Eugene Peterson's "The Pastor: A Memoir" has become somewhat of a manifesto for me. Someday, I hope to write more of what it's done for me, is doing for me... Eugene's books have been my sanity - a true lamp to my pastoral feet - time and time again. Once, many years ago, I met him at a conference on spiritual formation in LA. But that's another story for another time.
In the meantime, I've started immersing myself in Karl Barth. I've read sizeable chunks of Barth over the years, and a lot of books about Barth and his theology (theologies? two? or three? consistent? etc). But I haven't spent much time in Barth directly, mostly because I hadn't found much that caught my heart in the bits of Barth that I'd read. Graham Tomlin once told me that I spent too much time in the secondary sources and not enough in the primary, and that's true - I've always used secondary sources to give me a sense of whether I wanted to invest time and emotional energy in the primary.
Also, Barth's lately become a touchstone of theological "cool" in some circles, and I tend to react negatively to such things, no doubt due to my finely-honed cynicism, pride and critical spirit.
And then Eugene gave me good reason to dive into Barth qua Barth. In "The Pastor", he speaks affectionately of Barth as his theologian:
He became the theologian I never had, a theologian who got me interested in God as God, not just talk about God. Franz Kafka in a letter wrote, "If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skull, why then do we read it?... A book must be like an ice-axe to break the sea frozen within us." This first book of Barth's that I read was "like an ice-axe.
So... I started in on Barth's Church Dogmatics last week. If there's one theologian I really need to know well, it's my pastor's theologian.
And to keep myself reflecting on what I'm reading, I'm both tweeting and writing here on bits and fragments that I'd like to reflect on, thoughts and phrases that seem representative of Barth, critical to his argument such as I understand it.