Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth

Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth

Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth

Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth

Excerpt

Two photographs hang side by side in my office. Identical in size and shape, they are framed in gold with dark blue matting. One is of Martin Luther King, Jr. Taken not long before his death, it shows him in a pensive mood. His profile gazes forward, his lips resting lightly against one hand. He is at the Riverside Church in New York City. It is the occasion when he will denounce the Vietnam War publicly for the first time. Well aware that he will be rebuked by other civil rights leaders for mixing the race question with opposition to the war, his conscience has left him no choice. How can he avoid the government' growing cover-up and deceit? How can he overlook the harsh reality that the young men being sent to die in this deplorable and unjust war are disproportionately African American? How, above all, can he protest social injustice at home while ignoring the noncombatants so indiscriminately terrorized and slaughtered abroad? King' decision to oppose the American war in Vietnam is perhaps his finest hour since the 1963 March on Washington, when he captured the entire nation' highest aspirations with his stirring speech, "I Have a Dream".

The other photograph is of Karl Barth. He is sitting at his desk in Basel, an old man at the time of his retirement, smoking his pipe and reading a book. His great achievements are behind him. Never having studied for a doctorate, he has done more than anyone to revitalize theology in the twentieth century, leaving a legacy that generations will continue to respect. His massive and most important work, the Church Dogmatics, will remain unfinished — like the cathedral in Strasbourg, he would quip, with its missing tower. Thoroughly modern, he has rejected modernism in theology. Deeply traditional, he has left no stone of tradition unturned upon another. Without deterring easy classifications from critics, he has defied easy classification. Not since Luther and Calvin . . .

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