witty Barth

I was reading “Reminiscences of Karl Barth” by John Godsey in the Princeton Seminary Bulletin, ns. 23, no. 3 (2002):  313-24, and came across a funny story that illustrates Barth’s quick wit.

“After the service in a parish church where Barth had been preaching one Sunday, he was met at the door by a man who greeted him with these words:  ‘Professor Barth, thank you for your sermon. I’m an astronomer, you know, and as far as I am concerned, the whole of Christianity can be summed up by saying, ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’”

“Barth replied:  ‘Well, I am just a humble theologian, and as far as I am concerned the whole of astronomy can be summed up by saying ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are.’”

Godsey’s essay also mentioned how proud Barth was of his new desk and chair. The president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary visited Barth and Basel and said the seminary would buy him a new desk if they could have the one he used while writing the Church Dogmatics. Barth thought it was a great deal, and the seminary got a museum piece for cheap.

I wrote Heaven Is a Place on Earth on a closet door slung over two little filing cabinets. I’m still using the filing cabinets, but in case any one is interested, I am willing to trade the door for a quality desk, preferably something by Herman Miller or Steelcase.

4 Comments

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  1. I’ve already moved that door and filing cabinets and I’m not moving them again!

  2. I’ll see what I can work out for you. I am pretty sure the desk I have in my office is indeed a Steelcase piece and I would have no problem parting with it in light of the contributions you have made in my theological journey. Keep in mind, it is not quite a museum piece though it is about 35 years old and the laminate has fallen off two edges of the top. The middle drawer on the one side scrapes on the lower one and there are a few other things that add character to the piece. Shoot, if you were willing to come and get it, I would be glad to see you have it. 🙂

  3. I’m good, Doug. Thanks! I see now why you never made it in sales.

  4. Reading Eric Metaxes biography of Bonhoeffer now and just read about his time with Barth. This is an excellent book. I am hoping though that by the end Bonhoeffer realizes what the Roman Catholic Church has all too often stood for.

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