Tuesday, February 12, 2013


I'm sort of a collector of books by and about Karl Barth, and I've done pretty well. I especially like ones that I can find used. Or some of the old ones that I can steal...um...borrow from church libraries (Trust me: Nobody else is going to want to read these particular ones.) My wife, Leah, has a keen eye for scope out used bookstores and uncovering gems. (Going to used bookstores is no longer any fun for me alas. For by the time I make it through my first shelf, she's ferreted out all the good stuff. All she wants to know is how much money will be left in the bank account after the rent and utilities are paid and the groceries are bought. Well, you can always use the powdered milk and save four more bucks.)

Here are some of the gems she has scored from the used bins: Berkhouwer's Triumph of Grace; The Word of God and Theology (the old translation: two copies, one of which has long since disintegrated); Evangelical Theology (one paper and and one cloth, thank you very much!); The Faith of the Church; The Knowledge of God and the Service of God (That one is a riot, in which Barth plays a cruel but brilliant joke on the Gifford Lectures committee: They invite him to discuss "natural theology", a topic which he dispenses with curtly in one paragraph, and then he goes on for the rest of the book give a very un-Gifforidian exposition of...wait for it!... the Scot's Confession).

And then there's the so-called Shorter Commentary on Romans, Barth's third attempt at a complete commentary on the epistle, in which he finally gives up his stunningly brilliant and creative earlier attempts and tries to write about what Paul, perhaps, was actually trying to say.

There have been moments of heartbreak, as well. Once, when we moved, a precious copy of Küng's Justification disappeared mysteriously. The night before, I had made a desperate trip to what we called the "magic yellow box" -- a mystical receptacle at the Seven-Eleven where one could deposit one's...ahem... "donations" for the "needy." I don't want to think about what might have happened, the hours of reading pleasure I might have squandered.

And soon enough -- but I'm going to make you wait for it! -- I'm going to regale you with some short reviews of some dusty old secondary Barth studies that, I can pretty much guarantee you, you will not see discussed anywhere in the blogosphere.