This overview of Barth’s visit to America is by Dr. H. Daniel Friherg, teacher of theology in the Lutheran Theological College of Makumira, Tanganyika, who is currently on furlough.
Professor Barth’s lectures in the Divinity School of the University of Chicago and in Princeton Theological Seminary undoubtedly staged the best-attended week-long courses in theology ever given on this continent. Professor Barth announced that he had never lectured to so many people in his life. About 2,000 people crowded into Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at every session, while Princeton University Chapel was filled to its 2,200 capacity.
The lectures were of an hour’s length—almost with Swiss stop-watch accuracy—but evening discussions continued longer. Many of the audience sat through almost three hours of what was for some of them, including myself, a very tight accommodation, in order to catch every word of two hours of theological speech. Barth’s hold on the crowd, particularly on some occasions, was terrific, almost mesmeric.
It was said in one introduction that we now had Barth “with us in the flesh”—a venerable flesh, with a look and a comportment at once grandfatherly and magisterial. Jaroslav Pelikan, Professor of Historical Theology, referred to Barth as a Church Father now veritably present. Accentuating his interestingness of person is his manner of speech. Barth speaks English perfectly, but very slowly and very deliberately. His delivery, with its strongly German accent, deliberative pace, and uncommonly sensitive management of voice inflection—particularly a circumflection of tone at the critical point which gave his speech a certain ingenuousness that pulled the hearer into acquiescence—was extraordinarily effective and ...1
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