In Oliver Crisp's exciting new book Deviant Calvinism: Broadening Reformed Theology, he provides a helpful summary on how to read Karl Barth. The description is particularly reminiscent of Barth's paragraph on the twofold election of Jesus Christ in the Church Dogmatics II/2 §33 that Jürgen Moltmann instructed the Moltmanniac in a personal letter to read to learn about Barth's view of election.
In particular, when first reading Barth, one is struck by the dialectical mode of thought. That is, he tends to begin with a thesis statement and then spells out a particular view in accordance with that statement before taking a rather different view, which at times appears to retract what he has said in the previous section of his work, and finally resolving this tension in a further section of his work. In addition, this dialectical way of writing takes Barth some time to unfold—such that the reader must often plow through a good fifty to one hundred pages of reading before she is in a position to grasp the different aspects of the dialect and begin to understand what Barth's view actually amounts to. Finally, Barth does not set out his views on a given doctrine just once before moving to the next topic, as is often the case in classical orthodox Christian theology. Instead, he returns to similar themes again and again. In fact, he remakes in one place that in commencing each part of his Church Dogmatics, he, as it were, began his thinking anew.
Crisp, Oliver D. Deviant Calvinism: Broadening Reformed Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2014. 153-54. Print.
Related: Church Dogmatics, Deviant Calvinism, How to Read Karl Barth, Jürgen Moltmann, Karl Barth, Moltmanniac, Oliver Crisp