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Title
ISBN
Author
PublisherWilliam B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
GanreBiography
Release date 03.12.1994
Pages count569
File size5.7 Mb
eBook formatPaperback, (torrent)En
Book rating4.44 (18 votes)
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Book overview

A man with the complexities of Karl Barth requires a biography that is as complex. Busch attempts to bridge the gap between biography and autobiography by developing this work from Barth’s own letters, correspondence, and conversations. As Barth’s assistant in his final years, Busch occupied a unique position which allowed him to see the man as few did. In this work, Busch chronicles the life and development of Barth by examining him as the consummate student, pastor, theologian, political activist (or lack thereof in some cases to the chagrin of some) and person.
As a student, Barth was raised in the vein of Schleimarcher’s liberalism, which had sat upon the throne as the queen of disciplines. Sitting under the teaching of Harnak and Hermann, Barth received a world class education in the existentialism of liberalism. Barth read widely during his years as a student, including Kant and Ritschl, followed by a steady dose of primarily Calvin then Luther. This investigative mentality of Barth is well-detailed (perhaps too much so) throughout the work as Barth is shown, until his dying day, holding correspondence with both friend and foe alike.
As a pastor, Barth was somewhat aloof. He made no apologies that his primary responsibility was the preparation of sermons, which at times invited the criticism of those who wanted a more relational pastor. As a pastor Barth was never able to fully separate himself from the political struggles of the day, perhaps rightly so. Involving himself in the struggles of labor unions and socialism, Barth argued vehemently for both, while never fully having his concerned addressed about his early perception of the problems of socialism. Barth is shown to repudiate socialism, yet later receives criticism for not publically denouncing communism.
As a theologian Busch traces Barth’s development from an embracing and embraced liberal, to a dialectical theologian, and eventually an ecumenical champion. Never able to escape the shadow of Schleimarcher, Barth continually seeks to clarify the necessity of special revelation over and against natural revelation, and how Jesus Christ is central to God’s revelation. Barth’s never completed Dogmatics becomes his obsession that causes him the greatest joy while never fully bringing satisfaction.
As a person, Barth is shown to be a fun-loving father to his five children and a grandfather who has much delight in spending time with his grandchildren. Little attention is shown of his relationship to his wife, Nellie, while the curious relationship of Charlotte von Kirschbaum grows evermore conspicuous. Barth’s sole indulgence was to listen to Mozart while smoking his pipe.
Busch has written a brilliant biography in that it uniquely demonstrates the life and thought of Barth on all levels of existence. One finds themselves cheering the heroics of Barth on one page while subsequently casting stones at his villainous acts on the page that follows. The approach of using Barth’s own words with very little intrusion from Busch is brilliant in what it shows that otherwise would remain hidden, yet the brilliance is at times dulled due to the virtual impossibility of being able to smoothly transition from one thought to the next.


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