Karl Barth Christmas Book Wishlist

karl-barth-christmas-book-wishlistIt'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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

  1. Table Talk
  2. Word of God and Word of Man
  3. Prayer
  4. Homiletics
  5. Community, Church and State
  6. Insights: Karl Barth's Reflections on the Life of Faith
  7. Ethics
  8. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  9. Anselm: Fides Quaerens Intellectum: Anselm's Proof of the Existence of God in the Context of His Theological Scheme
  10. Resurrection of the Dead: Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15
  11. Church's Teaching on Baptism
  12. Epistle to the Philippians
  13. The Word In This World: Two Sermons
  14. Final Testimonies
  15. Fragments Grave and Gray
  16. Theology of Schleiermacher
  17. Karl Barth - Rudolf Bultmann Letters 1922-1966
  18. Protestant Theology in the 19th Century
  19. The Göttingen Dogmatics: Instruction in the Christian Religion
  20. Theology of John Calvin
  21. God In Action
  22. The Epistle to the Romans
  23. Church Dogmatics: Vol IV/4 The Christian Life Lecture Fragments
  24. Come Holy Spirit: Sermons
  25. Call to Discipleship (Facets)
  26. Fifty Prayers
  27. The Holy Spirit and the Christian Life: The Theological Basis of Ethics
  28. The Church and Churches
  29. A Late Friendship: The Letters of Karl Barth and Carl Zuckmayer
  30. Revolutionary Theology in the Making: Barth-Thurneysen Correspondence, 1914-1925
  31. The Great Promise (*updated*)
  32. The Humanity of God (*updated*)
  33. 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?

Header Source: "Christmas Tree at the Westin Tokyo" by kazuh from Tokyo, Japan - Flickr.com - image description page. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

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  1. #31. The Great Promise (possibly the shortest of all the Barth books?)

  2. #32. Humanity of God. It’s one of my favs!

    • Thanks Sara, I added it to the list. Great recommendation! I have this one, but forgot to add it. I added these mostly from memory of what is in my library. I still missed some.

  3. As the Editor, I would be more than happy to gift you with a copy of The Word In This World: Two Sermons by Karl Barth! Let me know…

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