As a young pastor, Karl Barth had been trained in the standard liberal theology of nineteenth-century German theological education. Human beings were making progress, at least in the German culture, and the church was there to help celebrate an essentialy optimistic account of human betterment. Then came World War I. Barth picked up the morning paper on 4 October 1914, and was shocked to learn that some of his most admired theology professors had signed a declaration of support for the war effort. Even in the face of the German bombing of innocent civilians and the destruction of the library at Louvain, the young pastor "found to my horror the names of nearly all my theological teachers whom up to then I had religiously honored. Disillusioned by their conduct, I perceived that I would not be able to accept their ethics and dogmatics, there biblical exegesis, there interpretation of history." Barth saw how their theology was but another means of subservience to German Kultur. There compromised, accomodated theology was in a moment unmasked for the young pastor out in the hinterland in what he later referred to as the "dark day" of his pastoral history. Thus began Barth's attempt to reconstruct Christian theolotgy, not on the basis of the older overly optimistic belief in philosophical inquiry, but rather on the basis of the Bible. (Pastor 270-271)This reminds me yet again of the need to continually to make sure my allegiance is to Christ as revealed in the written Word, rather than to some form of American kultur.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Barth's conversion to the Bible
I never studied Barth enough to formulate an educated opinion of his theology. But I really like this story that Willimon shares of Barth's conversion from liberalism to biblical Christianity as a young pastor.