- Hardcover: 327 pages
- Publisher: Peter Smith Pub Inc (June 1, 1958)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0844615994
- ISBN-13: 978-0844615998
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,635,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Word of God and the Word of Man
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It is true that the translation of a work of literature is often as much of an art as the work of literature itself. Having now read three long translations of Karl Barth from three different translators, I can speculate that the above statement is, perhaps, more true of nonfiction being translated from German to English than it is anywhere else. Douglas Horton's translation of Barth stands head and shoulders over the other two authors whose translations I've attempted, and the man deserves to be commended for a job well done before I get into the meat of the book.
The Word of God and the Word of Man is a collection of eight addresses Barth gave to Reformed conventions during the first half of the period between the two world wars. At this point, Barth was still the young country preacher he spent his life professing to be, and his youth should be taken into account when comparing the writings in this book with some of his other works. Barth is a bit more, shall we say, pointed here than he is in later works. Not that that's a bad thing, by any means.
Perhaps it is the case that Barth's exhortations to his fellow ministers are different and more positive than those he used to congregants. But as a non-Christian reading Barth, the thing that kept coming back to me is that if more churches (and Reform or not, most Protestant denominations these seem to pay at least lip service to Barth's works) actually practiced what Barth preached, I might still be a member of one. Barth's vision of the place of the preacher as bridge between the kingdom of Man and the kingdom of God spends little time, if any, on the "thou shalt not"s and most of his time on the questions with which every aspiring Christian, preacher or no, struggles (or should struggle) on a daily basis; why are we here? How can we understand the wholly Other that is God? How can we communicate what little understanding we can garner to others, and what makes us qualified to do so? Things like that. There is fire here, and it can be seen even eighty years later with the words on a page, but there is a decided lack of the smell of brimstone. Barth's fire is that of enthusiasm to share, not to command, and that makes all the difference.
Karl Barth is widely considered to be one of the greatest theological thinkers of the twentieth century; reading books like The Word of God and the Word of Man, it's quite easy to see why. ****