Westminster John Knox just released a great collection of 119 short passages from Barth’s writings, Insights: Karl Barth’s Reflections on the Life of Faith (translated from Eberhard Busch’s Augenblick ).
This little book would make a nice gift for someone you want to give a winsome and easily accessible taste of Barth’s thought. The excerpts are drawn from across Barth’s corpus including his sermons, ethical writings and, of course, the Church Dogmatics and are organized under broad headings like ‘Confident Courage’, ‘The Christian Life’, and ‘We Will See’. A nice feature of the collection is that each one-page selection is related to a scripture verse, making the book an ideal way to invite Barth into your devotional life. Reader beware: Doing so will surely leave you different than when you began.
One of my favorite selections is on the church entitled “The Upper Hand” and is taken from Barth’s Gespräche 1959-1962. The Scripture verse is Matthew 16:18 – ‘The gates of Hades will not prevail against it.’
In all the world, there is only one possibility fro the church: simply be the church! The church means those who are around Jesus and whom he sees all around him. The church is Jesus’ “circle”: the group around him that in a totalitarian world is nourished solely by word of God. And the more totalitarian the behavior of the world, the freer they are to believe and obey, because Jesus is there and the church stands around him. When it does this, then its existence is possible. Then the church is a bulwark of liberty, even when it is oppressed. Then the church has power and is perhaps the only power that exists in this world ruled by powers. The church has the wonderful opportunity to have the upper hand over the totalitarian world, not with a balled first, but peacefully and happily. The church can also wait, and it knows that it does not wait in vain. The church knows that all of the totalities of the world – which are really false divinities – are lies. Ultimately one cannot be afraid of lies. The truth will out, and in the church, that can be known. The more the church lives in humility and knows that there is also much falsehood in ourselves, the more certainly it can also know that God rules – over the lies in us and over the lies in the world. Then the church can, in all circumstances, do its duty and forbid itself to be anxious about the future. Its future is its Lord (p. 90).