Römerbrief und Tageszeitung! Politik in der Theologie Karl Barths

Die Theologie Karl Barths hat aufgrund ihrer politischen und gesellschaftskritischen Ausrichtung eine besondere Bedeutung. Ihre politische Dimension gewann sie gerade dadurch, dass Barth sich auf seine genuin theologische Arbeit konzentrierte. Als ein kritischer Zeitgenosse las er neben der Bibel aber immer auch die Tageszeitung und diese Lektüre liess er in seine theologische Arbeit einfliessen.

Inwieweit lässt sich Barths politisches Denken auf gesellschaftliche Herausforderungen der Gegenwart anwenden? Dieser Band versammelt Beiträge des akademischen Nachwuchses und von Expertinnen und Experten der Barthforschung zu theologischen Grundsatzfragen und aktuellen Themen aus den Bereichen Umwelt-, Friedens- und Sozialethik im europäischen und amerikanischen Kontext.

Mit Beiträgen von Kai-Ole Eberhardt, Margit Ernst-Habib, Marco Hofheinz, Markus Höfner, André Jeromin, Christine Lieberknecht, W. Travis McMaken, Raphaela J. Meyer zu Hörste-Bührer, Björn Schütz und Jan-Philip Tegtmeier.

A collection of symposium papers from discussions about Barth and society and politics is nothing to be sneezed at and the present volume is no exception.   Persons interested in the symposium in question can visit its website here.

Comprised of two major divisions and one minor one, this work, following the editorial introduction, examines the topics of God’s Lordship (even in the realm of politics) with two essays and the topic of the human witness to that Lordship as it is concretely lived out ethically, with seven (including one by, surprise of surprises, an American- W. Travis McMaken.

Contributors address such varied themes as how the coronavirus as Anfechtung might be understood in the light of  Barth’s theology of God’s rule, Barth’s christological anthropology, the future of Barth (or perhaps better, Barthianism),  Barth’s concept of poverty in dialogue, Barth’s theology for a Europe in crisis, and, by McMaken, on Barth and American politics (translated for inclusion in the collection by Marco Hofheinz).

A final contribution ties everything together and leads readers to consider the intersection of theological existence and political existence.

All in all, this is a super collection.  Politics is on everyone’s mind these days, even when they aren’t very politically involved.  Christians, in particular, have had to wrestle with the implications of faith for politics and as recent events have proven beyond any doubt, Christians can be profoundly politically dangerous when authentic faith is divorced from a sound theological foundation and a lived Christian ethic.

McMaken’s essay in particular demonstrates an excellent grasp of the political situation in the United States and Travis does an extremely good job of interjecting Barth’s theology into the mix.  He also does a good job of indicating just how critical it is that ‘freedom’ is best lived out when it’s freedom ‘for’ the other rather than ‘from’ the other.

The best essay, though, in the collection, in my estimation, is that of Jeromin, on coronavirus and Barth’s understanding of God’s lordship.  Summa Summarum– As in all things, for Barth, God rules.

That’s not to assert that the other essays here are not extremely engaging, because they are.  Rather, it’s simply to say that this one was the most interesting, to me.  Others will find others to be their preference.

As in all things Barth, there is an awful lot of interest here.  Barth, regardless of my personal feelings for him as a husband and a father and a man, remains a Himalaya and anyone wishing to do theological work has to climb the summit in order to see the whole picture.  These essays help us engage Barth on the field of politics and for that we must all be grateful, given the importance of politics at the moment.

There are a few photos of Barth included; the binding is lovely; the font is pleasant.  There are no indices, but none are needed as each essay is well titled and documented.

I urge you to read it- whether your chief interest is politics or theology.  Either way, you will learn a great deal indeed.