Looking Back at My Journey through Church Dogmatics in 2010

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I’ve noticed a couple of trends over this last year:

1) Volumes get better over time, except for the Doctrine of Reconciliation. I found CD I/2 very fascinating, and it was much more gripping than all of the background work in CD I/1. Unsurprisingly, CD II/2 was one of my favorite part-volumes of the entire dogmatics, and I found it much more interesting than the work on the attributes of God in CD II/1. Finally, CD III/3, which includes a discussion on evil and providence, was leaps and bounds more stimulating than CD III/1 and CD III/2. I found CD III/4 to be a surprisingly delightful part-volume, and I blogged quite extensively about Barth on animals and violence, etc. CD IV was an obvious exception. CD IV/1 was easily my favorite part-volume of the entire dogmatics, especially the first 400 pages. However, I found the other part-volumes to be increasingly less interesting. CD IV/2 had some highlights, including Barth’s discussion of the life of Jesus, and I enjoyed his commentary of Job and the devil in CD IV/3. And as for CD IV/4, let’s just says I’m not a big fan of the church or liturgical church speak.
2) Part-volumes get more boring over time. This was especially manifest in the Doctrine of Reconciliation, but I also found this trend to be the case for I/2, II/2, and III/3. Now, part of this can simply be explained by the fact that I have no interest in pneumatology or ecclesiology, topics Barth usually discusses at the close of each part-volume. Also Barth’s repetitive style likely contributed to this problem.
3) The Doctrine of Creation was painful. First, I spent my entire summer reading CD III and Lacan’s seminars, neither of which are easy reads. Second, I think there was a major hangover after reading CD II/2. Barth introduces the most radical re-reading of the election ever offered, and he dedicates the next 400 pages of CD III/1 to exegeting Gen 1:2! Also, I’d nominate CD III/2 as the least enjoyable part-volume of them all.

Tips for future readers of CD:

1) Read secondary literature along the way. Starting around CD II/2, I began reading current journal articles in Barthian scholarship. Reading the debates between Hunsinger and McCormack made the entire journey more exciting and also gave me more direction whilst reading. I would suggest reading an article or two before each part-volume, which will help focus one’s reading and also help one better process the part-volume.
2) Keep it in manageable chunks. I had intended to read 25 pages/day, but this semester made that practice damn near impossible. Consequently, I would spend some weekend nights reading 200-300 pages. While this was doable, I would have preferred remaining more disciplined during the week so as to not get overwhelmed. Also getting behind made it feels like more of a task than a fun project.
3) Expect to be bored. It’s almost 9000 pages and some parts can really drag.
4) Read the small print. It can be tempting to skip over these parts, but I found some of the best of Barth’s insights to be hidden away in the fine print, especially in CD IV/1 and CD II/2.

Finally, I began wondering if I would ever re-read Church Dogmatics right after finishing. I concluded there would definitely be some part-volumes I might revisit including: CD II/1, II/2, IV/1. Next year I’ll be spending more time reading works by post-Barthians, and I’m becoming increasingly interested in McCormack’s argument about the break that occurs between CD II/1 and II/2.

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2 Responses to “Looking Back at My Journey through Church Dogmatics in 2010”

  1. Troy Polidori Says:

    I’m definitely in agreement with your sentiments concerning CD. I can honestly say that I haven’t even read all of volume III since it didn’t have much bearing on my thesis work (what I’ve read of 1 & 2 were laborious!). On the other hand, I find myself reading parts of II/2 regularly. I think I remember you talking about this earlier, but whats on your upcoming post-Barthian reading list? Jungel, Pannenberg, Jenson, etc.?

  2. Jeremy Says:

    Yes, CD III/1 & III/2 were hard to work through.

    I’ve listed my upcomping reading project here: http://jridenour.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/unveiling-projects/

    Yes, all three are on my list. I’m working through Pannenberg’s ST and Jenson’s ST next year. Also I’ll be reading Jungel’s God as the Mystery of the World.

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