Addition: I had not adequately checked my facts before I posted this, it seems the relationship was ambiguous and not necessarily sexual. Still, the accusations that I react to have been made and I leave the following post unchanged as a chronicle of a reaction….

I just found out that Karl Barth had a 35 year, live-in affair while being married, and I must say I’m bummed! I’ve always admired Barth, I even considered naming my second son after him: Karl Bartik, a pun that would only get credit at theological college.

Am I missing something? For someone who has plumbed the depths of Christian theology soo deeply, a man unchallenged as the greatest theologian of the 20th century. How could he continue in such a clearly forbidden private life. Did he believe in polygamy? Did he believe in sanctification? Did he simply justify fulfilling his urges as a means to focus more intently on his studies in some kind of retrieval ethic? Was sexual impropriety something he allowed only for himself or did he think it was ok for everyone? Why, Barth, why?

I can understand a moral indescretion, a moment of weakness. But 35 years is by no means a moment. I can also understand that Kirschbaum was critical in shaping Barth’s work, but was it necessary to have a sexual relationship?

I’m not about to throw out his writings based on this. He is no less an important theologian to engage with, and even thank God for. I guess I’m just really disappointed by it.

Karl Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum

Karl Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum