A very useful, interesting, readable and engaging summary of Karl Barth, his theology and his context.
If you know about Karl Barth you'll know he was a prolific writer. He is probably best known for his 'Church Dogmatics', where he develops and explains a comprehensive theology worked out from God's revelation in Jesus Christ, and the implications of this for theological thinking, for people, for philosophical thinking, for the church, how it is worked out in Trinitarian terms, etc. Having just embarked upon another theological course and having to evaluate theology using Karl Barth's theology as a conduit for reflection, I felt more and more daunted as I became aware of just how much Barth had written over such a long period. 'Where should I start?', 'How did his thinking change over time?', 'I can't possibly read all of it... in the next 6 weeks... help!?' were just some of my reactions.
Then I stumbled upon this little gem - this book was a great help. It gives an overview of Barth's life and context, explains how his view of God, his theology, developed and the influences (pastoring in a small Swiss town and dealing with social/industrial unrest, and then WWI)that led to pivotal changes in his theology. The book covers the whole of Barth's life, and provides a little more detail on some of the key points, such as key early theological influences, the decisive turn away from liberal theology, publication of Barth's commentary on Romans, the framing of the Barmen Declaration, Barth's dispute and falling out with Brunner, the development of Church Dogmatics etc. There are also some short forays into deeper questions such as the debate about Barth's rejection of natural theology, his involvement in politics and the practical outworking of his theology. Morgan also sheds great light on the entire context of Barth's development of his theology.
Having perused a number of books and articles this is by far the best. Morgan writes in a very accessable, readable style, which will be appreciated both by the 'lay-person' wanting to know more about Barth, and the scholar seeking a framework into which to fit deeper analysis of Barth. This book really helped illuminate what is sometimes a dry topic - not because Barth is dry, but because so much that is written about Barth is heavy-going academic reflection (sometimes with too many long sentences and jargon words!), and it can be difficult to find a way in or a good starting point. Barth's theology is exciting, engaging, passionate and Christ-centred, and Morgan helps convey this.
For those interested in such things, John Webster, probably the foremost Barth scholar in the UK also recommends this book as a great summary; "the clarity and ease of its exposition of Barth's life and thought are exceptional" (much more concise than I!) - see the back cover.
If you want to know more about one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century, who worked out his theology in the midst of life, and was passionate about God, then get this book. If you are doing theological studies and want a good framework then get it (I have much experience of theological books - have a theology MA). I have no hesitation in highly recommending this - probably the best £10 I have ever spent on a theology book!
I bought this book because the SPCK Introduction to Kierkegaard was fanastic so I thought i'd learn about Karl Barth. I read the book not knowing anything about Karl Barth at all and finished in a couple of days.
The author goes through his life thoroughly and shows how he was influenced in his early years. There is a huge emphasis on Barth's Church Dogmatics, and his views on the things that were going on at that time such.
To be honest I read the book not knowing much about what Barth actually wrote about. I didn't find the author's explanations very helpful and I don't really know what part of Barth's theology was so important. I think the author assumes the reader knows a lot more than we do, there are various words and latin phrases that refer to some sort of theological meaning but the author doesn't explain it properly. Maybe its me, but I didn't understand much of the book.
Maybe there is a better Introduction to Barth out there but this one wasn't the one for me. Or maybe Barth is just extremely difficult to understand! But I wouldn't really recommend this book to someone who has limited knowledge on theology.