It's Christmas season, and it is a great time to give the gift of Karl Barth! Here are my recommendations for which Barth books to buy for yourself or loved ones this holiday season. I've recommended below two editions of The Church Dogmatics and my top ten books by Karl Barth that are light and easy to read, and finally a list of thirty other books by Karl Barth that all would make excellent gifts!
The Church Dogmatics
The Church Dogmatics is Barth's magnum opus and it is his most important and famous work, and after 8,000 pages spanning 13 volumes, this behemoth is an unfinished masterpiece that is where Barth is at his best. There are two english translations that I recommend to anyone who wants to dive into The Church Dogmatics:
The first is Hendrickson's reprint of The Church Dogmatics, 14 Vols because it is a durable hardcover set that includes an index volume and the set is the most affordable (~$100-175); but the downside of this set is that the text does not include the translations of the latin and greek quotations.
The second edition I recommend is T&T Clark's The Church Dogmatics: Study Edition (31 Vols). This paperback set divides the Church Dogmatics into 30 volumes and also includes a large index as well. The smaller volumes makes them much more portable and the print is easier to read than the Hendrickson's edition. The study edition contains the english translations of all the original languages as footnotes on the pages, and also includes bracketed page numbers for easy referencing the original page enumerations. The negative points are that this edition is out of print and extremely expensive ($350-1000) and it does not include the prefaces or editor comments! Fortunately, bloomsbury has made them available as PDFs. This is the set that I personally own.
It's now possible to buy individual volumes as well, to help you try before you buy. I often recommend purchasing The Church Dogmatics: Study Edition Vol 1.1 Sections 1-7 for new readers who are ready to jump into The Church Dogmatics.
Easy-to-Read books by Karl Barth
Karl Barth published many other books besides The Church Dogmatics, and the sum total pages of these books is as massive as the Church Dogmatics as well! The length and depth of the Church Dogmatics prevents some readers from enjoying Karl Barth (including myself when I haven't had my coffee!). I've selected ten books by Karl Barth that are great gifts to give to anyone who may want a lighter book by Karl Barth.
- Evangelical Theology: This book contains Barth's lectures during his visit to the United States. This tour was the first time many americans had heard Barth, and the lectures contain an easy to follow summary of Barth's mature theology. Many people have recommended it as the best place to read barth for the first time.
- Faith for the Church: A Commentary on the Apostles' Creed According to Calvin's Catechism: This short book is Barth's commentary on Calvin's confession, making it a great book for Calvinists to read and for anyone wanting a concise summary of Barth's theology.
- Deliverance to the Captives: At the end of Barth's life, he preached sermons to the prisoners in Basel. These sermons are very easy to follow and are often expositions of a single verse. This is one of my favorite books to read, especially because Barth is able to unpack his revolutionary theology into sermons that illiterate men and women could easily understand.
- Call for God: This is another volume of sermons by Barth to the Basel prisoners. Many people claim these two books demonstrate how Barth's Dogmatics may be preached.
- Karl Barth Letters 1961-1968: This book is a compilation of Barth's personal letters during the last years of his life (b. 1886 d.1968). The letters are easy to understand and contain many eye opening comments, that are invaluable insights into Barth's positions, conflicts and controversies.
- Christ and Adam: Romans 5: This short commentary on Romans 5 contains Barth's views on Adam. Barth affirms Evolution, so this book is interesting to anyone who likes the Historical Adam debates or wants a short introduction to Barth's anthropology.
- Natural Theology: Comprising Nature and Grace by Professor Dr. Emil Brunner and the reply No! by Dr. Karl Barth: Barth and Brunner's feud over Natural Theology is contained in this very short book. It contains Emil Brunner's position and Karl Barth's Nein in response.
- Dogmatics in Outline: This short book is also commonly recommended as an introduction to Karl Barth, because it is easy to read and summarizes the Church Dogmatics.
- God Here and Now: This is a short book on Ethics. Barth has other books on Ethics and large ethical sections in The Church Dogmatics Vol. III/4 and II/2, but this book is much more accessible and easy to read.
- Credo: Karl Barth's commentary on the Creed is in this book, and gives some surprising conclusions about each statement of the Creed. This book was published as Barth was beginning the Church Dogmatics, so it does not necessary represent his final positions on each of the articles of the Creed.
Thirty Additional Books by Karl Barth for Collectors
I considered adding many of the following books into my top ten, especially Barth's Table Talk, because most of them are very accessible to most readers. However many of these book are also from Barth's earlier carrier, published before The Church Dogmatics, and do not represent Barth's mature thought. They are all books I recommend, especially since there are many used copies that may be found for pennies.
- Table Talk
- Word of God and Word of Man
- Community, Church and State
- Insights: Karl Barth's Reflections on the Life of Faith
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Anselm: Fides Quaerens Intellectum: Anselm's Proof of the Existence of God in the Context of His Theological Scheme
- Resurrection of the Dead: Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15
- Church's Teaching on Baptism
- Epistle to the Philippians
- The Word In This World: Two Sermons
- Final Testimonies
- Fragments Grave and Gray
- Theology of Schleiermacher
- Karl Barth - Rudolf Bultmann Letters 1922-1966
- Protestant Theology in the 19th Century
- The Göttingen Dogmatics: Instruction in the Christian Religion
- Theology of John Calvin
- God In Action
- The Epistle to the Romans
- Church Dogmatics: Vol IV/4 The Christian Life Lecture Fragments
- Come Holy Spirit: Sermons
- Call to Discipleship (Facets)
- Fifty Prayers
- The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life: The Theological Basis of Ethics
- The Church and Churches
- A Late Friendship: The Letters of Karl Barth and Carl Zuckmayer
- Revolutionary Theology in the Making: Barth-Thurneysen Correspondence, 1914-1925
- The Great Promise (*updated*)
- The Humanity of God (*updated*)
- Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts (*updated*)
Be a good friend and give the gift of Karl Barth his holiday season! Is there a better way to show someone that you love them?