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Book Watch: Karl Barth in Conversation

March 14, 2014

Karl Barth in Conversation
edited by David W. Congdon and W. Travis McMaken

Released: February 18, 2014
Publisher: Pickwick Publications (Wipf & Stock)
Paperback Price: $29.60 if you buy it here.

Publisher’s Description:

“Karl Barth was an eminently conversational theologian, and with the Internet revolution, we live today in an eminently conversational age. Being the proceedings of the 2010 Karl Barth Blog Conference, Karl Barth in Conversation brings these two factors together in order to advance the dialogue about Barth’s theology and extend the online conversation to new audiences.

With conversation partners ranging from Wesley to Žižek, from Schleiermacher to Jenson, from Hauerwas to the Coen brothers, this volume opens up exciting new horizons for exploring Barth’s immense contribution to church and world. The contributors, who represent a young new generation of academic theologians, bring a fresh perspective to a topic—the theology of Karl Barth—that often seems to have exhausted its range of possibilities.

This book proves that there is still a great deal of uncharted territory in the field of Barth studies. Today, more than forty years since the Swiss theologian’s death, the conversation is as lively as ever.”


“This book is an exciting and important contribution to Barth studies. It breaks open the potential cul-de-sac of Barth scholarship to new conversation partners and thinkers. The result is a fascinating collection of essays that brings out new accents on Barth’s work and offers constructive insights for the future of theology. . . . Let us hope this book sets an agenda for the future.”
—Tom Greggs, Professor of Historical and Doctrinal Theology, King’s College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

“In this welcome collection of colorful and stimulating input from young scholars, we get to eavesdrop on some new ‘conversations’ surveying a diverse range of themes, and in the wake of the fresh questions raised, we are invited to hear again what Barth and others have heard and misheard.”
—Jason Goroncy, Dean of Studies, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, New Zealand

“This is a fascinating and instructive set of essays by a group of talented young theologians. These studies offer fresh perspectives on the thought of Barth and his dialogue partners and suggest new pathways for further exploration. Here we see both the ongoing power of Barth’s theology to stimulate new conversations and the creative potential of a new generation of Barth scholars.”
—Adam Neder, Associate Professor of Theology, Whitworth University, Washington

Why We’re Excited:

Three things: (1) It offers fresh avenues for thinking-with Barth; (2) it grows out of a blog conference (of all things!); (3) it has a chapter contribution from one of us at Theology Out of Bounds (spoiler alert: It is me).

Bonus: For those looking for an entry point into Barth’s theology, an appendix by David Guretzki provides a primer on “Becoming Conversant with Barth’s Church Dogmatics.”


You can peruse the table of contents here and get a sneak peak of some of the material here—but I’ll leave you with a teaser from my chapter bringing Karl Barth into conversation with the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men:

There was a pregnant silence. Joel took the opportunity for a question. “What did you think of Carla Jean Moss and Loretta Bell—the women of the film?”

“They do appear to offer another word,” Barth answered, “but this is no country for them, either. Mrs. Bell has a kind of serenity. That she has found a safe place of peace in the midst of the conflict may be to her credit, but we all know it is a false peace, which comes home to her on the increasingly despondent face of her man. She is simply ahead of him in her resignation to what is out there.”

“And Mrs. Moss?”

“She is the only one who will not play Chigurh’s game. She will not submit to his gods of fate and chance, allowing him to avert responsibility for her death with his coin toss. She won’t bow to his principles. She holds on to some kind of shred of belief in something better—which she doesn’t seem to know.”

He paused. “Of course, he wipes his shoes of her blood too. Nonetheless, it is as if hers is the only death not fated, but chosen. She is the closest thing this film has to a Christ figure.”

“But not really,” offered one of the Coens.

“No.” Barth took a breath and continued. There was no stopping him now.

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