Karl Barth’s Letter to Francis Schaeffer

Karl Barth’s Letter to Francis Schaeffer


Karl Barth wrote the following letter to Francis Schaeffer in 1950 that is similar to his response to Cornelius Van Til and assessment of Billy Graham.
Bergli, Oberrieden, September 3, 1950
Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer
Châlet des Frênes
Dear Mr. Schaeffer!
I acknowledge receipt of your letter from August 28, and of your paper “The New Modernism.” The same day your friend J. Oliver Buswell wrote to me from New York, enclosing a review (The Bible Today, p.261 s.) “Karl Barth’s Theology.” I see the things you think of me are approximately of the same kind as those I found in the book of [Cornelius] Van Til on the subject. And I see: you and your friends have chosen to cultivate a type of theology, who consists in a kind of criminology; you are living from the repudiation and discrimination of every and every fellow-creature, whose conception is not-entirely (numerically!) identical with your own views and statements. You are “walking on the solid rock of truth[sic].” We others, poor sinners, are not. I am not. My case has been found out to be hopeless. The jury has spoken, the verdict is proclaimed, the accused has been hanged by the neck till he was dead this very morning.
Well, well! Have it your own way: it is your affair, and in doing, speaking, writing as you do, you may shoulder your own responsibilities. You may repudiate my life-work “as a whole”. You may call me names (such as: cheat[..], vague, non-historic, not interested in truth [sic] and so on and on!) You may continue to do your “detective” work in America, in the Netherlands, in Finland and everywhere and decry me as the most dangerous heretic. Why not? Perhaps the Lord has told you to do so.
But why and to what purpose do you wish further conversation? The heretic has been burnt and buried for good. Why on earth will you waste your time (and his time!) with more talk between you and him? Dear sir, you said, that you are feeling yourselves nearer to the “old-modernists” and to the Roman Catholics than to to me and to men like me.  Just as you like! But why then not try the effectiveness of your “apologetics” in some exercises with these “old-modernists” or with these Roman Catholics — both of whom you will find quit a great lot here in Switzerland and everywhere? Why bother yourselves anymore about the man in Basle, whom you have finished off so splendidly and so totally?
Rejoice, dear Mr. Schaeffer (and you calling yourselves “fundamentalists” all over the world!) Rejoice and go on to believe in your “logics” (as in the fourth article of your creed!) and in yourselves as the only true”bible-believing” people! Shout so loudly as you can! But, pray, allow me, to let you alone. “Conversations” are possible between open-minded people […]. Your paper and the review of your friend Buswell reveals the fact of your decision to close your window shutters. I do not know how to deal with a man who comes to see and to speak to me in the quality of a detective-inspector or with the behaviour of a missionary who goes to convert a heathen. No, thanks!
Your sincerely[sic]
Excuse my bad English. I am not accustomed to write in your language.
I am sending a copy of this letter to Rev. Buswell!
Dear Mr. Buswell!
I have read your review together with the paper of Mr. Schaeffer. Every word in my letter refers also to you. Sorry, but it can not be helped!
Karl Barth

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