Karl Barth: “Not a cheap and superficial joy but a deep joy; not a passing but an abiding joy”.

It was a privilege on Saturday the 6th of December to share with my good friend the Reverend Dr John Capper, his wife Wendy and their ‘girls’ in a special occasion at their home in Ringwood (Melbourne Victoria) as he steps back from his role at the University of Divinity in Melbourne. It was really good to see him surrounded by so many special friends and to hear all their warm tributes and reminiscences! I first met John back in the late 90s at a conference in Sydney and since then have enjoyed many a moment spent together. He notably came and shared in a Barth symposium 15 years ago back in November 2004  that we hosted at Tabor Tasmania’s campus in Hobart. See this attached pdf: Karl Barth Symposium November 2004

John wrote a great chapter for Election, Barth and the French Connection on Pierre Maury’s 1937 sermon “Ultimate Decision”, which I translated for the book.  In his inimitable style he entitled his essay “Serious Joy of the Ultimate Decision”!! John’s doctoral thesis at Cambridge was on “the Theology of Joy in Karl Barth’s Dogmatics”, a strong theme that recurs often in Maury.

I gave John a little book which has some rare little extracts de notre cher ami Karl and read him a page from a sermon of Barth’s on the theme of joy!

Comforting laughter

Look to him, and have a radiant countenance (Barth, after psalm 34:5)

When we look to him, to Jesus Christ, then we experience a transformation beside which the greatest revolution is a small affair. It simply consists in the fact that whoever looks to him and believes in him can be called and can be a child of God here on earth. This is an inner transformation, however, that cannot be and remain merely internal, but rather takes place by pushing powerfully towards the outside. A great, bright, lasting light comes on. And this very light finds its reflection in believers’ faces, in their eyes, in their behaviour, in their words and actions. Such people – in the very midst of their troubles and suffering, and contrary to all their sighing and grumbling – know joy: not a cheap and superficial joy but a deep joy; not a passing but an abiding joy. And even if they may still seem to others to remain sad and in a bad way, joy turns them into people who are basically happy. We may rest assured that they have received something to laugh about and cannot hold back this laughter even if otherwise they have nothing to laugh about. It is not evil laughter but good laughter, not scornful but kind and comforting; nor is it diplomatic laughter, as has become usual in politics, but sincere laughter that comes from deep down in one’s heart.

From Insights – Karl Barth’s Reflections on the Life of Faith, Louisville, Westminster John Knox Press, 2009, p. 5.

Many of us so much appreciate John for the way he has very generously and ‘joyfully’ sowed into many lives over the years. I know that John Morse (the Principal  of Tabor College Tasmania, who followed me) found a kindred spirit in John Capper and much appreciated his friendship and input in encouraging the Tabor faculty and supporting him through being on the academic board.

The photo below is left to right: yours truly, John Morse and John Capper.

Simon and the two Johns

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s