One hundred twenty-six years ago, the most influential theologian of the twentieth century was born. Yes, as one of my colleagues put it, May 10 is “Happy Barth-day.” In the spirit of celebrating, I wanted to share the following excerpt from Barth's preface to the English edition of der Romerbrief:
No one can, of course, bring out the meaning of a text (_auslegen_) without at the same time adding something to it (_einlegen_). Moreover, no interpreter is rid of the danger of in fact adding more than he extracts. I neither was nor am free from this danger. And yet I should be altogether misunderstood if my readers refuse to credit me with the honesty of, at any rate intending to ex-plain the text.
Frequently Barth has been denied that credit, unfortunately, and that has meant a lot of the good correctives Barth offers concerning the modern Church have been missed by many parts of that Church. Paying attention to Barth's own care for the meaning of Scripture would help assure many of Barth's “opponents” that there might be more to the Swiss theologian than they wish to admit.