Karl Barth, The ‘Kind of Doctor Who Doesn’t Help Anyone’

The story is told- and I don’t know if it’s true or not- that shortly after Karl received his VERY well deserved doctorandus honoris causa his little son Markus was playing with a school-mate and his little friend asked him what kind of Doctor his father Karl was, Markus is said to have quipped

‘The kind that doesn’t help anyone’.

Karl apparently loved to tell that story and it is cute.  But if one were to ask Emil Brunner what he thought his reaction might well have been a bit different.  Brunner took theology quite seriously and believed that there was no higher or more important calling or work.  For him, Karl was – qua theologian – the precise sort of Doctor who DOES help people and in fact helped in matters far more important than a mere MD or Podiatrist or Gynecologist or whatever.

Karl did too.  But just not as seriously as Brunner.  That’s why I call Karl the Neo-Calvin and Brunner the Neo-Zwingli.  Thankfully, there has only ever been one Luther.

NB- By the by, Charlotte v. Kirschbaum always thought Karl was ‘very’ helpful… *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*.