First Impressions

Before trying to articulate my understanding of the content of Church Dogmatics I want to give you my first impressions of the style of this massive work – a style that makes it one of the more challenging works I have ever read. Starting with the first page I encountered some of the elements that make it so difficult.

The first difficulty is that there are two font sizes – a normal size and a small size. It seems that the smaller font size is used for parenthetical comments, but it can stretch on for several pages. Although the smaller font is readable, it takes more concentration. I have not yet had to resort to using a magnifying glass to read the small print, but I may in the near future.

Also on the very first page is a small sample of another stylistic difficulty: Barth frequently quotes from other sources in Latin or Greek.
Here is what I encountered on the first page:

Theology is de divinitate ration sive sermo (Augustine, De civ.DeiVII, 1).
Θεολογος est ο τον εκ Θεον εκ Θεου εις δοξαναυτου λεγων
(Coccejus, Summa theol., 1699, 1,1).

This is not an isolated example. Barth often gives quotes in Greek or Latin. Since my hardbound edition of Church Dogmatics gives no translation of these languages, I decided to buy the study edition which is in paperback format and includes translations of all the Greek and Latin statements in footnotes. However I decided that I prefer the clear, dark print of my hardbound edition. So my method has been to read from the hardbound volumes and look up the translations of Greek and Latin in the paperback study edition. By the way, the translation of the above quotes is “Theology is argument or discourse on divinity” and “A theologian is someone who speaks of God, from God, before God to God’s glory.”

Another stylistic challenge in reading Church Dogmatics is Barth’s prose style. Often his sentences are brief and clear. However, just as often, they can run on and on with multiple modifiers, profusions of subordinate phrases, and anti-climactic conjunctions that take his thought in new directions which may or may not be clear upon the first reading or even the second reading of some highly complex, but seemingly important or crucial thought of the theologian. Often, in my first few days of reading, I would stop after few pages and ask myself, What did I just read? Many times I had to admit that I had no idea. Even after re-reading some paragraphs several times, I was still not clear about his meaning.

In my next post I’ll get into the content of Church Dogmatics which is no less daunting for me than Barth’s style.

Why Bill DeQuill?

Before I start my comments about Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, let me explain how I chose my domain name. For several years I have used the name “Bill DeQuill” as a pen name. I chose it because it is both intentionally pretentious and descriptive. Of course it roughly means Bill of the quill (the old writing instrument made of a feather). I know that in Spanish and perhaps other languages the little word “de” means “of” and it is a separate word. I purposely chose to make it part of the name to show that I’m an English speaker who is not well acquainted with Spanish. I also chose this name because it rhymes. Another reason I chose this name is that it is unique. If you do a Google search for this name, the only reference you will find is to my Twitter account. Nobody else has this silly name. Since the name is unique, I was able to use it for my domain name which is now officially registered.

So Bill DeQuill means Bill the Writer.  I intend to use this website/blog to write about many things that interest me.  I hope that what I write will be of interest to you as well.  My first writing project will be comments about the massive, fourteen volume Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth.  In the near future I will begin that project.  So I hope you will return to my site and interact with me as much as you want.