2 december 2016

#437. Karl har ordet…

Part of Karl Barth’s Speech on the Occasion of his Eightieth Birthday Celebrations.

”Then i read, and in our local church bulletin, that I am one of the Fathers of the Church. I thought with alarm of what Thomas Aquinas once said, that those who wore a halo in heaven fell into three categories, namely the holy martyrs, the holy virgins, and finally the holy teachers, who were none other than the Fathers of the Church. And now look at me. Do you detect anything about me remotely resembling a halo that I shall eventually win? I do not think so. From the very beginning of my theological work I have been very conscious of its relativity. For some strange reason, I have written evidence of this. As early as 1922, when the star of the much heralded second edition of my Epistle to the Romans was just beginning to rise, I wrote an inscription on the fly-leaf of the author’s copy. I have brought it with me today. I wrote it as if I were presenting a copy of the book to someone. But I presented it to myself, and what wrote was ’From Karl Barth to his dear friend Karl Barth’. Then I added a few sentences I had just read in Luther. I propose to read them to you now, to explain what I had discovered then and what I now can call my great alarm. The sentences from Luther were:
If you think and are of the opinion that you really stand secure and you please yourself with your own books, your teaching and your writings, [if you think] that you have done very splendidly and have preached magnificently, and if it then pleases you to be praised before others, yes, if you perhaps want to be praised lest you mourn and give up, then my friend, if you are man enough, put your hands to your ears, and if you do so rightly, you will find a lovely pair of big, long, rough donkey’s ears. Do not spare the cost of decorating them with golden bells so that you can be heard wherever you go and the people can point to you and say: ’Behold, behold! There goes that splendid creature that writes such wonderful books and preaches such wonderful sermons.’ Then you shall be blessed and doubly blessed in heaven, for the fire of hell is ready for the Devil and all his angels.
Thus wrote Luther. (For those of you who might like to refer to the text, it is in the Erlangen edition – at that time I did nor posses a Weimar edition – Volume 63, and if I can still read correctly, page 406.) That was the inscription I adressed to myself in 1922. And it has not changed in all these years and it has not changed today. Should this occasion today, and all these past weeks with the many beautiful things said about me, be a temptation to me, you may at least be aware that I am fighting a battle to resist it. Excessive humility can, however, also be a form of arrogance. I had therefore better pass on to the next subject, my thanks. 

[…] Let me again remind you of the donkey I referred to in connection with my Epistle to the Romans. A real donkey is mentioned in the Bible, or more specifically an ass. But let us call it a donkey. It was permitted to carry Jesus to Jerusalem. If I have done anything in this life of mine, I have done it as a relative of the donkey that went its way carrying an important burden. The disciples had said to its owner: ’The Lord has need of it.’ And so it seems to have pleased God to have used me at this time, just as I was, in spite of all the things, the disagreeable things, that quite rightly are and will be said about me. Thus I was used. I was on the spot – and while all these things were being said about me today I said to myself ’the battle was being fought, the enemy struck, and there was I in the baggage-train’. That is how I happened to be on the spot. A theology somewhat different from the current theology was apparently needed in our time, and I was permitted to be the donkey that carried this better theology for part of the way, or tried to carry it as best I could.”

  • Barth, Karl,1976:Fragments Grave and Gay. Glasgow:Collins. S.113-114,116-117.

2 kommentarer:

  1. Firade nyligen min 80-årsdag och fick en vänbok som gåva av Visby stift. Läser inte ofta Dr Luther och inte heller Karl Barth, men denna gång kändes de passande.