Quotes by Barth


 Where did Karl Barth say...?

Art 1Barth and Brunner"Theology is a peculiarly beautiful discipline. Indeed, At this point we may refer to the fact that if its task is correctly seen and grasped, theology as a whole, in its parts and in their interconnexion, in its content and method, is, apart from anything else, a peculiarly beautiful science. Indeed, we can confidently say that it is the most beautiful of all the sciences. To find the sciences distasteful is the mark of the Philistine. It is an extreme form of Philistinism to find, or to be able to find, theology distasteful. The theologian who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts and boring ways of speaking are intolerable in this science. May God deliver us from what the Catholic Church reckons one of the seven sins of the monk—taedium—in respect of the great spiritual truths with which theology has to do. But we must know, of course, that it is only God who can keep us from it."
-- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.1, The Doctrine of God, page 656.

"With an ear open to your musical dialectic, one can be young and become old, can work and rest, be content and sad: in short, one can live."
-- Karl Barth, A Letter of Thanks to Mozart, page 22.

On Barth, the Bible and Newspapers

Where does Barth say that one should "read the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other"?

Although frequently cited, the Barth Center has thus far not been able to discover an authoritative source for this quotation. Barth did occasionally make similar remarks. In an interview from 1966, for example, he stated,

"Der Pfarrer und die Gläubigen sollten sich nicht einbilden, dass sie eine religiöse Gesellschaft sind, die sich um bestimmte Themen herum dreht, sondern sie leben in der Welt. Wir brauchen doch - nach meiner alten Formulierung - die Bibel und die Zeitung." ["The Pastor and the Faithful should not deceive themselves into thinking that they are a religious society, which has to do with certain themes; they live in the world. We still need - according to my old formulation - the Bible and the Newspaper."]

Eberhard Bush, editor of that volume of the Karl Barth Gesamtausgabe (Karl Barth Collected Edition) notes that Barth made similar remarks in his letters to his friend, Eduard Thurneysen (Cf. Barth to Thurneysen on 11.11.1918: "Nun brütet man abwechselnd über der Zeitung und dem N. T. und sieht eigentlich furchtbar und wenig von dem organischen Zusammenhang beider Welten, von dem man jetzt deutlich kräftig sollte Zeugnis geben können", which is translated as "One broods alternately over the newspaper and the New Testament and actually sees fearfully little of the organic connection between the two worlds concerning which one should now be able to give a clear and powerful witness" in Revolutionary Theology in the Making, p. 45) and in his Romans commentary (Cf. Römerbrief (1922), p. 413: "Lektüre von allerhand ausgesprochen weltlicher Literatur, der Zeitung vor allem, ist zum Verständnis des Römerbriefs dringend zu empfehlen" ["Reading of all forms outspokenly secular literature - the newspaper above all - is urgently recommended for understanding the Epistle to the Romans"]).

Perhaps the most clear statement on the record from Barth concerning these matters comes from a Time Magazine piece on Barth published on Friday, May 31, 1963.

"[Barth] recalls that 40 years ago he advised young theologians 'to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.'"

The Time article goes on to give us more of Barth’s thoughts on journalists and their place in the world:

"Newspapers, he says, are so important that 'I always pray for the sick, the poor, journalists, authorities of the state and the church - in that order. Journalists form public opinion. They hold terribly important positions. Nevertheless, a theologian should never be formed by the world around him - either East or West. He should make his vocation to show both East and West that they can live without a clash. Where the peace of God is proclaimed, there is peace on earth is implicit. Have we forgotten the Christmas message?'"