Friday, July 9, 2021

Barth on Barmen: Miracle and Enduring Significance

In the first article of the Barmen Declaration (1934), representatives of the Confessing Church in Germany publicly declared:

1. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me." (Jn 14.6) "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber... I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved." (Jn 10.1, 9)

Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in holy scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death. 

We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God's revelation.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

The Barmen Declaration (May 1934)

 The Barmen Declaration

An appeal to the Evangelical congregations and Christians in Germany

The Confessional Synod of the German Evangelical Church met in Barmen, May 29-31 1934. Here representatives from all the German confessional churches met with one accord in a confession of the one Lord of the one, holy, apostolic church.

In fidelity to their confession of faith, members of Lutheran, Reformed, and United churches sought a common message for the need and temptation of the church in our day. With gratitude to God they are convinced that they have been given a common word to utter.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Barmen (1934): Religious and Political Context

May 1934: Protestant leaders from churches throughout Germany gathered in the northwest German city of Barmen. Their purpose was to publicly declare their shared loyalty to Jesus Christ as sole head of the Church and the Bible as their normative rule for that loyalty. They also gathered to reject together any powerful popular leader as a substitute for Jesus Christ and all ideologies as the normative rule for Church faith and practice.

In 1933, about 60% of Germans were Protestant, 40% were Roman Catholic, and less than 1% were Jewish.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

The Gradual Awakening of Martin Niemöller

 1. Unified Loyalties
Martin Niemöller was born on January 14, 1892 in municipality of Lippstadt, Province of Westphalia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire. His father was a Lutheran pastor. Martin was raised in the parsonage to be a good German, obedient to the Kaiser and loyal to the German nation; and a good Christian, obedient to Jesus and loyal to the Kingdom of God.

Martin would learn, in time, that being a good nationalist and a good Christian were not the same. There would be times when he would have to choose either one or the other. He would have to choose, like all of us, whether to be loyal either to national leader and nation or to Jesus Christ and his Kingdom.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Henri Bergson's Creative Response

Henri Bergson was born in Paris in 1859. His global influence as a philosopher followed the publication of his book Creative Evolution (1907). After that, Western intellectual elites joined local students at his crowded lectures at the College de France. Eventually, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (1927) and the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor (the French government’s highest honor) (1930).

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Dividing the 20th Century into Four Parts

Early in his book, The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century (2001), Peter Watson divides the century into four parts, each determined by a change in its shared sense of the future.

1. 1900-1914. In 1900, the dominant sense was one of optimism. Dramatic changes were taking place in society, with new methods of transportation and communication; and in culture, in both the arts and sciences. These changes gave the impression that the future of society and culture would be different and better than in the past. People shared the sense that history was a story in which a growing number of people would actually live better than their parents had.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Apollo Program: A Question of Meaning

Apollo: the program

In his book, The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century, Peter Watson identifies the exploration of space, including the spectacular landing of humans on the moon, as one of the greatest intellectual achievements of the 20th century.

The Soviet Union took an early and surprising lead in space adventures. It launched into orbit Sputnik 1 in 1957, followed by the first animal (the dog Laika) in 1957 and the first man (Yuri Gagarin) in 1961.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Universal Benefits of the Great Books

Peter Watson divided his book, The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century (2001), into four parts. In the last, concerning our post-modern times, he included a chapter entitled “Culture Wars.” There he discusses various views of the Great Books of the Western World.

Among these he included views expressed by David Denby. Denby graduated from Columbia University in 1961 before becoming an editor with the New Yorker and a professional film critic. In 1991, he decided to return to Columbia and retake two classes that emphasized Western classics. Denby reflected on his experience in Great Books (1996).

Monday, June 14, 2021

Go, and Sin No More

Jesus Christ calls us each day to join him on the difficult but glorious path of freedom which is based on truth, expressed through love, and leads to eternal life.

In today’s story from the Gospel according to John (8:2-11), it’s early morning. Jesus is sitting in the Temple. People are walking to him to learn the truth.

Sadly, there are false gods abroad: gods of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption. Each day they bully, bribe, and deceive us to join them on the wide though ignoble road of power which is based on falsehood, expressed through indifference, and ends in death.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: On Being Bought So Cheaply

In his childhood, youth, and early adulthood, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) was a devout Communist. Exceeding his peers in enthusiasm, he even dove into the primary sources of his society’s new religion to understand and embody it more thoroughly. Jesus nonetheless gave him a passion for truth which freed him from this idolatry. The powers that be did not allow this to go unpunished. They sentenced him to eight years in the Gulag, four as a mathematician at a labor camp specializing in scientific research.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Alexander Solzhenitsyn: “Live Not by Lies”

We might summarize the Good News this way: each day, Jesus Christ invites us to walk with him on the difficult yet glorious path of freedom which is based on truth, expressed through love, and ends in eternal life. At the same time, the world, flesh, and Devil daily bully, bribe, and deceive us into choosing the easy yet shameful path of power which is based on lies, expressed through violence, and ends in despair, destruction, and death (Matthew 7:13-14).

Strangely enough, Alexander Solzhenitsyn first discovered his life was based on lies while fighting on the German Front during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). Writing to an old classmate, he shared his realization that Joseph Stalin—ruler of the revolutionary Soviet Union—had betrayed the Revolution. For sharing this insight, he was sentenced to eight years at a work camp. Even so, he committed himself to learning the truth and to sharing it especially with his fellow Soviet citizens by writing.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (2): Author, Exile, Anachronism

 Author (1962-2008)

After a year of various struggles, Tvardovsky managed to publish One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. It was soon translated, published, and distributed throughout the West. Solzhenitsyn became famous inside and outside the Soviet Union. The following year, Tvardovsky published other stories by Solzhenitsyn.

In 1964, Leonid Brezhnev wrested power over the Soviet government from Nikita Khrushchev and sent him into retirement. He rejected Krushchev’s willingness to see challenging stories published. No other works by Solzhenitsyn were printed in the USSR until it neared collapse.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1): Student, Soldier, Prisoner, Teacher

 Student (1918-1941)

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was born on December 11, 1918, in Kislovodsk, a city in the Caucasus region of southern Russia. His father, Isaaki, was an artillery officer who fought on the German Front from 1914 until the Russian army was demobilized in 1918. His mother, Taisia, grew up in a landowning family and was able to learn French and English. His father died in a hunting accident six months before his birth. Shortly after his birth, his mother took him to Rostov-on-Don and raised him there, supporting them both by working as a secretary.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

A Sympathetic Shouldering of Cares

In September 1919, less than a year after the German defeat in World War 1, Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) gave an address, “The Christian’s Place in Society,” at a conference on Religion and Social Relations in the central German town of Tambach. Through it, he reminds us today that, as Jesus moves in our lives, his truth constantly frees us from all other authorities to test whether they are strengthening in us his gifts of love and life and to challenge them if they are not.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Barth and Schleiemacher: Two Roads Diverge

In September 1922, Swiss-born Karl Barth (1886-1968) gave an address, “The Problem of Ethics Today,” to a group of pastors in the western German city of Wiesbaden. In it, he mentioned Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) who, like Barth, was a Reformed theologian but who, unlike Barth, was a significant contributor to modern liberal theology. Barth summarized Schleiemacher’s contribution in this way:

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Barth on Calvin on Hope

In July 1922, Karl Barth gave an address, “The Need and Promise of Christian Preaching,” to a group of Reformed pastors. He chose to close his remarks with “a confession of hope”: