This paper argues that Barth's writings present two discrete approaches to culture and that interpreters’ attempts to link the two overlook the rationale behind Barth's efforts to isolate them. The first approach is explicated in CD IV/3 §69 (the usual focus for interpreters of Barth's theology of culture – what I call the ‘true words approach’) and the other is implied in his analyses of particular cultural forms. I argue that the material in IV/3 ought not to be viewed as a starting point for understanding Barth's theology of culture, but simply as a necessary extension of his doctrine of the freedom and authority of the Word and the task of the church – identical in both content and context to his remarks *against* theology of culture in CD I/1. Moreover, Barth insistence that his general acknowledgment of the possibility of true words in secular culture must be kept separate from concrete examples raises another red flag, as this runs contrary to his attitude toward hermeneutics, which cannot be explored independently of particular texts and particular acts of interpretation. I maintain, therefore, that the material in IV/3 is not the place to look for Barth's theology of culture, nor for insights into his analyses of particular cultural forms. Toward this end, I turn to the Mozart essays in order to demonstrate that the customary strategy of interpreting them in terms of the ‘true words approach’ of IV/3 are simply taking Barth too seriously in a context where he intended to be playful. Indeed, if we wish to view these works as exemplary of Barth's theology of culture, they are better understood as instances of his concept of eschatological play. Just as the artist ‘plays with reality,’ so Barth’s use of hyperbole and tongue-in-cheek humor is meant to play – with language, with Mozart, and with his audience. Drawing from Barth's eschatology not only provides an interpretive lens through which to better understand Barth's analyses of cultural forms, but also provides a model through which the theologian of culture can appreciate culture’s value and respect its secular self-understanding, while avoiding the cultural assimilation of theology – to which Barth feared a ‘theology of culture’ might lead. This new starting point thus reveals the significance of Barth's theology for contemporary work in theology of culture.