20 Quotes from Dogmatics in Outline

Below are 20 quotes from Dogmatics in Outline by Karl Barth. As a reminder, these 20 quotes series do not aim to give a full and balanced doctrinal or content overview of each book. I’m not trying to summarize the main points. Rather, they simply highlight portions of the book that I enjoyed. The goal is to let you have a simple and unmediated taste of the work at hand. “Taste and see” as David said in the Psalms. With that basic reminder, here are 20 quotes from Dogmatics in Outline (a book which is in no way as austere or technical as it sounds).


Twenty Quotes

Is not the term ‘Systematic Theology’ as paradoxical as a ‘wooden iron’? …A ‘system’ is an edifice of thought, constructed on certain fundamental conceptions which are selected in accordance with a certain philosophy by a method which corresponds to these conceptions. Theology cannot be carried on in confinement or under the pressure of such a construction. (5)

Even dogmatics with the best knowledge and conscience can do no more than question after the better, and never forget that we are succeeded by other, later men; and he who is faithful in this task will hope that those other, later men may think and say better and more profoundly what we were endeavoring to think and say. (11)

What as Christians do we really have to say? For undoubtedly the Church should be the place where a word reverberates right into the world. (11)

I believe in, credo in, means that I am not alone. In our glory and in our misery we men are not alone. God comes to meet us and as our Lord and Master He comes to our aid. We live and act and suffer, in good and in bad days, in our perversity and in our rightness, in this confrontation with God. I am not alone, but God meets me; one way or other, I am in all circumstances in company with Him. (16)

Were we to reckon up for ourselves what we men are capable of, we should strive in vain to discover anything which might be termed a disposition towards the Word of God. Without any possibility on our side God’s great possibility comes into view, making possible what is impossible from our side. (17)

The greatest hindrance to faith is again and again just the pride and anxiety of our human hearts. We would rather not live by grace. Something within us energetically rebels against it. We do not wish to receive grace; at best we prefer to give ourselves grace. This swing to and fro between pride and anxiety is man’s life. Faith bursts through them both. (20)

The truth of Jesus Christ is not one truth among others; it is the truth, the universal truth that creates all truth as surely as it is the truth of God, the prima veritas which is also the ultima veritas. (26)

God Himself is He who did not wish to remain hidden, who did not and does not wish to be God for Himself alone. He is the God who in His royal majesty emerges from the mystery, from the heights of His divine existence and comes down to the humble estate of the universe created by Him. (30)

Where confession is serious and clear, it must be fundamentally translatable into the speech of Mr. Everyman, the man and woman in the street, into the language of those who are not accustomed to reading Scripture and singing hymns, but who possess a quite different vocabulary and quite different spheres of interest. (32)

The whole work of God lives and moves in this one Person. He who says God in the sense of Holy Scripture will necessarily have to say Jesus Christ over and over again. (39)

God does not grudge the existence of the reality distinct from Himself; He does not grudge it its own reality, nature and freedom. (54)

Heaven and earth describe an arena prepared for a quite definite event, in the center of which, from our standpoint of course, stands man. (60)

We do not exist in any kind of gloomy uncertainty; we exist through the God who was gracious to us before we existed at all. (71)

Who then is aware of man’s real wretchedness, save he who is aware of God’s mercy? (71)

The problem of Israel is, since the problem of Christ is inseparable from it, the problem of existence as such. The man who is ashamed of Israel is ashamed of Jesus Christ and therefore of his own existence. (76)

The Church is not ‘of the opinion’, it does not have ‘views’, convictions, enthusiasms. It believes and confesses, that is, it speaks and acts on the basis of the message based on God Himself in Christ. And that is why all Christian teaching, comfort and exhortation is a fundamental and conclusive comfort. (87)

Jesus Christ is the man, and the measure, the determination, and limitation of all human being. He is the decision as to what God’s purpose and what God’s goal is, not just for Him but for every man. (89)

The Easter message tells us that our enemies, sin, the curse and death, are beaten. Ultimately they can no longer start mischief. They still behave as though the game were not decided, the battle not fought; we must still reckon with them, but fundamentally we must cease to fear them any more. If you have heard the Easter message, you can no longer run around with a tragic face and lead the humorless existence of a man who has no hope. One thing still holds, and only this one thing is really serious, that Jesus is the Victor. (123)

We must not sit among [non-Christians] like melancholy owls, but in a certainty about our goal, which surpasses all other certainty. (132)

The Christian hope is the most revolutionary thing we are capable of thinking and beside which all other revolutions are mere blank cartridges. (148)

One thought on “20 Quotes from Dogmatics in Outline

  1. My favorite of the “twenty” is: ” The greatest hindrance to faith is again and again just the pride and anxiety of our human hearts. – – – – – We do not wish to receive grace; at best we prefer to give ourselves grace.”

    It invoked the question “How do we give ourselves grace?” Why, by acts of piety, of course. I’ve been there dozens of times, and YES it was pride and anxiety that got me there. . And the grace we manage to give ourselves (or earn) is limited by our own humanity, whereas the grace that God gives us is exhaustless.


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