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Rasmusson Barth vs Nazis

Rasmusson Barth vs Nazis

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Modern Theology 23:3 July 2007 ISSN 0266-7177 (Print) ISSN 1468-0025 (Online


The role of Karl Barth’s theology during the church struggle after the Nazi revolution in 1933 has been endlessly debated. That Barth’s resistance to the Nazis is important to understanding his theology is not a controversial issue in these debates. What is controversial, rather, concerns how best to understand Barth’s contribution to the church struggle and whether his theological approach then (and today) was (is) adequate and relevant. The historical and the theological sets of issues are difficult to separate sharply. Indeed, how one judges the theological adequacy of Barth’s response is to a certain extent dependent on how the history is told, and the way historical questions are posed similarly frames, to an important degree, the theological debate. How are we best to understand Barth’s theological approach to the church struggle? Was he consistent or did his views change during the 1930s? Was he, at the beginning, only calling for a churchly, apolitical resistance, separating the church from the political sphere? Does Barth’s concentration on Christology and sharp criticism of natural theology lead to ecclesial isolation? And did that, in his own case at least, lead to a disinterest in the situation of the Jews? Did his sharp critique of liberal Protestantism and his defense of a confessing theology in fact collude with the antiliberalism of Nazism? Do Barth’s theology and the Barmen confession in fact promote an authoritarian and antiliberal position? These are but only a few examples of the type of issues that have been raised over the years regarding Barth’s theology. Indeed, it is fair to say that Barth’s theology is as controversial now as it was in 1933. Most

Arne Rasmusson Department of Religious Studies, Umeå University, SE-90187 Umeå, SWEDEN
© 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

370 Arne Rasmusson Protestant theology today represents outlooks more aligned with Barth’s opponents in the 1930s than with Barth. At the same time, however, the supporters of Barth’s theology and the Barmen confession have subsequently been radically divided and the controversies among them have been exceptionally harsh. Regardless of which genealogy one chooses to follow, both exhibit a reciprocal relationship between the historical interpretations provided and the theological, ecclesial, and political standpoints assumed by the interpreters. I will not attempt to answer all the questions posed above about Barth’s theology. Some of them I have discussed elsewhere.1 At present I will restrict myself to offering my own reading of Barth’s theology and its development during the 1930s concerning the interrelationships among church, theology, and politics as displayed in relation to National Socialism in Germany. I will concentrate on Barth’s writings in 1933, the Barmen declaration from 1934, and his very sharp rejection of the National Socialist state in 1938. I do not claim originality in what I argue below, but my reading does differ markedly from readings given by many influential interpreters—among Barth’s opponents and his supporters alike—with particular reference to his theological approach to the church struggle and its political implications. How one understands Barth’s approach to the church struggle and its political ramifications has important consequences for determining the degree to which one will judge Barth to be consistent (or not) in his articulation of the interrelationships among church, theology, and politics.2 The sharp edges of Barth’s theology, not least its so-called Christocentrism (some would say its Christo-monism), are enough to make it highly controversial. But Barth’s response in 1933 was also a straightforward attack on the then dominant types of theology in Germany, both conservative and liberal. Indeed, conservative and liberal German theologies were not all that different from the types of theology in other European countries or in North America at that time, and Barth’s attack found something of a target in all of them, including theologies ostensibly quite close to Barth. The Nazi revolution in 1933 was greeted by much enthusiasm in German Protestantism, although the attempts by the German Christians (Deutsche Christen, a Protestant group highly supportive of the Nazi revolution) to take control of the church also met much resistance. But Barth did not think that the problem was restricted to these German Christians, whom he understood simply “as the last, most perfected and ugliest progeny of the neo-Protestantism” of the theological era of Adolf Harnack and Ernst Troeltsch.3 The group had its roots in neo-Protestant developments after 1700 which found representatives in people like Friedrich Schleiermacher and Richard Rothe.4 Ecclesiastical and theological liberalism, in Barth’s view, was just one part of German Protestant modernism. Indeed, most theological moderates and conservatives were not
© 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Deprive them of their PATHOS. and as if nothing had happened”. and are thereby compelled to leave the judgement to Him. Society. Barth was actually delivering his lectures. that is to say. he repeats this judgment in his 1957 lecture. and instead become “a prudent reckoning with reality”.12 Barth’s words here do not suggest withdrawal. and only theology. one has to see this text in continuity with Barth’s earlier writings if one is not to misunderstand it. Even for Christians who were wary of the Nazi rise. To be in subjection is. he is interested in showing what makes politics possible.7 on nineteenth-century Protestantism. published after the war.5 It was all too easy.13 It is not the elimination of politics that Barth is after. No-revolution is the best preparation for the true Revolution. They mean that political life should be uncoupled from any association with the absolute. but even no-revolution is no safe recipe.9 This pivotal text. and they will be starved out.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 371 much different. an action. to go from neo-Protestantism to support of—or at least understanding of—the Nazi revolution. obviously because it contained nothing that had to resist and could not give away. and their PATHOS is provided with fresh fodder. he had written: State. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . depending on perspective.”8 “As if Nothing Had Happened” On 1 July. on the contrary.11 as a summons to theological isolation or inactivity. Barth’s Theological Existence Today was published. Family. In his famous commentary on Romans. now as previously. live of the credulity of those who have been nurtured upon vigorous sermons delivered on the field of battle and upon other suchlike solemn humbug. However.. Instead. they all suffered from the same malaise. 1933. from the warfare between good and evil. when it is rightly understood. one should see this statement as a concrete example of how Barth thinks that the church should ideologically starve the state.10 became extremely important for the growing resistance among German Protestants. but stir up revolution against them. &c. One should certainly not understand his famous (or.. which can spring only from obedience to God. written during a time of sharp conflicts and radical changes in German society and German Protestantism and which also coincided with a time of personal crisis. During the spring semester of 1933. Positive Right. Its meaning is that men have encountered God. Church. &c. Barth thought. notorious) introduction where Barth writes that he “endeavour[s] to carry on theology. “The whole proud heritage of the eighteenth and nineteenth century proved incapable of resistance. an action void of purpose. “Evangelical theology in the nineteenth century.”6 These accusations were not made lightly. this form of neo-Protestantism did not prove very helpful for resistance. Organized Research.

and often positively.372 Arne Rasmusson Interestingly enough.14 One has to remember the historical context. For Barth. such language could only be seen as highly subversive. “The prime need of our time is for a spiritual centre of resistance”. this is the way Barth’s language (in his Romans commentaries) of starving the state is understood from the Nazi side. one must say “No” not just to a complete assimilation (Gleichschaltung) to the total state. He argued that Barth’s statement that we should proceed “as if nothing had happened” leads to the isolation of theology from what God is doing and from the concrete lives of human beings. proclaimed die Wende as a great Revolution. he is also and above all very critical of the majority of Christians that engages them and takes their issues seriously. from the church’s own life. not from political changes. theologians and church leaders. Barth reiterates his claim that nothing has happened that should lead to these suggested changes in the church structures.”15 Students reacted like everybody else. there is no other source of revelation beside Jesus Christ as witnessed in Scripture. of course. To be able to resist. from the Word of God. but also to the accommodating changes suggested by the moderates.16 Barth was thus saying that the church should ignore claims of a new beginning and a revelation of God.21 That does not mean passivity.19 It is. in the process that led to his removal from his professorship in Bonn. exactly this view that Barth attacks in his text. For God is speaking to them precisely in what is happening. and a historical work of God. On the first day of the 1933 Easter celebrations.”17 The most brilliant theologian among the German Christians (and maybe the most gifted of all German theologians at this time18) was Emanuel Hirsch. Church reform should be determined. Something extremely important had happened. a new beginning. theology. Among the students listening to Barth’s lectures were many Nazis in uniform. and confessions precisely at a time when the German Christians are trying to take control of the church (they won the church elections soon afterwards) and when the moderate majority greets the revolution of 1933. In a totalitarian Nazi state. thinking that this historical change is a signal for the church to reform itself. Barth contends. to be a church faithfully proclaiming the Word. the following statement was read in Prussian Protestant churches: “This year the Easter message of the risen Christ goes forth in Germany to a people to whom God has spoken by means of a great turning point in history. very much so. “Of course something has to be done. After the war Barth wrote that if the Christians had followed his summons “they would have built up against National Socialism a political factor of the first order. and proceed instead “as if nothing had happened”. Not only does he utter an absolute “No” to the German Christians because their world-view—and by implication National Socialism itself 20—is impossible to reconcile with Christian faith. but © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Politicians and intellectuals. Many saw it as a new revelation of God.

”22 This Barth describes as true realism. inside the church against the Aryan paragraph.23 Klaus Scholder describes how Theological Existence Today “fundamentally changed the church situation” and comments on the strong reactions it received from both sides.27 The reason why Barth did not make central the “Jewish question” was because he thought that the way the church handled that question was in fact dependent on a wider issue. Using the two kingdoms doctrine. or even scientific reality. It was thus impossible to criticize the political order. as he later was to do. they carefully noted that their concern was for the baptized Jews. she ceases to be a Christian Church.”25 But he did not make the “Jewish question” the center of his argument. Thus both conservative and liberal moderates could affirm Nazi policy. or treats them as of a lower grade. However. It might seem that the more moderate opposition (the Young Reformers Movement and the Pastor’s Emergency League) made the application of the Aryan paragraph the center of their resistance. while they could work. be synthesized. while inside the church the Aryan paragraph could be rejected. He would not accept a sphere of reality totally independent of the Word of God.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 373 most decidedly nothing other than this. Volk and race could be seen as creation orders. and thereby betray themselves to © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . The protest. and also accept anti-Jewish laws. its history and its contemporary political situation as a second source of revelation. that the Church congregations be gathered together again. he wrote. the German-Christians affirm the German nationhood. namely. he is also critical of how Barth’s concentration on the theological existence of the church put the “Jewish question” as a general political question outside the center of the church’s engagement. and therefore has to be accepted in the political sphere. “If the German Evangelical Church excludes Jewish-Christians. “must be directed fundamentally against the fact (which is the source of all individual errors) that. Or one might say that the völkisch and racial doctrine is now part of political. Nor did he at this time. but aright and anew in fear and great joy. celebrate the German revolution and the national awakening. to the Word by the means of the Word. social. The political sphere was given independence. these moderates could. Barth certainly opposed in the strongest possible words attempts to apply the Aryan paragraph to the church. a reality given divine justification alongside the reality of the Word of God. the independence of church and theology.24 Although highly praising the work. beside the Holy Scriptures as the unique source of revelation. on the other hand. on the one hand. viz. publicly attack Nazi policy in general or call the church to direct political resistance on this point. in a good liberal fashion. Or Christianity and the völkisch doctrine could.26 It would not have been inconsistent with the basic line of argument of Theological Existence of Today—which was primarily directed to pastors and theologians—to say that no Christian can accept racial discrimination and anti-Semite policy and that Christians should not practice it anywhere.

might read in a forthcoming issue an article defending the Aryan paragraph in terms of the orders of creation. He does not totally exclude the possibility that a situation may arise that would make it absolutely impossible to stay within the church. Christine-Ruth Müller finds it strange that Barth did not follow up with action. since it is decreed by the ‘authorities’?”31 Barth wanted the Confession to be so constructed that the church could directly criticize the Aryan paragraph as a state law. He asks: “Is the civil treatment that is systematically imposed upon the Jews in present-day Germany of such a kind that ‘we’ don’t have anything to say about it? That ‘we’ accept and participate in it as something ordained by God. and therefore Barth felt that he had to resign from the editorial board of the journal.29 In October 1933 Barth was asked to comment on a draft to the so-called Bethel Confession against the German Christians and the application of the Aryan paragraph in the church. still being on the journal’s editorial board. One should remember that even after the Kristallnacht in 1938 such a respected leader © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd .33 What Barth says in his letter to Bonhoeffer in September 1933 is that the church’s acceptance of the Aryan paragraph has created a situation of status confessionis and the church leaders and the (actual or imagined) majority of church members that have endorsed the paragraph should publicly be told: “You are in this regard no more the church of Christ. She thinks. This makes Christian criticism of the civil use of the Aryan paragraph very difficult or even impossible.” That said. very rare. Such a position was. In addition. and especially did not answer Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s question with a clear “Yes” that the creation of a free church was indeed the way forward. in German theology at that time. Barth also thought that the Confession should explicitly describe the churchly Aryan paragraph as a heresy. In addition.374 Arne Rasmusson be believers in ‘another God’.30 Here he reiterated much the same argument. Barth criticized the acceptance of the doctrine of the orders of creation that is at the basis of the German Christian legitimation of the Aryan paragraph. that the explanation is that Barth did not make the “Jewish question” the central question. like many others. Barth was also afraid that a new free church would be dominated by the moderate middle he was so critical of and that they would accept the application of the Aryan paragraph outside the church. In his “Abschied” to Zwischen den Zeiten.”28 This can hardly be said to diminish the importance of the “Jewish question”. though he did not then know what that might be. Barth mentions as a frightening example that he. So he continued to stay and fight.32 In light of Barth’s radicalism. That he simply could not allow. Barth nonetheless does not think that the opponents of the Aryan paragraph should leave the church. in which he takes this line of argument. they should wait until they are forced out—and only then will there be in fact a free church.34 Such a fear was in fact justified.

this is surely not how Barth’s editorial comment should be understood in this case. for the glory of God. . not on timely topics or themes. it is the unavoidable Word of God. which was given him for that Sunday. Eberhard Busch describes this as Barth’s answer to the Aryan paragraph. not because of the pre-eminence of its blood and its race.36 On the second Sunday of Advent 1933. For Scholder and others. simply must not participate in that contemptuous and abusive treatment of the Jews which is the order of business these days”.e. more widely read than any other similar statement. he strongly emphasizes throughout God’s covenant with the people of Israel and the way salvation comes from the Jews.39 In a letter to one of the listeners of the sermon. Therefore. The blood of the Jews is the blood of the Son of God.41 This sermon has also been criticized. who was himself a Jew . The church must speak for the Jews precisely because it is bound by the Word of God alone. not for the sake of this people. Barth notes. the blood of the Son of God. Barth delivered a sermon in the Schloßkirche in Bonn on Romans 15. forced him to do so. Barth also sent a copy to Hitler.37 In the context of preaching about the way we are taken up by God’s free grace. but is inherent in the Christian Gospel itself. but for the sake of truth. therefore. he wrote “that one believing in Christ. This sermon was. He adopted this people’s ways. to attest God’s truthfulness and faithfulness. Preachers should preach on the text.9 NSV. “That is to say: Christ belonged to the people of Israel. 15. i. who herself was of Jewish kinship. This people’s blood was in his veins. political or other topical issues (including the “Jewish question”) do not belong in the sermon as self-chosen themes.”38 The relationship between the Jews and the church is thus not only a question of ethics.35 Again one might ask whether Barth’s stance in effect minimizes the “Jewish question”. Without the Jews there is no Gospel. but Barth put the issue in a wider context. outside or inside the church.40 A Christian cannot participate in any disdain or maltreatment of Jews. He was more radical in his critique than even Bonhoeffer.) In Barth’s German translation. .5-13.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 375 of the Confessing Church as bishop Theophil Wurm could publicly defend the right of the state to fight against the danger of Judaism. In his comment to the published version. when he assumed human existence.” (Rom. according to Busch. . It is not the political opinion of the preacher that the church must follow. one reads: “nehmet euch untereinander auf”. This “one another” includes pagans and Jews and it is. Barth wrote that the reason he dealt with the “Jewish question” was that the Scripture text itself. From this it follows that God commands us to “Welcome one another.”42 Even if Scholder is right about Barth’s separation of theological existence and politics. this is further evidence for how Barth’s concentration on “theological existence blocked direct insight into the significance of the Jewish question. just as Christ has welcomed you. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . a command without exception.

49 © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . that the preaching of the church should be built on the Scriptures of the church and nothing else. it implicitly but very directly says that Christians cannot on this central point follow and apply the principles of the National Socialist State. One of his concerns was. His German Christian opponents described his theology as ahistorical and apolitical.48 Even in 1938.46 The main point here is that the church should not base its teaching on sources outside the Word of God. as he was later to do. when he claimed that Christians had to say “No” to the National Socialist State. or that his theology was “apolitical” in the sense that it did not concern the church’s life in the world. The whole of reality stands under the claims of the Word of God.43 They then quote Barth’s many statements to the effect that the resistance is not political. The strong claim for the church’s independence is likewise an implicit but direct attack on the totalitarian claims of the state. He later regretted that he had not spoken more explicitly on political matters between 1921–1933. and so too have many later interpreters. for example. History or political structures are not independent sources for Christian knowledge. as Barth admitted in 1938.44 In the political climate at the time. but theological. that he did not again want to mix the kingdom of God with political ideologies. should not make the same mistake. Although Barth personally was sharply critical of and had few illusions about Nazi politics. as we have seen. A Christian cannot. The reason was. he thought that it had not been wrong in 1933 to say “No” to the German Christians and the Gleichschaltung of the church they required. this was in itself an important stance. The pulpit should not be a place for preachers to present their own political views. helping others to see the situation.45 Barth thought that the German Christians were doing exactly the same thing as the Religious Socialists had been doing. disdain and maltreat Jews. Barth thought it was all important to defend the church’s independence. But he also thought that the 1933 Revolution could at that time still be seen as a political experiment that should be given some time to develop. Although this affirmation is made on theological grounds. explicitly attack National Socialist policy. But Barth clearly separated this personal stance from his theological work. on a theological basis. On a personal level Barth publicly declared that he was not National Socialist and he openly refused to leave the Social Democratic Party (which.47 At this time Barth did not. Without that.376 Arne Rasmusson So it is not true to say that Barth was only interested in the independence of church and theology. First of all. But it is still difficult to know how exactly to interpret him at this time. of which he was in favor. in light of the political developments in Germany. No one could see into the future. he also very publicly had entered in 1931). no future resistance was possible. and a churchly opposition. while at the same time not directly saying “No” to the Nazi state. one could not at that time require the church to attack this political experiment directly.

53 However. one consequence of which would be that they would not even be able to protest the application of the Aryan paragraph in the church. in speaking in the name of the church. And even if it were possible. A break in Barth’s theologicopolitical practice would then occur around 1935. and Christian impossibility. he “will have to speak this word in a situation that to millions of Germans .52 In a letter from 18 January 1934. although the declaration seems implicitly to say “No” to the claims of National Socialism. he did not explicitly include such political or ethical issues himself when. . he drafted the Barmen declaration. . There will be questions posed in quite concrete terms. For example. The concretized could then become something very dangerously concrete. such as: What happened this summer in Germany? Was it right or wrong? This seizure of power? This removal of all other parties? This appropriation of assets? What has happened in the concentration camps? What happened to the Jews? Can Germany. and that the church must say a loud “No” to this policy against Christian and non-Christian Jews. definitely stands under the impression of tyranny and suppression”.50 His discussion of the Bethel draft in 1933 suggests the same thing. political.54 In another discussion (31 October 1933). Barth had in another letter surmised that a common statement by theologians on this issue was a practical impossibility.55 © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Barth was against drafting a new confession precisely because he did not think that the Reformed churches were ready to do that. On the other hand. But so much in Barth’s writings before and during 1933 contradict such a view of Barth’s development. he could not in principle do then what he was to do in 1938—namely deliver a clear theologically-based “No” to National Socialism as a political option for the church. one should make the issues of völkisch nationalism. and militarism into confessional issues. where he says that he is not advocating political resistance. anti-Semitism. Barth argues that if one were at that time to write a new Reformed confession. in his 1925 discussion of a possible Reformed confession. a few weeks earlier.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 377 Some of Barth’s statements from 1933 onward give the impression that. in 1934. because she kept silent? I am just asking questions! Whoever is to proclaim the word of God must say about these events what the Word of God says. it would only lead to their complete silencing. for theological reasons. Barth writes that the policy on the “Jewish question” is a human.51 In early Spring 1933 Barth asks the General Superintendent Otto Dibelius—whom Barth thought was going to preach on the opening of the Reichstag on 21 March—to take into account that. as we will see. can the German church answer for this abundance of suicides? Does not the German church share the guilt. Barth also remarks that the free preaching of the Gospel must go where the text leads.

of the beast out of the abyss. That.61 The first article confesses Jesus Christ as attested in the Scriptures as the one Word of God and rejects any other source of proclamation.60 Barth was the main author of the Barmen Confession.”59 The Confessional Church was. “We Reject . Precisely because of the claim that these events represent a new beginning in which God is speaking to the German church. But it was a witness.62 What Barth finds remarkable is that so many German church leaders and theologians would accept this critique of natural theology. This is. it was often a most inconspicuous and inconvenient witness. So it is not surprising that we find the same themes we have already encountered. It was only a witness of this event. Barth claimed. and a fresh confirmation of the one old revelation of God in Jesus Christ. . only the witness of a situation in which simultaneously there took place a remarkable revelation. other Events and Powers. Indeed.57 The Confession did not of course represent the reality of the German church. because © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . of course. which explains the latter’s “errors and vacillations”. and so it is now also in the concrete situation that has arisen. was always the church’s most important political witness. as there had not been for a long time.58 But it was nonetheless a public representation of “the very miracle that against all expectation had once again happened to the Church. and go on instead trying to be true to the Word of God seen in Jesus Christ as attested by the Scriptures and follow it wherever it leads. an attack on natural theology and various doctrines of creational orders. The second article addresses God’s claim on the whole of life and rejects the idea that there should be areas of life that do not belong to Jesus Christ. as God’s Revelation” We have seen that Barth’s skepticism about the state of the Protestant church made him skeptical about the possibility of a common confession. not even of the Confessing Church. . the church should claim that nothing of this sort has happened. He thus found it astonishing—“one of the most notable events in modern Church history”56 —that the Barmen Confession of 1934 actually became a reality in the way that it did. Figures and Truths.378 Arne Rasmusson So there is a sense in which Barth can say already in 1933 that church and theology cannot go on as if nothing has happened. The political events of 1933 are not a reason to make changes in theology and church order. However. in another sense nothing has happened. so to speak. It should ignore these claims.

Scholder writes: “The rejection of other ‘events and powers. “that even the political wisdom in our present form of the State.65 The fourth addresses the serving character of the offices of the church.”63 This theological decision is thus also highly political in its effect. The way German Christians argued for the Christian acceptance of the nationalism of race was not different from how one earlier had argued for idealism. about which we do not otherwise indulge in passing any judgment. the ‘forms’ to the Führer himself and the ‘truths’ to the new ideology. described as the absorbing and domesticating of revelation. attempting to be the church. as elsewhere. Citing the first article. is not God’s wisdom. not forget that it is the affirmations about the primacy of Jesus Christ as attested in the Scriptures and God’s claim on the whole of life that are primary. socialism. In Hans Asmussen’s accompanying address (the declaration and the address were published together) we can read. Rothe. that even the measure of justice that prevails in our public affairs is not the standard of divine righteousness. The rejections follow from these affirmations. and rejects the idea of special ruling leaders (thus. is rejected. is very clearly the process of making the Gospel respectable. however. he thinks. The new form of racist nationalism was for many as natural and self-evident as liberalism. the ‘powers’ to race. we know no earthly law by which God’s law could lawfully be © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . in the liberal Protestantism of Schleiermacher. and in the conservative (and even more naïve) Protestantism of people like Adolf Stöcker and Abraham Kuyper. . like the third article. and Albrecht Ritschl. or non-racist nationalism had been for others. The form it had taken in the German Christian Movement was the most sinister form. The third article affirms that the church witnesses both through its message and through its church order and it rejects the idea that it has to accommodate its message and order to current political or ideological ideas. And . is a critique of the attempted ‘Arianization’ of the church.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 379 natural theology had during the preceding two centuries been a central doctrine in Protestantism in Germany. or socialism. which are given to the whole congregation. and the article’s description of the church as a congregation of brethren. the idea that the state should represent a totalitarian order for the whole of life. This. As Barth says in another context: “The triumph of natural theology in the Church. forms and truths’ as a source of proclamation in fact challenged the all-embracing claim of the new system.”64 One should. attacking the new leadership structure of the German Evangelical Church). For at that time no one had to explain that the ‘events’ referred to the National Socialist revolution. . but not in principle different. in the comments on this article. blood and soil. However. from what happened in the Enlightenment and Pietism. The fifth article deals with the state. bourgeoisie liberalism. The state is divinely appointed to provide for justice and peace. nationalism.

which Barth composed. it has also continued to be as controversial as Barth’s own theology.68 One could say. And concerning “the Jewish question”. Theophil Wurm. given what Barth earlier had written about confessions.67 It has also been controversial because of what it did not say. Many members of the Confessing Church. and August Marahrens) wanted to be recognized by the state and thereby maintain contact with the rest of the Protestant church. Barth left. even the co-drafter of the declaration. and. explicitly rejects the Aryan paragraph in the church. To be able to do that the Confessing Church had to replace the people around Barth. and the language in the draft of the fifth article had to be changed.72 But I will not deal with that episode here. because it did not explicitly reject the current policy on the Jews. that is. especially from the Lutheran side. Hans Asmussen. The opposition during the meeting in Barmen.69 But most of the signers seem not to have made this connection. together with the new leadership structure.e. Many of the leaders of Confessing Church (especially bishops such as Hans Meiser. Because of its attack on a quite broadly understood natural theology. it is much less explicit than Barth’s own writings from 1933 and 1934. because it was not explicitly political. This was. We have seen that it is in fact implicitly and decidedly political. Soon a process also started that would lead to the loss of Barth’s professorship and his deportation to Switzerland. on Barth’s own grounds.73 © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . “at the present the greatest danger to the German Evangelical Church comes from Karl Barth. it is not as ethically or politically direct as one might have expected. The Reformed Declaration from January 1934.380 Arne Rasmusson broken. i. the way most theology has been done for the last couple centuries. It also implicitly rejects the application of the Aryan paragraph in the church. However.70 Barth’s own relationship with the organized forms of the Confessing Church continued to be rocky. the practical reason for the opposition. though one might think that this is already implicit in the Barmen declaration’s rejection of any absolute and total claims of the state. According to bishop Marahrens. The Barmen Confession had enormous consequences during the church struggle and has also been very important in various contexts inside and outside Germany after 1945. would later sharply criticize Barth when he described the Nazi state as an illegitimate state.”66 The sixth and final article affirms that the church’s calling is to proclaim the Word through preaching and sacraments and rejects the idea that the church’s work should be in service to any other purpose.”71 When Marahrens became the head of the Provisional Church Government (which had replaced the National Council of Brethren). that the implicit nature of its ethical/political statements could leave it open for either a more apolitical interpretation or a different interpretation. after all. above all. and there likely would not have been any confession at all if the text had been more explicit. insofar that the political reality was differently construed. was strong.

Barth says. titled “The Church and the Political Problem Today”. it follows that the church will defend a limited state. teach. or Tyranny Tempered by Anarchy. ordinary political work. was not the same as political resistance. Barth himself had made some attempts to call upon Christians in Germany to refuse to serve in the German army. the German Nazi “state” had clearly transgressed these limits. Instead. the church has to resist.74 During this time Barth also further developed his theological understanding of the state. the church has to resist. but in terms of the freedom it gives the church to proclaim the Gospel. and celebrate the sacraments. refusing military service in Germany would mean death. so that the church will be able to preach and live the Gospel. and also to be active in sabotage and boycotts. in a democracy. he kept in contact with and closely followed the affairs of the Confessing Church. That Christians are supposed to pray for the state shows that the state is limited. It should pray for peace. But he found little support for this among his theological friends in the Confessing Church. justice. or © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . because of the theological framing he gave it. That this was the case he argues most forcefully in a lecture given the 5 December 1938. The church is also called to pray for the authorities. If it prays. and order. Others who also politically resisted the Hitler regime were still ready to fight for Germany in case of war.75 What should the church then do for the state? Barth’s answer is that it first of all should be the church. it was more positive. If anything.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 381 “This State Is Anarchy Tempered by Tyranny. it should also work for what it prays. fleeing the country. The church can live in many different forms of states. but it Is Certainly No State” After Barth was forced to leave Germany in 1935.”77 And when the state goes over its limits. And it is striking that he continued to describe the state in the positive way as he had done in his ethics lectures some years back. desire or seek after a mobocracy or a dictatorship as readily as a democracy. Of course. he used his positive theological description of the just state to radically delegitimize the Nazi state. “But it is not true that a Christian can endorse. From this stance. The developments in Germany did not lead him back to the more critical language of the Romans commentaries.76 This is always much more politically relevant than any direct political action. That includes. combining sharp criticism with praise according to how it proceeded. to be sure. just after the Kristallnacht. preach.78 According to Barth.80 Church resistance. This also means that not any form of the state is as compatible with Christianity as any other. Barth points out. When it is not allowed freely to preach the Gospel. Barth therefore does not judge the state in light of some form of natural law or some political theory.79 Many in the Confessing Church wanted to say that they did not want to resist the Nazi state politically. freedom.

and his famous open letter to the Czech theologian Josef Hromadka. viz.81 In “The Church and the Political Problem Today” lecture. Barth vigorously develops his argument why the church cannot be politically neutral in the current situation. Barth thinks that there is an even more decisive reason for politically resisting and rejecting the Nazi state and that is its anti-Semitism. Europe is now. The issue is whether Nazism will shape the future of Europe. the antiSemitism. It represents instead a “fundamental dissolution of the just State”. which is one of its principles. And there is no way the church can be neutral. that this “state” can no longer be understood as a legitimate authority as described in Romans 13. then one has to reject it.”82 The church does not carry out its witness in relation to just any question.85 As Barth says. biblical. or tyranny tempered by anarchy. Were this to stand by itself it would quite in itself suffice to justify the sentence. and thus also work for.”86 So the church has no choice but to pray for. However. according to Barth.84 This means. where Germany was in 1932. “this State is anarchy tempered by tyranny. Nazism has shown itself to be a combination of political experiment and a salvation doctrine. For Barth there is no way of reconciling National Socialism with Jesus Christ.382 Arne Rasmusson going underground. The church’s witness to Jesus Christ consists of “a definite repetition of the confession of him” and “of the actualizing of this confession in definite decisions in relation to those contemporary questions which agitate the Church and the world. the overthrow of this state and the restoration of a just state. theological reason for the Church establishing this does not lie in the various anti-Christian asseverations and actions of National Socialism. he says. National Socialism is the anti-Church fundamentally hostile to Christianity.87 This includes the explicit and strong church support for armed defense against this German state.83 This lecture argues that the political problem in 1938 is German National Socialism and that against it the church has to declare openly a definite and clear ‘No’. but only “to those questions into whose area and province it sees itself summoned by its own course and by its own inner necessity” as it is led by Jesus Christ. published first in the Czech © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Its absolutist claims have placed before the church the question whether they are witnessing in the present political events the kingdom of God or a demonic system. but it is certainly no State. If one cannot see the Christian church in National Socialism. But the really decisive.88 Barth here defends his own action earlier in 1938 in connection with the “Czech crisis” that led to the Munich agreement. On the contrary it lies in that thing which just in this last week has especially moved us. But many of Barth’s colleagues and compatriots also thought it wrong to refuse military service for Christian ethical reasons.

especially of course in Germany. I say this today unreservedly: he will also do it for the church of Jesus Christ. of course. also tactical—but only partly. of course.93 In his 1938 lecture. At the time Barth thought that.95 In the case of the 1938 lecture he is only saying that the unlimited. .89 In this letter he attacks the Western powers’ appeasement policy in relation to Hitler’s claim on Czechoslovakia and the bankruptcy of post-War pacifism and calls the Czechs to resistance. and Switzerland. it would not have been able to say anything more.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 383 press. The difference between Barth’s views here is partly. But does it mean that Barth now has a principally different view on church and politics than the one he defended in 1933 in Theological Existence Today or the position reflected in the Barmen confession of 1934? I doubt it. Barth believed that one could not yet have said that in 1933. Germany. Netherlands. An independent and resisting church was more important than radical statements. Barth concluded his discussion of the necessity of armed response with the following words: “would that the Church had concerned herself much more seriously with the restoration of the just State before matters had reached such a pass that she is concerned for its preservation in this form.91 It also led to the decision to ban Barth’s publications in Germany.96 But we also have to remember that Barth did not fully appreciate at that time what would happen. also a self-critical statement. “1933”. but it is impossible not to resist. and then also in France. . Hitler would have backed down because Germany was not yet ready for war. A faithful Christian cannot but resist. The leader of the Confessing Church even wrote a public letter of censure. National Socialism presenting a total salvation doctrine. He did not say in 1933/34 all he would like to have said. Most well-known and controversial is the following sentence: “Every Czech soldier who then fights and suffers will do that for us as well—and. had the Western democracies resisted. totalitarian claims of the National Socialist “state”. when the war had begun. and he did not think the church at that time should say all it could say. I think there is more continuity between “1925”. discuss exactly how best to resist.”94 “It Has to Testify in the Midst of a Sinful World .”90 Barth was very widely and publicly harshly criticized for this letter. though he had in 1933—in contrast to © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . If it had. he strongly endorsed the war against Germany as a righteous war commanded by God. make a choice between the church of Jesus Christ and this “state” unavoidable. with Its Message as with Its Order” The statement quoted at the end of the last paragraph is. and—most important—its anti-Semite policy. also from his friends in Germany. of course. and “1938” than most commentators have granted. One can. that in the atmosphere of Hitler and Mussolini is bound to fall prey to either ridicule or extinction.92 And later.

such as the one in Germany (although church and state had been officially separated in 1918).100 It was no surprise that so many Christians celebrated the revolution of 1933 after many also had given Hitler their vote. This may reflect the situation of an established Protestant Volk church-Christianity. did theology. The issue was not only bad theology. suggesting thereby something of a dualism between theology and politics that did not clearly describe his own actions. for example. as if the church’s public life primarily is seen in the sermon and it can only say what the specific Scripture text of the church year was saying.384 Arne Rasmusson most others—a very dark view of the future. had participated in creating the cultural and political imagination and practices that made Nazism possible.97 His critique of all theological legitimation of politics was not primarily directed to the few critics of the Nazi state. The church is in itself a form of political order with specific political structures—such as church law. presupposing and defending a Christendom order. in the third Barmen article. how both Paul Tillich and Hirsch could use the Kairos-concept. The problem for people like Barth and Bonhoeffer was that the church they presupposed in their respective theologies did not really exist. as established Volk churches. But more important still. The church witnesses both through its message and through its ecclesial order. National Socialism did not come as an external force like a natural disaster. Barth’s acceptance of Christendom stood in tension with other parts of his ecclesiology (and his theology in general). It is not easy to combine Barth’s theology with a national church. There is also a tendency to relate theology too narrowly to the sermon. certain © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . This is expressed. one can appreciate why he would be very suspicious of such a strategy. Seeing. a theology of creation orders. at this time. Natural theology.99 From his later perspective Barth may have overreacted and he sometimes used less felicitous language.98 which Barth himself earlier had used. One might say that the power this established position gave to the Protestant (and in another way the Roman Catholic) Church created the social space for the sort of resistance there was (the small and much more vulnerable free churches did not do very well). the talk of seeing God in the historical development. just as it had participated in creating the culture that made the First World War almost unavoidable—two parts of the same thing. but against the great majority that in various ways theologically defended die Wende. More basic was the reality of the church. using very similar arguments to those used by the religious socialists. had its basis in a church that identified itself with (in this case) Germany and made the church a function of that wider political order. for example. Hence the centrality of the sermon. albeit with a very different meaning. but it also ensured that this resistance would be limited. but he. and so on. The churches. Part of the problem may be that he was imprisoned by a too narrow use of the word “politics” as something only directly related to the state.

This theme is later on much more developed in Church Dogmatics in the section “The Order of the Community. B. save for a special intervention of grace. ed.” 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . it practices.”102 The community order. in L. pp. one could argue.). 1982). in Stanley Hauerwas. “Abschied (1933)”. p.”104 The church witnesses to other possibilities. For a few hints. 88–111. in fact. I think. 25. Huebner. p. Karl Barth. and Mark Thiessen Nation (eds. Harry J. 1961). The German Church Conflict. “The Politics of Diaspora: The Post-Christendom Theologies of Karl Barth and John Howard Yoder”. 41. while not concentrating on Barth per se. MI: Wm.). 2005). This essay is part of a much broader project which. God. The Humanity of God (Atlanta. and Rosalee Velloso Ewell (eds. see Arne Rasmusson. this implies. Gregory Jones. “Historicizing the Historicist: Ernst Troeltsch and Recent Mennonite Theology”. 2007 (in press) but also Arne Rasmusson. Reinhard Hütter.. But that is the subject for another time. which is christologically derived. Ibid. and a promise of its future manifestation. a post-Christendom theology and ecclesiology. divisions of labor. Huebner. and exemplary. This also. “And he who in 1933 may still have been spellbound by the theology of the 19th century was hopelessly condemned. 41. Barth.105 NOTES 1 For a discussion of the antiliberal charge and the roles of Barthian theology and liberal Protestantism during the Weimar republic and in the early Third Reich. 1999). The German Church Conflict. Karl Barth. 66. So also Karl Barth. opens up a more adequate understanding of the church’s life in the world. GA: John Knox Press. Reden und Briefe von 1930 bis 1960. pp. VA: John Knox Press. 1965). and specific institutional structures. to bet on the wrong horse in regard to national socialism and during the clash between the Confessing Church and the German Christians who supported the new regime (Kirchenkampf ). Ibid. p. IN: University of Notre Dame Press. Karl Barth. Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century: Its Background and History (Grand Rapids. MI: Wm. As Barth writes: “[T]he decisive contribution which the Christian community can make to the upbuilding and work and maintenance of the civil consists in the witness which it has to give to it and to all human societies in the form of the order of its own upbuilding and constitution. B. p. should be an order of service. The Church as Polis: From Political Theology to Theological Politics as Exemplified by Jürgen Moltmann and Stanley Hauerwas (Notre Dame. see Arne Rasmusson. “Historiography and Theology: Theology in the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich” Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte Heft 2. The Wisdom of the Cross: Essays in Honor of John Howard Yoder (Grand Rapids. it is liturgical. “Der Götze wackelt”: Zeitkritische Aufsätze. And. edited by Ernst Wolf (Richmond. and Witness: Engaging Stanley Hauerwas (Grand Rapids.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 385 offices.101 The church should in its order. MI: Brazos Press.”103 The church should not give witness to itself but “to the kingdom of God already set up on earth in Jesus Christ. 2002). and its actual life witness to the kingdom of God which is already a reality in Jesus Christ. pp. Chris K. see Arne Rasmusson. 213–248. living (evolving). that is the direction in which Barth’s theology increasingly moved after the war. Truth. p.. Eerdmans Publishing Company. For a sustained critique of post-Barthian political theology. Eerdmans Publishing Company. does nonetheless inevitably shape my reading. 16. 1995). However. 9–33. Karl Kupisch (Berlin: Kathe Vogt.

118. ed. So he rewrote the text. 21. 1954). but to describe the changes in the way Gollwitzer does is very misleading. ed. 155. pp. Der Fall Karl Barth. (Philadelphia. and Hinrich Stoevesandt. Eduard Thurneysen. Vol. 371–426 (which in addition to the letters by Barth and Thurneysen also includes letters by Nelly Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum). See the documents cited in Hans Prolingheuer. See also the first edition. Gottes Freiheit und die Grenze der Theologie: Gesammelte Aufsätze (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich. 427. Cited in Scholder. Vol. pp. Christian Link. Romans. became acute and Karl offered Nelly a divorce. 154 f. Against the Stream: Shorter Post-War Writings. that is the triple relation between Karl and Nelly Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum. 1992). p. in George Hunsinger (ed. 1946–52. In a letter to Thurneysen two days after he finished the manuscript. an offer she declined. PA: Westminster Press. Karl Barth. in Michael Beintker. NY: Philosophical Library. 348. which is part of an open exchange between Kittel and Barth. 2000).” The letter. 2 vols. pp. Barth was. see Jan Rohls. and gave von Kirschbaum and Traub the text with the words: “There you have your ‘politically coordinated’ (gleichgeschaltete) theological existence!” See Helmut Gollwitzer. not German. The Epistle to the Romans (London: Oxford University Press. 1984). Barth. 1977).). Barth. Karl Barth in Deutschland (1921–1935): Aufbruch—Klärung—Widerstand (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich. 1930–1935. Theologische Existenz heute! (1933). 1930–1935. Ronald Gregor Smith (New York. at p. See the letters gathered in Barth. 1933). 517. p. Briefwechsel: Band 3. and explicitly political. Both he himself and the publisher would be in very serious trouble. p. But this does not confirm Gollwitzer’s account and it is unlikely that Barth at this time would have wanted to write the sort of text Gollwitzer seems to think that he should have written. See Klaus Scholder. p.386 Arne Rasmusson (p. and Michael Trowitzsch (eds. “Einleitung”. According to Gollwitzer. Der Römerbrief (Erste Fassung). During the spring of 1933 the situation in Barth’s very troubled marriage over many years. a proclamation taking place ‘as if nothing had happened’. pp. of course. Klaus Scholder calls this is a legend. “Barth und der theologische Liberalismus”. Cf. 28. Offene Briefe 1909–1935. Caren Algner (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag. Helmut Gollwitzer reports that a first draft of Theological Existence Today was very sharp. Hinrich Stoevesandt (München: C.) For an overview of Barth’s critique of Neo-Protestantism. 435. p. Barth. 483 f. is found in Karl Barth. Karl Barth and Radical Politics (Philadelphia. in Barth. According to Hinrich Stoevesandt. p.Thurneysen Briefwechsel: Band 3. 1930–1935. p. pp. 1. p. Theological Existence Today! A Plea for Theological Freedom (London: Hodder and Stoughton. See Hinrich Stoevesandt. 489. 285–312. 1988). 1919 (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich. 420. Die gegenwärtige geistige Lage im Spiegel philosophischer und theologischer Besinnung: Akademische Vorlesungen zum Verständnis des deutschen Jahrs 1933 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 1934). Karl Barth. 1985). Kaiser. p.Thurneysen Briefwechsel: Band 3. 139 f. 1976). direct. 77–120. PA: Fortress Press. It is certainly clear that Barth tempered his text so that it would be publishable. ed.). But Charlotte von Kirschbaum and Barth’s student Hellmut Traub were shocked and told him that it was impossible to print. Barth writes: “You in Switzerland shall have to take into account that I could have said much more but to some extent had to ‘hold my tongue’ so as to at least be able to say that much. p. Gerhard Kittel’s question to the Confessing Church whether they could confess the following: “We reject the false teaching that claims that at any given time or place there could be a proclamation of the gospel without reference to the historical moment. Emanuel Hirsch. The Churches and the Third Reich. 9. ed. a proclamation that as to its approach and as to its entire formation were not thoroughly codetermined by its divinely ordained moment of world and nation and humanity. Karl Barth. 2005). p. pp. 1. Cf. and 247 f. 1933). 113. Barth made some changes after the criticisms from von Kirschbaum and Traub. 1934–1935: Chronographie einer Vertreibung (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener. Diether Koch (Zürich: Theologischer 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . 236. The Churches and the Third Reich. “Kingdom of God and Socialism in the Theology of Karl Barth”. Barth was far from happy with this.” See Karl Barth.

279–281. pp. p. 1995). 1999). 134 f. eds. On Barth and the moderate opposition. Kaiser. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Cf. Berlin 1932–1933: Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke 12. 425–444. p. Deutscher Protestantismus und Judentum 1932/1933 (München: C. as far as I know. pp. Jahrhunderts (München: C. 77 and 81. but in practice he doubted it. p. In a letter of 1933 to a student in reply to the question whether one could be a Christian and National Socialist. The Churches and the Third Reich. Bekenntnis und Bekennen. One can read Bonhoeffer’s and Barth’s letter exchange in Bonhoeffer.. 435). at pp. Barth’s letter can also be read in Barth. See Kurt Nowak. indeed the only real-politik of help to the Church. See further the whole exchange on pp. 274 f. 67–75. pp. Unter dem Bogen des einen Bundes. What is published is. 1906–1968 (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich. Unter dem Bogen des eines Bundes. also Marikje Smid. Ibid. p. it seemed to him that to take just one step in the direction of National Socialist policy against the Jews would involve a betrayal of the Gospel. 50–61. but also to the civil Aryan laws. 52. pp.. pp. But he also writes that he wholeheartedly says ‘No’ not only to the application of the Aryan law in the church. if I understand it correctly. 435–440 (the quotation is from p. 106 f. “Theologische Opposition 1933: Karl Barth und die Jungreformatorische Bewegung”. pp. The Aryan paragraph was a crucial part of the new government’s attempt to remove non-Aryans (in practice Jews) from various spheres of society. Vol. pp. p. Bekenntnis und Bekennen. and in Müller.. 359–365. This was written in November 1933. p. 1989). 1996). and Eberhard Busch. pp. in Karl Barth in Deutschland. Cf. see further Michael Hüttenhoff. Kaiser. 49. Geschichte des Christentums in Deutschland: Religion. Rasmusson. Bekenntnis und Bekennen: Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Bethel (1933). Barth. 2001). the letter that accompanied his comments. and Barbara Schenk. 529–531. Barth. Barth’s statement is. See Frank Jehle. In addition.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 387 Verlag Zürich. 2004). Ibid. and passim. Briefe des Jahres 1933. to attack directly in public the latter would mean that the church would be silenced on all fronts. 1969). Theological Existence Today!. 376–380. consequently. Ein lutherischer Versuch (München: C. See Jörgen Glenthöj. 76. Briefe 1933. Briefe des Jahres 1933. Kaiser. 273–275. 274. Theological Existence Today!. Kaiser. The citation is from p. 16. Berlin 1932–1933. Politik und Gesellschaft vom Ende der Aufklärung bis zur Mitte des 20. Unter dem Bogen des einen Bundes: Karl Barth und die Juden 1933–1945 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener. 289–301 (who takes a position somewhere between Müller and Busch). 77. Müller. edited by Eberhard Busch. pp. not published. pp. 1. “The help of the Lord is really the only help. pp. In 1943 Wurm publicly protested against the persecution of Jews. pp. However. 1997). 132–135.” “Friend. 268–319. Letter to Mechtchild Dallmann (1 September 1933).” (Ibid. Barth. H. Often cited is a letter to Maria Ambrosius (19 November 1933) where he both describes the “Jewish question” as only one part of the struggle and explains why a direct political statement at this time would be unwise. Barth’s response is found on pp. The German Church Conflict. Barth wrote that in theory that might be possible. Karl Barth. pp. Die Mündige Welt: Dokumente zur Bonhoeffer-Forschung 1928–1945 (München: C. 50. let us think both spiritually and.. See Christine-Ruth Müller. Karl Barth. (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich. Why? Because the religious or world-encompassing character of National Socialism implies a total claim that directly rivals Christianity’s total claim on the person. Barth. “Abschied”. Bartolt Haase. realistically. Lieber unangenehm laut als angenehm leise: Der Theologe Karl Barth und die Politik. 67. “Historiography and Theology”. 124–128. pp. p. See Busch. 362–407. pp. Cited in Busch. 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . 503–507. p. p. 73. Carsten Nicolaisen and Ernst-Albert Scharffenorth (Gütersloh: C.) Scholder. Beck. The German Christians wanted to have the paragraph included in church legislation. 126. 1990). 49–51. 132–135.

83–86. 1998). Briefe des Jahres 1933. . a theological error . Predigten 1921–1935. cited in ibid. 51 The same is true of the Reformed Declaration from January 1934 written by Barth. Offene Briefe 1935–1942. Karl Barth kontextuell zu verstehen (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener.. pp. Diether Koch (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich. Unter dem Bogen. his direct political “No” to the Nazi state in 1938. I did not resist religious socialism (already at a time when you still thought that you perceived ‘religious impulses’ in socialism) just so that I could now find myself prepared to confess that it is the German fate to combine Christ and Caesar from the other direction because for the moment the holy stream of history runs that way.g. Kaiser and Matthias-Grünewald. see Stoevesandt. Gottes Freiheit. Theologie und Politik im Denken Karl Barths (München and Mainz: C. 45 See the letters to Pastor Theodor Erhardt (16 April 1933). 143–177. 44 Letter to Paul Tillich (2 April 1933). ed. MI: Wm. 41 Ibid. except that here he explicitly rejects any racial limitation on church membership or leadership. in a letter to Philip Maury 12 October 1938.. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . See. Volkhard Schliski. 173. pp. 604–643. p. 165. pp. pp. See ibid. he says: “ ‘Religious socialism’ was . See Karl Barth. pp. eds. p. 49 f. . in Andreas Baudis. 1939).. and Stoevesandt. 55. 230–234. 47 The Sicherheitsdienst wrote in 1934: “The Barth movement must be marked out as a real danger..) See also his much later comments on this in a letter to J. ibid. 39 Busch. NY: Scribner. Busch. Richte unsere Füsse auf den Weg des Friedens: Helmut Gollwitzer zum 70.” Cited in Günther van Norden. p. Dieter Clausert. Hromádka (10 July 1963) in Barth. 204–215. ed. p. Nicholai Church. 43 Also many interpreters sympathetic to Barth claim that there is a strong tension or contradiction between his views in 1933. “Dear George.1. but rather at the St. 104–106. One should also remember that when Barth is discussing whether the church should say yes or no to National Socialism. 2.388 Arne Rasmusson 37 Karl Barth. 53 Letter to Dr. Versöhnung und Befreiung: Versuche. and that I ought not. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 38 Barth. The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day (New York. 173. pp. p. 141–144.” (Ibid. 50 Karl Barth. p. p. and Bernhard Wegener (eds. 299. Barth. B. Jürgen Fangmeier and Hinrich Stoevesandt (Grand Rapids. ed. Kaiser. 155–159. ibid.g. Vorträge und kleinere Arbeiten 1922–1925. 165–174. 129–132. 1994).. Predigten 1921–1935.). . 46 Letter to George Merz (21 April 1933). Steffens (10.. “Karl Barths erste Auseinandersetzungen mit dem Dritten Reich (mit besonderer Erlaubnis der Nachlaßkommission dargestellt an Hand seiner Briefe 1933–1935)”. 48 So. Cochrane. Holger Finze (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich. Holger Finze (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich. 40 Letter to E. See Arthur C. and to Pastor Reinhard Busch (19 Oct. the issue for most of his discussion partners was not whether one should resist or not. 124. to stand ‘over against’ ‘things as they are’ (e. Dibelius actually did not preach at the inauguration. for a discussion. . 55 Cited in van Norden. 1962). 157–159. for the sake of the church. 142 f. The Churches and the Third Reich. Ulrich Dannemann. Bertold Klappert. Unter dem Bogen... 454–458. pp. Kaiser. He creates in his theology islands on which people isolate themselves so as to be able to evade the demand of the present-day state on religious grounds. 85. pp. e. Schmitz. Briefe des Jahres 1933. Gottes Freiheit. pp. 47–50.) In the above mentioned letter to Erhardt. 49 Karl Barth. 107–110.g. See further pp. 1933). pp.” (p. pp. [the church’s] clergy are not there to promote socialism. at p. 1979). pp. 2001). pp. 1997). PA: Westminster Press. cited in Werner Koch. 1990). 85. pp. pp. The Church’s Confession under Hitler (Philadelphia. 529–531. ibid. pp.1934). Barth. Letters.. 439.. 511. Barth. at p. Geburtstag (München: C. 490–513. 1961–1968. 296–305. what is now happening to the German Jews). pp. 1981). p. 157. Briefe des Jahres 1933. See. 54 Letter to Maria Ambrosius (19 November 1933). 1977). Die Weltverantwortung der Christen neu begreifen: Karl Barth als homo politicus (Gütersloh: C. 52 Letter to General Superintendent Otto Dibelius (17 March 1933). but whether the church or theology should say a public yes or no. and his continued position as it is developed after the war and in the Church Dogmatics. ftn. L. pp. For criticism of this argument. 1. 42 Scholder. Vol. e. 31–36. pp.

p. ’ Neue Fragen im Fall Barth”. Cochrane.” (Ibid. For a recent overview of the German reception and debate of the Barmen declaration. Cited in Eberhard Busch. chapter 4. Scholder.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 389 56 57 Barth. 141. Plasger discusses Barth’s views in 1933. 257. it cannot be honoured better than by this criticism which is due to it in all circumstances. 177. Seubert. 2000). See Busch. The slightly different wordings used in the subheading above are taken from the translation in Cochrane. 1962). pp. The Church’s Confession under Hitler. p. See Klappert. Versöhnung und Befreiung. Unter dem Bogen des einen Bundes. Church and State (London: SCM Press. 238–242. See Barth. Hirsch was very active in this process. 148–192. See Barth. p. Barth later described the administration under Marahrens as “more like that of a liquidation commission”. 172–178. 337–339.) Barth. especially related to the Belhar Confession. 1976). p. The Church’s Confession under Hitler. MI: Wm. CD II:1. pp. Das eine Wort Gottes zwischen den Zeiten: Die Wirkungsgeschichte der Barmer Theologischen Erklärung vom Kirchenkampf bis zum Fall der Mauer (NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener. Forderungen der Freiheit: Aufsätze und Reden zur politischen Ethik (München: C. In terms of historical effect. NY: Scribner. van Norden. p. n. p. On this. 585–660. For the text of the Barmen Confession and other documents related to it. B. pp. The German Church Conflict. CD II:1. Karl Barth. p. p. The Church’s Confession under Hitler. 1984). 298 and Busch. who took part in these discussions with Barth in the first week of August 1939. 176. “If the State has perverted its God-given authority. p. See G. See Heinrich Assel. see Cochrane. Cochrane. Church and State. Church Dogmatics. pp. The Churches and the Third Reich. On the following. Friedrich Mildenberger zum 65. The Church’s Confession under Hitler. Vol. 1939) for his most systematic discussion about church and state during this time. the process leading up to Barmen. 2005). CD II:1. p. p. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Der Fall Karl Barth. Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts (Philadelphia. See Prolingheuer.. Unter dem Bogen. see Georg Plasger. Cloete and D. see Manuel Schilling. see pp. 69.). The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day (New York. p. Zeitworte: Der Auftrag der Kirche im Gespräch mit der Schrift. The German Church Conflict. D. . Helmut Gollwitzer. J. The Church’s Confession under Hitler. 13 vols. see his later commentary on the first article in CD II:1. See Asmussen’s comments in Cochrane. 261. pp. Geburtstag (Nürnberg: H. pp. On Barth on the authority of confessions. n. 60 f. 175. p. p. The Church’s Confession under Hitler. A Moment of Truth: The Confession of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (Grand Rapids. 90. 77–99. one of the more important later discussions and receptions is the South African one. p. “ ‘Barth ist entlassen . Cf. 48. 346. 237–267. 1956–1975). CD II:1. Cochrane. See also Rasmusson. Die Weltverantwortung der Christen neu begreifen. see Barth. p. Ibid. and the relationship between Barmen and his later resistance against the Nazi state (and then against the nuclear weapons). also Barth’s longer discussion about the nature of church confessions as the church’s authority under the Word in CD I:2. 209–211. in Assel et al (eds.. Behind the scenes. pp. 176 (henceforth CD). & T. 234. and Eberhard Busch. Clark. 239. Ibid. p. “The Politics of Diaspora” for a critical discussion of Barth’s different ways of talking about state and politics. Kaiser. There were people in the Confessing Church who criticized Barth’s defence of a constitutional state in Barth. 254. He continues to describe his 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . The Theological Declaration that I summarize below is found on pp. 5.. p. PA: Fortress Press. . Die relative Autorität des Bekenntnisses bei Karl Barth (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener. 241. 253–255. II:1. 2. 301. Smit. 34. (Edinburgh: T. Church and State. 1939). See Barth. has described how the arguments went in Gollwitzer. 150. pp. saying that dictatorship was closer to Christianity than democracy. 1994).

p. See. p. 186–188. 52. Barth wrote to Hromadka that he was sorry that he was not much sharper and more explicit in this letter! See for example Karl Barth. pp. The Church and the War (New York: The Macmillan Company. p. p. James Reimer. 168 f. 340–342. The context in the latter case is the fact “that in its testing of Church proclamation dogmatics must orient itself to the actual situation in the light of which the message of the Church must be expressed. 291. p.. “When we earnestly pray for the suppression and casting out of National Socialism and hence for the restoration of Church and State. its history. see Emanuel Hirsch. Gottes Freiheit. p. pp. He similarly uses it again negatively in 1938 in Die Kirchliche Dogmatik. Barth. This Christian Cause. 15. intellectual.” Ibid. See Nowak. then we are ourselves eo ipso summoned to do what is humanly possible towards that for which we pray. 1944). Karl Barth. p. the kairos in form of political. Briefe des Jahres 1933. see A. see “Church and Theology” (1925) in Barth. in which he criticizes “Kairos-theology”. 50.. Dogmatics is a function of the praying church listening to the voice of God to the world. which God does not simply allow. i. “we approve it as a righteous war. The German Church Conflict... Cf. Ibid. p. 12. p.e. Busch. 529–531. p. See Stoevesandt. Ibid. pp. Plasger. Offene Briefe 1935–1942. 1989). and only thereby for our sins as well. See for the letter. E. 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . Barth. 122–126. pp. 340. Schmitz (2 May 1933). 496–499.” (CD II:1. see Barth.” “Anti-Semitism is sin against the Holy Ghost. 1941) (this includes also two earlier letters to the French Protestants) and Karl Barth. Ibid. Offene Briefe 1935–1942. Barth. 1948 [1938]). ibid. This Christian Cause (A Letter to Great Britain from Switzerland) (New York. the letters to Dr. 283. Gollwitzer. p.” (Ibid. pp. 107–133. Barth. 289. pp. Stoevesandt thinks that in The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day (1938) Barth completely contradicts his 1933 polemic against the Kairos-concept. for example. or ecclesial events or structures. and must be proclaimed by the Church in the present. 55. p. “Auseinandersetzungen”... Forderungen. p. NY: Macmillan. is a recent example of a similar interpretation. 4. But I cannot see that he there says anything different from what he says in the mentioned CD text. In March 1939. p. Theology and Church: Shorter Writings.) For Hirsch’s bitter response to Barth’s first letter to the French Protestants.g. The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day. 114. social.) Ibid. 31. after the German occupation of the rest of Bohemia and Moravia. 1962). pp. 1940). Ibid. I:2 (Zürich: Evangelische Verlag. NY: Harper & Row. and to Maria Ambrosius (19 November 1933). and the reactions to it Barth. See the documents gathered in Koch. For his critique in 1934 of the “Kairos-philosophy” of Tillich and Hirsch. p.” (Barth. p. The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day. Some members of the Confessing Church were actually executed because of their refusal to serve in the war.. to its position and task in face of the special circumstances of contemporary society. 74. 843). 76–79. 840) But the spirit of the time. p. On the debate on this that arose between Tillich and Hirsch. Ibid. Die relative Autorität des Bekenntnisses bei Karl Barth. to the Word of God as it is spoken by Him. can never be the norm for the church’s talk. 1920–1928 (New York. pp. so that dogmatics becomes the servant or mouth peace of “history” or social or political movements. Karl Barth: Das Ende einer theologischen Existenz: Brief an einen ausländischen Freund (Göttingen: Privatdruck.390 Arne Rasmusson own personal struggle with the question on pp. “He who rejects and persecutes the Jews rejects and persecutes Him who died for the sins of the Jews—and then. For his own positive use of the concept.. The Emanuel Hirsch and Paul Tillich Debate: A Study in the Political Ramifications of Theology (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press. 51. also from 1938.. Geschichte des Christentums in Deutschland. or even of the history of the church itself. p. but which He commands us to wage. 178–183. 79.. 942 (the word is not used in the ET in CD I:2.

p. 46. 676–726. 511–524. pp. pp. 100 © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd . “Diaspora”. 3–4 (2005). 105 See Arne Rasmusson. 721. 54 f. 101 Barth. Vol. pp. Ned Geref Teologiese Tydskrif. “Historicizing the Historicist”. Church and State. no. “Church and Nation-State: Karl Barth and German Public Theology in the Early 20th Century”. 721. 102 CD IV/2. p. 103 CD IV/2. 104 CD IV/2. and Arne Rasmusson.“Deprive Them of Their Pathos” 391 See Arne Rasmusson.

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