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.
There can be no awakening of the soul which is anything but a “sympathetic shouldering of the cares of the whole generation.” This awakening of the soul is the vivifying movement of God into history or into consciousness, the movement of Life into life. When we are under its power, we can but issue a categorical challenge to all the authorities of life; we cannot but test them by that which alone can be authoritative. All life must be measured by Life. An independent life aside from Life is not life but death (290).
Source: Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man, trans. Douglas Horton (Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1978), 290.
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