In his lifetime, Karl Barth changed the whole pattern of twentieth-century religious thinking. No one has enjoyed a higher reputation or more lavish praise. For his early writings, he was called a prophet and compared with the Reformers and Kierkegaard; Pope Pius XII said that there had been nothing like his later thought since Thomas Aquinas. In his opposition to Nazism and his support for the German Confessing Church he was an inspiration to Christians everywhere.
Yet he has also been called an ogre and a sadist, and his writings have been identified as a major cause of the introversion of much modern theology and phenomena like the "death of God" movement. Moreover, since his death his reputation has gone into a decline, as concerns other than his have come to dominate the theological field.
The fact remains that even now Barth cannot be ignored; moreover, he can still be enjoyed, for both in his life and in his thinking there is an infectious element of delight which cannot fail to captivate those who try to understand him. This book, by setting off Barth's life against his theology, aims at being both an introduction to Barth for those unfamiliar with him and a critical comment on his lasting significance.