An important thing this week was for me to provide what I think are solutions, not just critiques of the role of the Church in the State and in society. So, I have set up through a series of observations what I perceive the situation to be and outlined what I think the Christian and the Church should not do. What is the Church to do then? I think twentieth-century theologian Karl Barth has something close to an answer for us. The following is adapted from a paper I wrote earlier this year entitled Church and State: Karl Barth and the Western Intellectual Tradition. More focus is given to Barth at the expense of the tradition in this modified version, as suits our purposes.
The nature of religion, the nature of the State, and their interaction has been a persistent issue since the beginning of both. Modernity and post-modernity do nothing but exacerbate the problem. In a period of enormous crisis, the question of Church and State comes into stark clarity in twentieth-century Germany. During the rise of fascism and authoritarian governments in Europe, Christian theologian Karl Barth attempts to provide a tenable answer to the curious positions of the Church and the State. By May 1934, the Church in Germany (Protestant and Catholic alike) essentially capitulates and pledges their allegiance to the Third Reich. Barth and other malcontents acutely cognizant of the evils of the Nazi regime conspire to provide an alternate response. Calling themselves the “Confessing Church,” they gather and adopt the Barmen Declaration. Denying the Denying the borderline salvific claims of the German State under Hitler, the Barmen Declaration sets the Church solidly against the State. Claiming to “reject false doctrine,” it denies the State the position of the “sole and total order of human life.” The Barmen Declaration makes quite plain that the Church is not in service to the State and rejects the idea that it has “permission to hand over the form of its message … to the vicissitudes of the prevailing ideological and political convictions of the day.” A theological statement with political implications, t Read the rest of this entry
[[This is a long one, just letting you know. Sit in for the long haul.]]
Well, I made it. It has been quite the sojourn getting here, but I made it. I obtained Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, today. Let me tell you, getting a hold of this thing was the real trial. I had ordered the hardback on Amazon days ago, but woke up to a notification this morning that it was no longer coming on March 17th as expected, but that it was not going to ship until maybe the 20th if I was lucky. Downer. I was going to be off of spring break soon, so I needed to read it now. We also wouldn’t want to let the topic go stale, would we? So, I cancelled the order and got to looking around town. My local Barnes and Noble had only ordered four copies on release day and had sold out within the hour. No more expected soon. Our local Borders is going out of business, so no new shipments there. And, of course, LifeWay hadn’t gone anywhere near the text. They still had Jesus Wants to Save Christians, though, which is a phenomenal little book in its own right. After going by every place that still sold books (apparently the local mall here doesn’t, by the way), I finally consented to ordering a digital copy. This is one of those books I really wanted to write in … but, alas, it was not to be. So, I cracked open the digitized text and began to read.
Before you go any further, there will be spoilers here. I haven’t read most of the reviews yet because this was kind of like a Harry Potter of theology for me. I’ve shied away from the message boards and blogs so nobody would spoil the ending. However, I won’t be talking about the book in vague terms, so if you want to read it for yourself, don’t read this. I suggest getting a digital copy if you don’t have a hard copy already. No one is going to have a hard copy until the end of the month. Just download the Kindle Reader app for your desktop or mobile device (both free) and read it there. It’s on sale for like $11 on Amazon, which is a superb price for a new book.
So we begin.
[[Edit: By the way, this was my 100th post!]]
Maybe this will become a Sunday tradition. Maybe not. I make no promises.
“The attempt to develop a natural theology prior to or as grounds for subsequent claims about God cannot help but be mistaken to the extent such a project fails to help us see that there can be no deeper reality-making claim than the one Yoder makes: those who bear crosses work with the grain of the universe. Christians betray themselves as well as their non-Christian brothers and sisters when in the interest of apologetics we say and act as if the cross of Christ is incidental to God’s being. In fact, the God we worship and the world God created cannot be truthfully known without the cross, which is why the knowledge of God and ecclesiology — or the politics called church — are interdependent.” ~Stanley Hauerwas, Gifford Lectures: “With the Grain of the Universe”
I don’t have the time in this season to write a lengthy reflection upon these words, but I find them poignant and, more importantly, true. What do you think?