Barth and Bonhoeffer and Barmen

We had an important discussion today (6th Sept. 2010)

I have several thoughts following from our conversation.
1.    Karl Barth came to understand that Christian faith depends on Jesus Christ alone. In this he learnt from the Reformers and from Paul.
2.    Responding to the 19th century he rejected the attempt to secure knowledge of God in the world: either as an internal experience (heart, mind, intuition, etc) or in an external location (science, culture, race, etc). That is, the scientific search since the 18th century has been the search for a secure ‘ground’ or ‘foundation’ for our knowledge of the world – and, in theology, of God.
3.    For Barth the secure knowledge of God and of ourselves comes from Jesus Christ, who reveals God, and also shows what it is to be truly human. This is known by the work of the Holy Spirit.

4.    If you have seen the movie  ‘The White Ribbon’, that will give you the flavour of late 19th Century Lutheranism.
5.    The two kingdoms doctrine was very powerful in Lutheran theology, and divided the world into the secular/political and the Spiritual/God realm. It means that politics was to be worked out by means of thought and action separate from faith. Faith is personal and private; politics in the world is public and run on ‘’real politic’ lines.
5.    There are some important books of essays by Barth: ‘The Humanity of God’; ‘Against the Stream’; ‘The Word of God and the Word of Man’.

Also a biography by Busch (long); some late 1940s essays: ‘Bath: Here and Now’, edited by George Hunsinger. Hunsinger has also written on Barth’s ‘Radical Politics’.

We talked about Bonhoeffer in relation to Barth. There is the Eberhard Bethge biography of Bonhoeffer; also his Letters and Papers from Prison (I will copy some of his letters for discussion.)
Bonhoeffer deals with the two kingdoms doctrine by stating that the world is no longer expected to work by introducing god as a means of interpreting the world (not as Deus machina), not as a stop gap for our lack of explanation; on the cross God lets himself be edged out of the world. ‘Only a suffering God can help.’ We’ll look at those letters.

Jeffrey Pugh, ‘Religionless Christianity’, T&T Clarke2008,, is a good introduction to Bonhoeffer’s theology.         There is an industry of Bonhoeffer books: another is: ‘Reclaiming Dietrich Bonhoeffer: the Promise of his Theology’, by Charles Marsh, Oxford university Press 1994.

Recall that we will look again at the Barmen Declaration, especially clauses 3-5.
Happy theologising,

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