Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Barth on the Length of the Church Dogmatics


From his introduction to CD II,2...

"A good deal has already been said about the size both of the work as a whole and also of each of its constituent parts. It may be conceded that the Bible itself can put things more concisely. But if dogmatics is to serve its purpose, then I cannot see how either I myself, or any contemporaries known to me, can properly estimate the more concise statements of the Bible except in penetrating expositions which will necessarily demand both time and space. In the last analysis I ask of my readers no greater patience than that already demanded of myself. For our mutual consolation I offer a historical reminiscence. When Schleiermacher was struggling to finish the first draft of his Christian Faith, on September 7, 1822 he wrote to his friend Twesten: “Every time I see this book, I sigh at its bulk.” I know that my own Dogmatics is already a good deal bulkier than Schleiermacher’s Christian Faith. Yet Twesten’s reply on March 9, 1823 might equally well be applied to my own book: “You complain about the size of your book, but do not worry; for most of us the size is indispensable to understanding, and the few who would perhaps have understood you from a lesser work will certainly accept with gratitude all the elucidations you want to give” (cf. G. Heinrici, D. August Twesten nach Tageb├╝chern und Briefen, 1899, p. 377, 379 f.). Yes, for a right understanding and exposition there is need of a thorough elucidation. May it not be that I have been too short and not too long at some important points?"

--Karl Barth, Geoffrey William Bromiley, and Thomas F. Torrance, Church Dogmatics: The Doctrine of God, Part 2, vol. 2 (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2004), ix.