Some Karl Barth humor

Yesterday, I commemorated the 40th anniversary of Barth’s death. Yet Christians know that death is not the end; we anticipate the joyful day of the resurrection of the body. Karl Barth, I think, anticipated that the kingdom of God will be a place filled with joy and laughter!

Humor and joy aren’t precisely the same thing, but as Prof. Migliore has argued (in his excellent little article entitled, “Karl Barth: Theologian with a Sense of Humor,“),  humor arises out of the partial presence of the Kingdom as we recognize that things still aren’t entirely as they should be. As Migliore puts it, “Joy will find its fulfillment in God’s new heaven and new earth; humor belongs to a world between the times.”  (See also Prof. Hunsinger’s article on Barth’s wit and wisdom)].

I especially liked Migliore’s insightful description of the nature of humor: 

Humor often arises from the experienced discrepancy between reality and appearance, from the distance between what we pretend we are and what others know us to be, or between what others imagine us to be and what we know of ourselves.

In the spirit of humor so described above, I attach below a couple of “Karl Barth photo mash-ups” which I offer as examples of the “experienced discrepancy between reality [the historical context of the original photos themselves] and appearance [how they could be mistakenly understood in humorous ways].”

Or maybe you can suggest some better captions??? Enjoy! 

Barth in America, 1962
Barth in America, 1962
Barth and M. L. King, Jr., 1962
Barth and M. L. King, Jr., 1962

4 thoughts on “Some Karl Barth humor

  1. Too funny, David! Did you do the photo mash-ups yourself?

    It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these “great” ones who have gone before us, weren’t only scholars, theologians, etc, but people with families and social networks and birthday parties and festive meals and all manner of other celebrating and occasions where humor and light-heartedness would have opportunity to manifest.

    I’m with Mr. Barth, that heaven is surely place a place filled with joy and laughter!

    I think you can have humor without joy, but if you have joy, you will have humor, too.

  2. Yes, Kathy, I did them myself.

    But imagine this: A friend of mine said that they likely wouldn’t fly in the Globe and Mail. As if most G&M readers wouldn’t catch the allusion to Van Til! 😉

  3. I laughed at these – they were good.

    Humour is a strange thing. We just had the Panic Squad come to our church Christmas banquet and that caused me to reflect on the nature of humour. Migliore’s description that you quoted above is dead-on. The humour that the Panic Squad relied on most was the discrepancy between what you’d expect and what happened. For example, they’d act in such a way as to lead the crowd on – we all thought they were going to do “this”, but then they did or said “that”. And after a second of shock, we all laughed!

    For me, humour from guys like Barth always catches me off-guard. Really? A crusty old German guy like you can make a funny?! Hah hah hah! And I laugh all the harder. Maybe that’s because, like Kathy says above, I forget that the great ones are human too.


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