"Having a blog is like wandering around your house naked with the windows open; it's all very liberating until someone looks in the window. However, while being caught unawares is one thing, it is quite another to stroll up to the window and press your naked, flabby body against the coolness of the glass in a hideous form of vertical prostration for all the world to see..." These posts are the smudges that are left behind on the window.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Everybody Hates Karl

Karl Barth, for those that don't know, was a German Theologian in the early 20th century - a contemporary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I have read many quotes from Barth and couldn't figure out what all the fuss was - he seemed to make a lot of sense to me. From what I heard, we evangelicals hated Barth - or were supposed to hate Barth. So, never being one to conform, I bought one of his books, and having the tremendous grasp of the obvious that I do, quickly realized what the problem was.

Here are a few excerpts from his chapter on Free Grace;
Strange Christianity, whose most pressing anxiety seems to be that God's grace might prove to be all to free on this side. That hell, instead of being populated with  many people, might some day prove to be empty! ...
Even in the midst of hell, grace would still be grace, and even in the midst of hell it would have to be honored and praised and therefore announced to the other inhabitants of hell...
We must reckon with the fact that [grace] can always be at work outside the walls of the Church and can be announced even by quite other tongues than those which have been given to us. Its being so free brings fresh air again and again into the Church. We need this fresh air, and we should not try to shut it out with the holy games of our churchly speaking and behavior...
We ought not to act as if we knew this or that, even in an elementary way, when we are only guessing. That God's grace is free grace will be impossible for us to overlook at this point,.... But this much is sure: it is also here, and precisely here it is grace. We know just one thing: that Jesus Christ is the same also in eternity, and that His grace is whole and complete, enduring through time into eternity, into the new world of God which will exist and be recognized in a totally different way, that it is unconditional and hence is certainly tied to no purgatories, tutoring sessions, or reformatories in the hereafter...
One cannot deal with the free grace of God the way one can deal with a principle. The heralds of free grace cannot advertise themselves as, or behave like, purveyors of a principle. In fact they must deny the "human self-assurance" which seeks to "put the lord's word and work to the service of any arbitrarily chosen wishes, goals and plans”. The message of free grace has never remained pure, has always been perverted into its opposite when it has been put into some sort of service or framework which is foreign to it, whether worldly or spiritual, philosophical or theological, ...
If the Church does not love the message of free grace (if it stands apart from people with too many scruples, if it meets them with too many reproaches), if it is afraid of that message and is too pious and moralistic for people - what is the Church then? Nothing, nothing at all!
I can see why we evangelicals are supposed to hate Barth; he completely undermines our dualistic, us vs them mentality. He says things like; "Jesus Christ is the same today, tomorrow and forever", where's that in the bible! (insert sarcasm emoticon here). And worse than that he agrees with such obvious heretics as CS Lewis.

Seriously though, what an incredible freedom and relief of pressure, to have the ability to say "I don't know". That even if a loved one died without "knowing Christ" that you do know that God's grace is forever. That there may be validity to someone else's point of view. That we don't have to have all the answers. That God loves everyone, no matter what, or when. Maybe then we evangelicals could relax, and just love people for who they are. Now that would be good news!

I hope Karl is right.


  1. This is for you Dad, your smudges quote reminded me of it:

    William Carlos Williams

    If I when my wife is sleeping
    and the baby and Kathleen
    are sleeping
    and the sun is a flame-white disc
    in silken mists
    above shining trees,--
    if I in my north room
    dance naked, grotesquely
    before my mirror
    waving my shirt round my head
    and singing softly to myself:
    "I am lonely, lonely.
    I was born to be lonely,
    I am best so!"
    If I admire my arms, my face,
    my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
    again the yellow drawn shades,--

    Who shall say I am not
    the happy genius of my household?

  2. I hope Karl is right too. Very much so.


Please feel free to leave a comment. Your comment will not show immediately as I am moderating them for now.