Yesterday we published the paperback edition of Sven Ensminger's book Karl Barth’s Theology as a Resource for a Christian Theology of Religions. Sven's book was originally published in hardback in our T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology series in July 2014. We spoke to Sven about his experience publishing his first book with us, and publishing into this series, and what he is doing next.
1. What particular areas or themes of Theology interested you and led you to write on the subjects covered in your book?
I’ve always been interested in the way Christians can understand and interact with those who are not Christians (be it of a different faith or no faith at all). This was the first step towards a broad subject area. Then, I came across a few quotes that called Barth 'completely unfit for that purpose' – yet that did not at all match the Barth that I had been reading and had come to appreciate. Thus, I had a key figure of Christian theology. It was in this tension that, the ‘what?’ and the ‘who?’ were set, and everything else fell into place soon thereafter. It helped a lot that I really enjoyed reading Barth and loved his language – and still do.
2. How would you describe your book in one sentence?
I would probably say something along the lines of ‘despite what you might have heard, Barth’s theology is a useful tool for Christians in a multi-faith society.’
3. What did it mean to you to publish within the TSST series?
It was a true honour and privilege to become part of this series, and thanks again to the editors and their confidence in my work. What drew me to the series was its mission to publish, ‘monographs in the field of Christian doctrine, with a particular focus on constructive engagement with major topics through historical analysis or contemporary restatement.’ This is what theology needs to be – constructive and applicable to the concrete circumstances in which the believers find themselves – and this will continue to be of great relevance. With my monograph, I am joining great scholars in the series, and, it will be exciting to see (hopefully!) plenty more to come.
4. Which part of writing a book have you enjoyed most?
Probably the detective work. What I mean by that is that it was fascinating to read Barth in German, and then to look at the English if available. At times, this was truly mesmerizing (‘Oh, this is what this is meant to translate!’), at times frustrating (‘No, you cannot translate active voice as passive voice.’), but always entertaining (‘So, how many senses of the word Aufhebung are there?!’).
5. Any tips for people reading the book?
I personally recommend pairing the reading with a dram of Speyside whisky… . Apart from that, going by feedback from friends, I think that the most important piece of advice would be, ‘trust me, I know where I am going with this.’ I tried to be quite meticulous with a lot of the areas (particularly in Barth) that I cover and looked at the same issue from a number of angles (admittedly, this is a technique that I tried to copy from Barth). The drawback can be that I am treading very carefully at times, and readers would want me to move more quickly – but, ‘trust me, I know where I am going with this’ – it is quite carefully constructed, and, every part is there for a reason.
6. Where is your research moving towards?
As the movie ‘Up’ puts it so eloquently, ‘Adventure is out there!’ – and I am convinced that I have only scratched the surface of both Barth studies and Systematic Theology. I continue to be committed to research into Barth’s thought, mostly because, surprisingly enough, there is still a plethora of material that nobody has touched yet. Yet my passion lies also in studying some of the ‘bigger questions’ of theology. I have started to look into the theological virtues and whether they could serve as a framework for undertaking theology. That being said, I continue to be committed to speak to some of the hotly debated issues in society at large, and what particular contribution the Christian community both corporately and individually can make in these discussions.
Thank you very much, Sven! If you would like to read more about the topics discussed by Sven, you can buy the paperback edition at the price of £17.99 here.