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Karl Barth Reconsidered
Pastor John Heald
        For almost ten years I had on a shelf in my storeroom a set of LP records of Karl Barth's lectures.  I had looked upon them with curiosity, admiration, and a little suspicion.  I knew Karl Barth was controversial.  I learned in Bible School that opinions about him are highly polarized.  I saw in the libraries in Bible College and Seminary the shelves full of his writings.  I knew his reputation as the most important 20th century theologian.  But until something happened in my ministry last year I had never been able to understand or comprehend who he was or what his work was about.

        I have been and still am deeply influenced by the Reformation Theology of Calvin and Luther.  I found the Puritans and Pietists of the 18th and 19th centuries more than adequate for my personal struggles with Faith and Life.  My goal was to get people back to the "old paths", free from the poison of modernity.  The crisis I found in my ministry happened when the church I was serving called a new senior pastor.  He was a man who fervently defended every word and letter of the Bible and yet, full of the devil as any man I'd ever met.  Could this be possible?  My theology said no, but experience proved otherwise.

        I was led to see this was the leaven of the Pharisees that Jesus warned about.  It is possible to know and teach all the facts of the Bible and God and not help anybody, rather spread hurt and pain and death.  What a contrast between Pharisees and Disciples of the Lord!  New Testament ministers are not to impress the mere letter of Scripture, but minister the Spirit: because the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor 3:8).  As I explored this important difference I found this is what Karl Barth was also asserting.  I began to read and enjoy his books and then remembered the set of LPs that I had found orphaned at Nyack Seminary and never heard played.

        Since I couldn't find a working turntable in New Jersey I contacted my sister with this dilemma.  My first thought was simply to ask her to convert the audio so I would be able to listen to Barth lecture.  With her audiophile husband they were happy to fulfill my wishes in converting the records.  From there the project grew to where the present CD set has been produced and is being distributed.

        There is a greatness in these recordings that flashes through because Barth is not speculating abstract ideas, he is articulating the existential encounter of God-with-us, ministering the Divine Spirit to his hearers.  Anyone who is interested in helping others see and experience the Work of God and the Word of God will find Barth's lectures inspiring and rewarding.  Barth has left the 21st century church a gift.  I am thankful to my sister and brother-in-law for making this gift newly available after lying several decades in obscurity.  Barth himself encourages us to pick up where he left off, impressing God's Word to a new generation.

Pastor John Heald
Freehold, NJ
April 22 2006

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This page was last updated December 13 2010.