More on the $99 Hardback Edition of Barth’s Church Dogmatics

23 Mar

I wrote my friend Bobby K. over at Hendrickson about the amazing 14 volume hardback edition that CBD has announced for pre-order – inquiring as to the ‘why-ness’ of it all.  He replied (and granted permission for me to quote him) –

The reason is that Continuum/T&T Clark granted Hendrickson a license to reprint the previous 14 vol set of the Church Dogmatics. It will be an economical hardcover edition. CBD’s price is a temporary pre-order price – I don’t know when they will stop it, but even when they do, I am sure the set will still be relatively inexpensive. We are thrilled to be able to do this and make Barth’s work accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their financial situation.

I read a blog that someone (sorry no time to double check references) posing the idea that Dogmatics was going out of copyright. That is absolutely not the case. Continuum/T&T Clark will continue to produce their 31 volume “study edition” and Hendrickson will print the 14 volume economical hardcover edition.

And just to be as clear as possible- Hendrickson’s edition is the previous 14 volume edition edited by Torrance and Bromiley – NOT the newer “study edition” with Greek/Latin translated.

Fantastic!   Who needs Latin and Greek translated anyway?   A hearty THANKS to Hendrickson for doing this.  Bobby’s right- it will make Barth’s fantastic Dogmatics available to a much wider audience than ever before- an audience that couldn’t possibly afford $1000 for it but can for a tenth the price.

Hendrickson really does have their head on straight when it comes to scholarly publishing.  A certain Dutch publisher could learn a lot from them.


Posted by on 23 Mar 2010 in Modern Culture


22 responses to “More on the $99 Hardback Edition of Barth’s Church Dogmatics

  1. Emerson

    23 Mar 2010 at 9:48 pm


    I just wish I could get my conscience straight about whether it is appropriate or not to spend time reading a theologian who had an iffy relationship with his secretary. I know what the apostle Paul would say, which is what makes me skittish.


    • Jim

      24 Mar 2010 at 7:32 am

      waiting for a sinless theologian? then you shouldnt read paul. he was a murderer.


  2. Zachery Oliver

    24 Mar 2010 at 1:56 am

    This is, honestly, pretty awesome.

    I’ve been asking for the Church Dogmatics as a gift (the newer translation), but this is too good to pass up.


  3. James

    24 Mar 2010 at 9:15 am

    Cheaper than I can get it as a publisher 😦 Now, if only Hendrickson could get their hands on Brunner!



  4. Justin

    24 Mar 2010 at 9:24 am

    As far as I can remember, though, Paul never defended his murdering habit as a tolerable vice which was wholly necessary for the production of his magisterial epistles.


    • Jim

      24 Mar 2010 at 10:09 am

      do show me where barth does


  5. Doug, not Joel

    24 Mar 2010 at 9:48 am

    Peter denied Christ. James, his earthly brother, did not believe in him at first. Matthew was a tax collector. And we really don’t know the background of the author of Hebrews. No one is perfect, not then or now. They should not stop you from buying it is you want the set.


  6. Justin

    24 Mar 2010 at 10:59 am

    Well, you got me. I’m relying on Busch’s version of the story here: ‘…Barth himself did not hesitate to take the responsibility and blame for the situation which had come about [i.e., the Lollo + Karl + Nelly situation]. But he thought it could not be changed. It had to be accepted and tolerated by all three.’ (p. 186) Couple this with Barth’s preface to III/3 and voila, you appear to have a man who made an indefensible compromise in his personal life for the sake of his work (which, I think, is the most charitable way to interpret this bit of his life, is it not?). Now tell me, do you honestly think this is the same as Paul, who in his letter to the Galatians, openly lamented his ‘former way of life’ as a persecutor?

    In all honesty, I love Barth. I read him, I write about him, I have the sort of man crush on him that incites poor grad students to travel thousands of miles to genuflect at his grave, and I’ve invested a good deal of money purchasing the previous, non-cheap hardcover version of the CD – so it’s not like I’m suggesting that ‘the situation’ with Charlotte is grounds for ignoring Barth’s theology by any stretch. Heck, I’d be more than happy to make it canon law that every new convert must read the Römerbrief before they’re permitted to take communion. Nevertheless, I don’t think we should gloss this stuff over with a ‘hey we’re all sinners’ line any more than I should feel free to excuse my own cherished sins.

    That’s all (hope I can still come to the Barth Society next year…)


    • Jim

      24 Mar 2010 at 11:21 am

      i dont either. and you probably love barth more than i do. but i dont think that barth should be expected to be sinless in order for what he’s written to be appreciated.

      in fact, if he did have a fling with lotty, and he wrote the CD as penance, then, well, it’s the sort of penance everyone should do.


  7. Justin

    24 Mar 2010 at 11:46 am

    Agreed: being sinless is not a precondition for writing good theology.

    On your last quip – isn’t that the tragedy of the whole matter? Barth’s greatest achievement was produced in the midst of – even by means of (!) – what is possibly his greatest indiscretion. This is a familiar story, particularly in church leadership, right? When someone views their work as much too important to put down for any reason, when they see their sins as manageable and even helpful for coping with ‘what needs to be done’, and when the surrounding community tacitly reinforces this perspective, you have a recipe for disaster. There’s simply no space to deal with the junk in your life given these conditions.

    Hence, I think we would be much more respectful and loving to Barth’s memory were we to acknowledge these tragic elements in his life for what they are – not some kind of felix culpa.


    • Jim

      24 Mar 2010 at 11:57 am

      you’re presuming there really was an affair. such an assumption is unproven. barth never admitted it and wikipedia notwithstanding, there’s no reason to accept at face value the claim.


  8. Emerson

    24 Mar 2010 at 2:33 pm

    Hey Jim,

    The problem is really the evidence that has been uncovered in the Barth/Thurneyson correspondence.

    I’m not big on meddling, or gossip, false testimony etc… At the same time, 1 Cor. 5 will be forever seared in my memory. “I have written you not to associate with sexually immoral people….with such a man do not even eat.”

    If you think I am being judgmental, you should see what Karl Barth or Dietrich Bonhoeffer have written on this passage! I am only trying to apply it impartially, and it is a grievous affair.

    In the correspondence we learn that Barth was pushing for a divorce with Nelly, meanwhile Kirschbaum was hoping this would happen so that her and Barth could be married. Kirschbaum later expressed regret that she would never have children with Barth. All the while they pass on letters affirming their deep love for one another, how they need each other etc…

    I want to be fair to Barth, which is why I am approaching this prayerfully and in as many angles as I possibly can. “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.”

    For me the question is whether the evidence that has survived is sufficient to come under the judgment of the Word as: sexually immoral. If so, Dietrich Bonhoeffer remarks that-it doesn’t matter who the person is- we must get over our feelings for him and apply the excommunication


    • Jim

      24 Mar 2010 at 2:38 pm

      im not the easiest person to get along with. i admit that. and frankly im not even bothered by it. if barth was a scoundrel he was a scoundrel. that doesn’t nullify the truth of what he’s written any more than the fact that paul was a murderer nullifies his work. ex opera operato.


  9. Emerson

    24 Mar 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Hey Jim,

    How far are we willing to take the ex opera operato principle? To the point of blatantly disobeying the ordinances laid down for us in the situation of an obstinate brother? Do you believe that we can spend time reading the books of the “sexually immoral” in the church when Paul forbade us to even eat with such a man? Which constitutes more of an “association”?

    I emphasize the “was” in your statement about Paul being a murderer. But Paul did not “call himself a brother” when he was in this lifestyle. The commandment in 1 Cor.5 is given for the community of believers. “Are you not to judge those on the inside? God will judge those on the outside….expel the wicked man from among you.”

    Frankly I see no way one can read the Church Dogmatics with a good conscience and in sincere faith in the midst of these statements. That is to say, “IF” Barth was indeed immoral in his dealings with Kirschbaum. This I am trying to determine.

    What matters here is the Word.


    • Jim

      24 Mar 2010 at 5:41 pm

      then quite frankly the only solution to your dilemma is that you read no one.


  10. Emerson

    24 Mar 2010 at 7:02 pm


    If I go the route of Bonhoeffer’s theology, that might be a necessary “cost” for the sake of obeying Christ. That being said, I think it would be a little extreme to say I can read “no one” if I want to obey the Corinthian rules. Do you think that Bonhoeffer himself was “sexually immoral, greedy, an idolator, a swindler or a slanderer”? Actually I think he was blameless of all of the things Paul condemns in 1 Cor. 5. And what about Augustine? or Irenaeus? or Hans Denck? Sheesh, how about B.B. Warfield or Charles Hodge or Quenstedt? The list goes on and on.

    A teacher of the word is to be “blameless” according to the scriptures. And I have no doubt that God has graciously provided us with such in the history of the church…otherwise His own commandment would be void.

    I am also quite open to the possibility that Barth was “blameless” of the sins of 1 Cor. as well. We don’t just go about calling people “sexually immoral” based on some hastily pieced together bits of evidences, some speculative guesses by secondary sources. Even the fact that Barth and Kirschbaum “loved and needed each other” is in need of honest and fair interpretation. I very well say such things to my guy friends, and it would be a dastardly shame if rumours were to float about 80 years from now that I was a homosexual based on my correspondence!

    P.S. I love you Jim! 😉


    • Jim

      24 Mar 2010 at 8:21 pm

      everyone does. but have you never heard that bonhoeffer plotted to kill hitler?!?!?!


  11. Emerson

    24 Mar 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Yes, I have heard of this.

    I am also unable to understand how that relates to the judgments of the New Testament. It could have been that Jesus would have said to Dietrich,” Put your sword away!”, but I do not see where in the scriptures a ban of excommunication is called on for a brother who wishes to assassinate a terrorist, responsible for the wanton slaughter of millions of Jews!

    However, if it can be proven on the basis of scripture that we should excommunicate those guilty of attempting to assassinate a tyrant, then I guess Dietrich Bonhoeffer would have to be banned!

    Again, what really troubles me is how little regard we the modern church have for the perspicuous rules about excommunication. They sound fine on paper, until things get inconvenient! God help us all.


    • Jim

      25 Mar 2010 at 7:28 am

      no one is free of the stink of sin. you’re holding barth to a standard that you don’t hold anyone else to. which is worse, after all, murder or attempting murder, or flirtation?

      and i’m quite familiar with the concept of church discipline (having written a fun article on it soon appearing in the journal of the baptist history and heritage society). i too lament our lame and insincere approach to discipline. but i also understand the concepts of penance, repentance, and restoration.

      you seem to want to throw the barthian baby out with the disciplinary bathwater. i dont think that can be done.

      the unrepentant, on the other hand, deserve any scorn they get.


  12. Justin

    25 Mar 2010 at 5:05 am

    For the record, I am definitely not on the same page with Emerson on this one. It seems pretty clear that Barth at least had an emotional affair with Charlotte von Kirschbaum – and that’s bad enough. But as I said above, we should lament this aspect of Barth’s life as a tragedy, rather than using it as grounds for expelling his books from our libraries.


  13. Emerson

    25 Mar 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Hey Jim,

    Actually I’m not holding Barth to any “higher standard” of judgment. Actually, I fear that it is precisely my high regard for the man and his work that would prevent me from obeying God if discipline was required for him. I am far too partial, which is not good. The epistle of James would refer to this as the wisdom of the devil.

    If it was any other person who had done this (say, a Yoder); if any local pastor, I think we’d apply the discipline without hesitation. But the fact that Barth has done so much for the world in the writing of his amazing works; the fact that he is funny, beautiful, perceptive…pretty much the best a scholar could be, makes it hard for us to see clearly.

    Justin, you said that we ought to “lament” that Barth did this but go on reading him. Paul says,” Should you not rather have been filled with grief and put out of your fellowship the man who did this?”,a measure-by the way- that is not limited to cases of incest. I still see no other way around this dilemma. Paul was not a partial man. If a Peter or a James ended up saying or doing things they really shouldn’t be doing he took action.

    However, I still think we should be fair to Barth. Paul said,” Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses.” If I am reading this correctly, in our concrete case we have no right to entertain an accusation of adultery towards Barth unless two or three people witnessed it. I’m just not sure whether the Barth/Thurneyson correspondence is self-condemning in this regard.