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  • Final Testimonies by Karl Barth

    Karl Barth has been the major force behind the revival of Protestant theology in this century. His personalwar against Hitler is history, and his multi-volume Dogmatik is a theological landmark. Edited by EberhardBusch and translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Published by Wm. B. Erdmans Publishing Co. 1977. Thismaterial was edited for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

    The last comments of Barth concerning what Jesus means to him. He also deals withmusic, liberalism, Roman Catholic and Evangelical Reform preaching -- things that mustbe left behind, including conversion and confession (but he did not live to finish hiscomments on this last word).

    Translators Preface, by G. W. BromileyBehind these last words of Karl Barth stands a wealth of thought and experience endowingthem with a peculiar poignancy and force.

    Foreword, by Arthur C. CochraneThe President of the Karl Barth Society of North America expresses appreciation toGeoffrey F. Bromiley who translated this book into English.

    Testimony to Jesus ChristBarth asnwers the question what Jesus is for him: "As Jesus Christ has made himselfresponsible for me before God, I, too, am destined for an active response to the Word ofGod which is directed to all."

    Music for a Guest A radio BroadcastBarth speaks of Mozart, and a little of theology, world politics, and the situation in thechurch. But his last word is about a name, that of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is grace and isthe ultimate -- one beyond world and church and even theology.

    Liberal theology An InterviewBarth claims to be both orthodox and liberal, yet neither. He respects true liberalism bywhich he means thinking and speaking in responsibility and openness on all sides,backwards and forwards, toward both past and future. But God has acted, acts, and will actamong men, and when this is perceptible it is his revelation. Man becomes free (liberal)when he hears the revelation of this free God.

    Radio Sermons: Catholic and EvangelicalBarth comments on Roman Catholic and Evangelical Reformed preaching. He considerscloseness to the Bible and closeness to life as the main criteria of a good sermon.

    Starting Out, Turning Round, Confessing"Starting out" takes place when something already there has grown old and must be leftbehind. In the church the word "conversion" means turning in ones tracks and thenstarting off toward the new thing, the goal that is ahead. "Confessing".(Barth broke offthe text before the third point, intending to finish the next day. He died that night.)

    Epilogue by Eberhard Busch

    Karl Barth. Final Testimonies.


  • Eberhard Busch comments: If we have listened to what he said in these final testimonies,and how he said it, only fools can bewail his death as unexpectedly sudden and premature;instead we should think of him with gratitude and consolation.

    Karl Barth. Final Testimonies.


  • Translators Preface, by G. W.Bromiley

    Particular weight and solemnity has always been attached tolast words. It is for this reason rather than for any outstandingmerit or originality that Karl Barths final testimonies to thegospel command our interest. What were the things on hismind when life was obviously drawing to a close? What did hemost want to say or stress within the confines of his specificassignments? Where is the essential core of his thinking andmessage?

    Perhaps the first of the chosen pieces brings us closest to theheart of the matter. When asked to testify to what Christ meansto him, Barth answers clearly and boldly but refuses to bepressed into a purely individualistic or private statement.Christ means to him what he means to all others. Even in themost personal confession he thus preserves the sense ofcommunity, not just in the sense of "for me and for all otherstoo," but in the sense of "for all others and for me too."

    The other statements express no less typical Barthian themes.Love of Mozart goes hand in hand with a first and lastconviction that theological work serves the preaching andpastoral ministry. Authentic liberalism is to be espoused andnot opposed, and church matters, including theology, are for allChristians, not for clergy as distinct from laity. The Roman andReformed churches can grow together ecumenically as theformer develops the ministry of the word and the latter thecomplementary ministry of the sacrament. The pattern ofchurch life must be one of ongoing moving forward which isalso a moving back, of constant exodus and conversion, inwhich the abiding factor is confession of the one Lord JesusChrist.

    The old humor is there, the element of surprise, a little morereminiscing, as one expects in the old, and the kindly spiritwhich gradually replaced the early pugnacity. The words aresimple, and they add little to what Barth has said in hisprevious writings. But behind them stands a wealth of thought

    Karl Barth. Final Testimonies.


  • and experience endowing them with a peculiar poignancy andforce.

    It is fitting -- perhaps even symbolic -- that the last of thesefinal pieces breaks off in the middle of a sentence. Barth hadalways recognized that theology can never achieve a finalutterance. His masterpiece, the Church Dogmatics, remained amagnificent but uncompleted fragment. The last word, after all,cannot be spoken by us. It has to be spoken to us by him whospeaks the last word as well as the first.

    The words of Karl Barth are ended, but the Word of God whichhe attempted to serve lives and endures forever.

    Pasadena G. W. Bromiley

    Karl Barth. Final Testimonies.


  • Foreword, by Arthur C. Cochrane

    The Karl Barth Society of North America was founded October1972 to promote "a critical and constructive theology incontinuity with the work of Karl Barth." Among its variousactivities, the Society is committed to encouraging and, wherepossible, assisting the publication of Barths posthumousworks. Accordingly I am grateful to be able to congratulate theWm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company for making BarthsFinal Testimonies available to English readers.

    It is fitting that the translation of this little book, whoseimportance far exceeds its brevity, should come from the handof Geoffrey F. Bromiley. He, far more than anyone else, hasbeen responsible for the translation of the thirteenmonumental volumes of the Church Dogmatics. Beginningwith Volume I, 2, he shared the editorship with Professor T. F.Torrance. He was the sole translator of the last five volumes,and he translated large portions of three of the precedingvolumes. The church of Jesus Christ and the English-speakingworld are immeasurably indebted to the tireless and unselfishlabors of Professor Bromiley.

    As for Barths Final Testimonies, we can only echo the felicitoussentiments expressed by the translator in his preface.

    Arthur C. Cochrane, President, The Karl Barth Society of NorthAmerica

    Karl Barth. Final Testimonies.


  • Testimony to Jesus Christ

    I have been asked to reply in a kind of testimony to thequestion what Jesus Christ is for me. The request jolted me atfirst, for I felt reminded painfully of the earlier question ofPietists and the present-day question of theologicalexistentialists. Nevertheless, this does not alter the fact that inits own way and its own place this, too, is a serious question. Iwill try to answer it with the necessary brevity.

    How can I do so, of course, without saying at once andconsistently, in a way that determines and controls everythingfrom A to Z, that Jesus Christ is for me precisely -- no more, noless, and no other than -- what he was, is, and will be, alwaysand everywhere, for the church which he has called togetherand commissioned in all its forms, and for the whole worldaccording to the message which he has entrusted to the church?

    If I were to single out something special that he is for me, Ishould be missing what in fact he is specifically for me. He isfor me in particular precisely what before me, outside me, andalongside me, he is for all Christians and indeed for the wholeworld and for all men. He is this specifically for me too.

    Jesus Christ is the basis of the covenant, the fellowship, theunbreakable relationship between God and man. I, too, am aman. Hence he is the basis of this covenant for me too.

    Jesus Christ in the uniqueness of his existence has madehimself known to Christians as the free gift of this covenantproffered to all men. I, too, may be a Christian. Hence he isobviously for me, too, the demonstration of Gods grace at workin this covenant -- the grace which is free in relation to me butwhich also frees me.

    Jesus Christ in his life and death has borne and borne away thesin of the world and the church. I, too, belong to the worldwhich has been reconciled to God. I, too, am a member of thechurch which is called together by him. Hence I, too, may liveand die in the light of the righteousness and holiness of Godwhich defies all the faults of the world and the church.

    Karl Barth. Final Testimonies.


  • Jesus Christ has done his work in the form of the history of hisreconciling life and death which took place on behalf of theworld and the church. Since I, too, belong to the world and ama member of the church, the history of my life as a man and aChristian may become the history of my own justification andmy own sanctification by God in spite of all opposition.

    Jesus Christ as the first to rise from the dead is the promisethat the victory of his life and death will one day be generallyand definitively manifested in him. As I may believe in thevictory that he has already won, living and dying in this faith Imay hope for this coming manifestation as the manifestationalso of my justification and sanctification accomplished in him.