Did Karl Barth Summarize His Dogmatics with “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know”?

I’ve heard it recounted in countless sermons and read it in numerous articles on Karl Barth. Depending on who is telling the story Barth was asked to summarize his dogmatics (or his life’s work, or tell the most profound thing he had ever read) to which he replied, “Jesus loves me. This I know for the Bible tells me so.” Roger Olson has asked if anyone can actually confirm this or is it simple folk legend. When I googled it I found numerous recountings of the incident but few of them commented of whether it happend or not. One author stated,

“None of the Barth scholars I know can footnote this thing with precision. Supposedly it was during his American tour in the 60s, but I have listened to all the tapes of at least his Chicago lectures, and this does not occur during the taped Q & A.”

But he quickly adds,

“But the Barth-Jesus-Loves-Me story sounds true, and it’s the kind of thing he would have done.  Barth certainly did do things like get 9,000 pages into his Church Dogmatics and suddenly devote a couple dozen pages to a close theological reading of John 3:16. Or pay tribute to the profundity of childrens songs and their influence on an adult theologian’s point of view.”

It will be interesting to see if anyone answers Olson’s challenge.

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2 thoughts on “Did Karl Barth Summarize His Dogmatics with “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know”?

  1. I think it was said at Union Seminary in Richmond. Of course I don’t remember if he lectured there! Hey, I do know he loved reading about the Civil War & was able to visit Gettysburg when he was here.

  2. Joseph L. Mangina, Karl Barth: Theologian Of Christian Witness (n.p.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), pg. 9, and note 23; on Google Books at http://books.google.com/books?id=OkDS5QKqXEIC&pg=PA9&lpg=PA9&dq=karl+barth+jesus+loves+me+this+i+know&source=bl&ots=whs5jiWvzT&sig=nRjii-X50c6iP4qf-YgpVUtYADY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=lofkUK6sEOzK0AGU14GwBg&ved=0CHcQ6AEwCA#v=onepage&q=karl%20barth%20jesus%20loves%20me%20this%20i%20know&f=false [accessed 2 JAN 2012]: “During Barth’s 1962 tour of the United States, a student asked him what had been the most momentous theological discovery of his long life. His answer was ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’” Note 23: “Martin Rumscheidt, ‘Epilogue’ to Barth, Fragments Grave and Gay, trans. Eric Mosbacher (London: Collins, 1971).”

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