Today I finished reading Volume I.2 of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics – The Doctrine of the Word of God. On May 7, 2015, I had finished Volume I.1. Eager to see what the next volume held, I read the first paragraph of the Editors’ Preface to Volume II.1, The Doctrine of God, and read this: “With this volume Barth passes from the introduction to dogmatics to its content…”
Since I began this project on April 8, 2015, I have managed to read at least ten pages of Church Dogmatics every day with the exception of one day when I made a mistake and read only eight pages. There were 489 pages in Volume I.1 and 884 in Volume I.2. So I’ve read 1,373 pages so far in which the Swiss theologian covered a wide range of theological topics and broad, detailed references to the history of the Church.
Now I discover that I’ve only read the introduction to Barth’s massive work! So I’ve changed my mind about the character of Barth’s magnum opus. Reading it is not like running a marathon, but like competing in an “Ironman Triathlon.” A marathon is a mere 26.2 miles. An Ironman Triathlon is a multiple-stage competition which includes a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 mile run.
In 1981 I finished my one and only marathon which was held in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, near where I lived at the time. That same year saw the birth of my son, Peter, who is a better athlete than his father and has completed several Ironman Triathlons.
One trick in successfully completing a marathon or Ironman Triathlon is setting a manageable pace in order to avoid early exhaustion or injury. I think my ten pages a day pace is about right for me to keep reading Church Dogmatics and not drop out due to exhaustion or injury. In fact I now look forward to my daily reading which I nearly always do early in the morning after reading some selections from the Bible.
Now that I have finished the introduction, I look forward to plunging into the content of Church Dogmatics. I hope that I will not be so out of breath that I will not be able to stop and share with you some comments along the way.