In His Own Words

Karl Barth was not only an important theologian, but also a gifted wordsmith. The following quotes are extracts from Insights, (original: Augenblicke) a collection of 94 short texts from Karl Barth, selected by Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth’s longtime assistant.

Insights provides a great introduction into Karl Barth’s work and his faith. Each of its texts is related to a verse of Scripture and shows Barth’s sense of wonder and amazement.

On Amazement

At the beginning of all theological perception, research, and thought – and also of every theological statement – stands a quite specific amazement. Its lack in even the best theologian will threaten the heart of the entire enterprise, while even bad theologians are not a lost cause in their service and their duty, as long as they are still capable of amazement. 


On Humor

Having a sense of humor means not being stiff but flexible. Humor arises when we have insight into the contradiction between our existence as children of God and as children of this age, and we become conscious of our actions in a lively way. Humor means a great bucketing of the serious side of the present. 


 On Fearless 

What should we do, then so that the nations will really want peace? First of all, we should not have so much fear – namely about the evil intentions of others. 


Joy in God

 Joy is the rarest and most infrequent thing in the world. We already have enough fanatical seriousness, enthusiasm, and humorless zeal in the world. But joy? This shows us that the perception of the living God is rare. When we have found God our Saviour – or when he has found us – we will rejoice in him.



It is true that free people will also strive for independence, as far as that makes sense. But free people are not compelled to want independence by every external compulsion.  They can also find all kinds of undesired discipline to be acceptable and pleasing. 


On Against the Stream

Nothing has happened to change the fact that Christians – even in the middle of their supposedly and perhaps even very consciously Christian environment – will always be strange and threatened creatures. In any case, they will not be going with the flow. For them the great truths of conventional wisdom will never have absolute validity. Nor, certainly, will their absolute negation, and thus they will also hardly be able to count on the applause of current revolutionaries. And they will cultivate their freedom not only in free thoughts in private, but also in free and open deeds and modes of behaviour that will never find public approval.


On Easter

What happened on that day (of Easter) became, was and remained the centre around which everything else moves. For everything lasts its time, but the love of God – which was at work and was expressed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead – lasts forever. Because this event took place, there is no reason to despair, and even when we read the newspaper with all its confusing and frightening news, there is every reason to hope.