and even in chaotic and perilous times to perceive the light of thy eternal glory, Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who livest and reignest with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, throughout all ages. Amen."

He was not without humor.  His "Dogmatics" is comprised of numerous difficult (to say the least) volumes.  He once said to a student:

"The angels laugh at old Karl. They laugh at him because he tries to grasp the truth about God in a book of Dogmatics. They laugh at the fact that volume follows volume, and each is thicker than the previous ones. As they laugh, they say to one another, ‘Look! Here he comes now with his little pushcart full of volumes of the Dogmatics!’—and they laugh about the persons who write so much about Karl Barth instead of writing about the things he is trying to write about. Truly, the angels laugh.”

and one more quote:

"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world." Karl Barth

RIP and Blessings


Bill Baar said...

Time Magazine May. 06, 1946 Religion: Mental Fight Eleven Unitarian Preachers slug it out with Niebuhr, Barth, and Fulton Sheen,

Betrayal & Defeat? "This (neo-orthodoxy] is a sad betrayal that can lead only to confusion. The forces of free religion must oppose this movement and check it. ... As we repudiate totalitarian politics we must also repudiate totalitarian religion."

'Futilitarian Christian gadflies like Professor Reinhold Niebuhr among the Protestants and Dr. Fulton J. Sheen among the Catholics are filling the air with their veiled terrestrial defeatism. No hope for mankind on earth but in heaven if you believe. . . . No, the leap into supernaturalism, which hungry hearts took two thousand years ago to compensate for their frustrations, is hardly proof to intelligent minds today of the existence of such a world."

Read more:,9171,887015-2,00.html#ixzz0h4mKZ4B7

I thought this a pretty remarkable charge for Unitarians to make in 1946 when the world did seem pretty bleak.

Barth has not been one of our favorites....

boston unitarian said...

Those darn "ultraliberal, highbrow Unitarians." Many thanks, Bill, for sending along this article link. I had never seen it before...
Hope you are doing well.
Blessings, BU