Review: An Explorer’s Guide to Karl Barth

30010109David Guretzki is professor of theology, church, and public life at Briercrest College and Seminary in Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada. Guretzki received his Ph.D. from McGill University where he completed his dissertation on Karl Barth and  the Filioque, which was first published by Ashgate Publishing  (2009) and recently released  in the Barth Studies series with Routledge (2016). He is also author of Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (IVP, 1999, with Stanly Grenz and Cherith Fee Nordling). Still, most recently, Guretzki has published a timely introduction to everyone’s favorite twentieth-century theological mind, Karl Barth.

An Explorer’s Guide to Karl Barth is divided into two separate but complementary parts: (1) Getting to Know Karl Barth, and (2) Exploring the Church Dogmatics. In the first part, Guretzki looks to acquaint the reader with Barth through biographical sketch, frequently asked questions, a glossary of concepts and people associated with Barth, and a theological exploration of Barth’s worldview pre-Church Dogmatics. It is clear from this section that Guretzki is well-acquainted with Barth and the Barthian theological framework, and well-equipped to instruct the readers on the importance of such in a contemporary context. It is here, even at the outset of the book, that the reader will discover tremendous benefit.

In the second part, Guretzki looks to guide the reader through the Barthian wilderness of Church Dogmatics. It is here that incoming and seasoned Barthian enthusiasts will find refuge and strength as they navigate the some six-million words that comprise Barth’s magnum opus. Guretzki does an excellent job keeping a broad range of readers in focus during his exploration of Church Dogmatics. If readers are looking to begin the voyage or have already taken the trip, the second section of the book is invaluable and worth the cover price alone. Lastly, throughout the book the reader will discover “Fun Fact” sections with interesting information about Barth, as well as a “For Further Reading” section with a curated list of Barth related reading.

Guretzki frames An Explorer’s Guide to Karl Barth around the concept of travel guides typically associated with a vacation voyage. This is a brilliant concept with which to explore the person and work of Karl Barth, and could possibly be the start of a helpful new series (An Explorer’s Guide to…). As someone who owns Barth’s Church Dogmatics and has found them intimidating, I greatly appreciated the work laid out in this volume and plan on using it in the near future to journey through Church Dogmatics more thoroughly. Karl Barth is by far one of the most interesting and influential figures of the past century, and it would do readers well to get acquainted with him and his theology sooner than later. That said, in my opinion, there isn’t a better way to make that happen than with An Explorer’s Guide to Karl Barth by David Guretzki. It comes highly recommended!!

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