I'm knee deep in Karl Barth already. My mind is being challenged, and is cautiously noting potential challenges to to be made as well. For now, however, I'm trying to get the lay of the theological landscape, to get to know the man I'll be studying, and to get at least a working knowledge of the German language. Eberhard Busch's biography of Karl Barth has been a vital help with the first two, but I am not sure anything but hard work can help me with the latter.
Here are a few anecdotes and quotes from the earlier part of Barth's life which caused me to simultaneously chuckle and blush:
On Childhood: "I was the oldest child . . . in my family and did not always use my position in the right way: the consequence was that my brothers, in particular, bore a grudge against me all through their lives for having been so bossy then and having made everything the grist for my mill" (p. 11, emphasis mine. My own brothers have always been more gracious to me than begrudging, but that last line really hits the nail on the head when I think of childhood sometimes!)
On Parenting: "Children come under the healthy sway of the commandment 'Honour your father and your mother', but in their turn they also educate us. We are humbled by the perception of our own errors in them, by the observation that a propensity to sin is even in children's hearts and that our strength often threatens to fail in the battle against it. These are other ways in which children are a blessing to us" (12).
On Sunday School: "I had a well-meaning but rather silly Sunday School mistress who thought it proper to give us children a precise description of hell and the eternal torments waiting there for the wicked. Of course this interested us and excited us quite a lot. But none of us there at the time learnt the fear of the Lord and the beginning of wisdom in this way.' At least that was Karl's father's view at the time, since he immediately withdrew Karl from Sunday School and from then on held a children's service for the family every Sunday in his study" (13).
On His Early Theological 'Rebellion': "One of the best remedies against liberal theology and other kinds of bad theology is to take them in bucketsful. On the other hand, all attempts to withhold them by strategem or force only causes people to fall for them even more strongly, with a kind of persecution complex" (44).
On Pastoring: "'My visiting and my instruction are a laughable piece of bungling; I feel like someone trying to blow a trumpet; my cheeks are all puffed out, and yet curiously no sound emerges" (89).
On Frustrating Ministerial Meetings: "Official pastors' meetings . . . always filled 'me with the greatest unrest and anguish . . . When I want to shout something out in the room, I have neither the voice nor the words, and I hang there wriggling like a roofer on his rope.' On one occasion, however, he did in fact 'shout out in the room': . . . He put out a formal motion to the synod that it should abandon its traditional opening service, in order to demonstrate publicly . . . 'that everything . . . is taken a hundred times more seriously than God'" (87).
On Preaching: "I preached today with the clear impression that this cannot get through . . . because it is still far from getting through to me myself. . . . Our sayings . . . all remind me of bridges which are still only half built, staring promisingly, sadly, threateningly, or however one will, into the air. . . . [Thus, in a 1916 sermon on Ezekiel 13] he spoke in prophetic tones of 'the great unrest which is inevitable when God speaks to us', saying that the 'pastor who satisfies the people' is a false prophet" (89, 102, 89-90, emphasis mine!).
On Feeling In Over One's Head: "The young professor often sighed over the 'mountains of material which I haven't mastered!' Or he lamented how 'I have to find my way through the fog like a poor mule, still hampered above all by a lack of academic agility, an inadequate knowledge of Latin and the most appalling memory! . . . The inside of my head is like a cage full of hyaenas before being fed. . . I feel like one of those men at the fair who hit a knob on a box with a hammer in order to send a ring or some such thing high in the air, but it keeps coming down again" (127-128).
Yeah, I know how you feel Barth; I know how you feel.