Friday, January 7, 2011

Lucidity, Brevity, and Barth

I, like many others (see for others synchroblogging Barth's CD) will be blogging through Barth's Church Dogmatics over the next several years.  Thanks to Dr. Kirk for instigating this activity.

I will be blogging on Barth mostly on my other blog (, but periodically I will point out something with rhetorical implications here.

Charles Talbert, one of my mentors at Baylor, often cited Calvin in his call for "lucid brevity" in writing.  This concept of lucid brevity is one that Talbert has mastered well and that I seek to emulate.  Calvin called for brevitas et facilitas, yet he was not the first to do so.  Lucidity (clarity) was one of the four virtues of style called for by the classical rhetoricians, and brevitas was a figure of speech that conveyed dignity upon speech.

While Barth might be the theological descendant of Calvin, he unfortunately did not inherit his virtues of lucidity and brevity.  Barth is anything but brief, and struggles to find lucidity.  I envy the mind of Barth, but wish that his style were more in line with the virtues of clarity and brevity.

I call to mind what my native German speaking friend in seminary said to me when he claimed that he preferred to read Barth in English (his second language) because it made more sense.