How to read Karl Barth

During his lifetime, Karl Barth kept the presses very busy. He published more than 600 books, sermons, speeches and articles, and many more of his writings have been made available since his passing.

Trying to choose among these numerous publications can be overwhelming, even for experienced Barth readers. And some readers find it challenging or even frustrating to understand his particular language and dialectic reasoning, which sometimes seems to reject what he had just established earlier.

Barth also seems to repeat himself a lot. However, as Dr. George Hunsinger , author of “How to Read Karl Barth,” notes: “What first appears like repetition turns out on closer inspection to function rather like repetition in sonata form. It is [Barth’s] method of alluding to themes previously developed while constantly enriching the score with new ideas. . . . The more one reads Barth, the more one senses that his use of repetition is never pointless. Rather, it serves as a principle of organization and development within an ever forward spiraling theological whole” (G. Hunsinger,How to Read Karl Barth, 28).

Watch this video with faculty and students from the Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, N.J., to learn more about experiences, challenges and rewards of reading Karl Barth.