Monday, July 4, 2011

The childhood simplicity of Karl Barth

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people,14but Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven." 15And he laid his hands on them and went away.
Matthew 19
I have heard two versions of the story below. The biographical entry for Karl Barth in Christian History (published by Christianity Today) states:
When asked in 1962 (on his one visit to America) how he would summarize the essence of the millions of words he had published, Barth replied, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so."
[I would be interested to hear of more documentation of this anecdote].

Was Barth naive? [Emil Brunner claimed Barth was naive (in the sense of Friedrich Schiller) in his review of the first edition of Der Romerbrief].

Or was Barth actually brilliant at simplifying theology down to its essentials? I think so. Indeed, a mark of many brilliant scientists is their ability to cut through minor technical details and develop "simple" models and concepts that clarify, unify, and give new insights.
"The main purpose of science is simplicity and as we understand more things, everything is becoming simpler.”  Edward Teller
This post was inspired by a nice paper given by Keith Birchley last week at a conference on the Church and the Academy. He explored the common "naivete" of Barth, Mozart, and Augustine.

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