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AGAINST

THE STREAM
SHORTER POST -WAR WRITINGS
194 6-52

KARL BARTH

PHILOSOPHICAL LIBRARY
NEW YORK \ I 1/ I
.,E.MlIlAf{Y I
I (
Published, 1954, by the Philosophical Library, Inc., CONTENTS
15 East 40th Street, New York 16, N.Y.

All rights reserved Editor's Foreword 7


I. THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY
Printed in Great Britain for Philosophical Library, Inc., by AND THE CIVIL COMMUNITY 13
The Camelot Press Ltd., London and Southampton (Christengemeinde und Burgergemeinde, 1946)
II. THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY IN THE MIDST
OF POLITICAL CHANGE: DOCUMENTS OF A
HUNGARIAN JOURNEY 51
(Christliche Gemeinde im Wechsel der Staatsord-
nungen: Dokumente einer Ungarnreise, 1948)
I. 'Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit
the earth' 53
2. Modem Youth: its Inheritance and its Re-
sponsibility 56
.90 7 3. The Real Church 62
4· The Christian Community in the Midst of
Political Change 77
5. From the Discussion in Budapest 93
6. The Reformed Church behind the 'Iron
Curtain' 101
7. A Correspondence:
(A) An Open Letter from Emil Brunner
to Karl Barth 106
(B) Karl Barth's Reply 113
8. To my Friends in the Reformed Church in
Hungary 118
m. THE CHURCH BETWEEN EAST AND WEST 125
(Die Kirche zwischen Ost und West, 1949)
IV. POLITICAL DECISIONS
IN THE UNITY OF THE FAITH 147
/
(Politische Entscheidung in der Einheit des Glaubens,
195 2 )

I I
240 Against the Stream
God. 'If the Son of man shall make you free, ye shall be free
indeed.' Beside that freedom all other 'freedoms' will always
signify fear and captivity and demonism. Therefore the per-
mission which God's revelation grants us to be free is also in IX
the fullest sense a duty to be free. To be or not to be, that is
the question. POVERTY
We are only on the brink of the problem here. If we were to
go any further we should have to speak of the event in which
man's limitation and man's destiny is not only objectively valid An essay on 'Poverty' which
but fulfilled in the life of faith and love and hope. New truths was printed in the Swiss paper
would open up before us: we should have to speak of the Holy Atlantis, Zurich, December 1949·
Spirit and the Christian fellowship and Christian preaching, of
Baptism and Holy Communion, of man's rebirth and confession,
and of his prayer and the commandments which God has given
him. We should have to enter the field of theology, for here
we have been moving merely on its brink. But even in theology
it is also true that the event can only be talked about. The event
as such is inexpressible and can only happen.
We must not regret having to close at this point. Let me
remind you of a story in the Old Testament. The Lord called
Samuel: 'Samuel, Samuel', and Eli told him that if he heard
the call again he was to answer: 'Speak, Lord, for Thy servant
heareth.'

Q.
POVERTY

THE word poverty is usually thought of in its sociological


sense. It describes the state of a man who for one reason or
another is lacking in, or is even entirely without, the material
necessities of life; who, therefore, having to rely on the assistance
-voluntary or other-of his fellows, has to do without a
great many things. He may even have to go without those
things most essential to him, which would be available had he
adequate means. There are, however, also much to the fore in
this world, still other instances of destitution and privation. Even
a rich man can be poor in health. He can suffer from intellectual
poverty, in contrast with which a poor man in the financial
sense of the word may be rich. With all his wealth he may suffer
from spiritual poverty and from poverty in his relations with
those around him, whereas in comparison a fmancially poor man
may be a veritable Croesus.
I have been asked, not for my own opinions, but for the
Christian views on this subject. Therefore I open my Bible and
immediately light on the calm and almost disconcerting asser-
tion that poverty, taken in the sociological sense-usual in this
world-exists in this life of ours, has always existed and will
always exist. Although the Bible is certainly not lacking in pic-
tures of material wealth, those who possess and enjoy such wealth
can be seen at a glance to be really very 'poor people'. Through-
out the Bible, however, the fact that there are both rich men
and poor, in either sense of the word, appears to be a kind of
divine ordering of events, which ordinance must serve as a basis
for all further thought-just as in this world we have to accept
the facts of illness, war and other such human deeds of violence,
without question and without concerning ourselves with ideas
of an essentially 'better future'. Let us not rejoice or be angry
too soon! Without that starting-point in mind, however, we
can comprehend nothing.
All the more striking is the fact which dominates the picture,
244 Against the Stream Poverty 245
namely, the unmistakable and defInite sympathy towards and the destitute. He whom the Bible calls God is on the side
poverty seen in the Old and New Testaments, also the sym- of the poor. Therefore the Christian attitude to poverty can
pathy with those who, according to that divine ordinance, in consist only of a corresponding allegiance. This allegiance is,
this life are poor in one way or another, but above all in the however, only the reflection, the likeness, the testimony of a
material sphere. If in accordance with God's will there are also much more comprehensive distinction. If one should wish to
rich people, if, especially in the Old Testament, He includes withdraw from that allegiance, then one cannot comprehend,
among His blessings the gift of riches to one man, He in no wise nor be in sympathy with, that all-embracing distinction to which
takes up a neutral position between the poor man and the rich it testilies. By 'poverty' we-and the Bible too in these con-
man. The rich may take care of their own future, He is on the nexions, which have already been mentioned-mean fmancial,
side of the poor. or some such form of poverty as is found in this world. Why
First, there is no place in the Bible where the rights of the then does poverty stand thus illumined, and wealth lie in the
rich are proclaimed, where God appears as the Lord and Saviour shadows? It is possible to give two answers to this question:
of the rich and of their wealth, where the poor are exhorted to First, because poverty as seen from the background of human
preserve the wealth of the rich and remain poor themselves existence, that is, from the point of view of the coming King-
merely for the sake of the rich. There are, however, many places dom of God, and of the future life, is not a natural condition of
in the Bible where the rights of the poor are proclaimed, where life in this world, but is part of the evil which dominates that"
God declares Himself to be the upholder and avenger of these life. It is perhaps the most striking result of human sin. God's
rights, where the rich are commanded not to forget the rights ordinance, whereby the rich and the poor live together side by
?f ~he poor, not to alter or ignore them just when they feel side, is only temporary. His coming Kingdom will put an end
mclined to do so, but rather to be rich only for the sake of the to poverty.
poor and for their benefIt. We cannot but recognise the high Why, then, should this end not be proclaimed here and now,
principles and radical spirit of the Bible on both these questions. since the Word of God has already been heard? Why should
Secondly, there is no place in the Bible where anything in the God not here and now reveal Himself to and dwell with those
nature of praise is accorded to riches, where the rich are upheld who suffer from this evil which has been ordained to disappear?
and exalted. There are, however, many places where the poor Why should He not comfort and encourage the poor, simply
are extolled as blessed, where they are called the chosen of God, because they are poor in this world, with the realisation that
where the words 'the poor' are synonymous with 'the righteous'. their rights are the very mirror of His eternal justice? And why
The ~ospel was proclaimed to the poor, while on the contrary should He not give the rich of this world to understand any-
the nch are often shown in suspiciously close proximity to the thing other than that the rights of the pooF-those who in this
mighty evildoers, whose pride goes before a fall. Because of their life are lacking in wealth and all things necessary-must be sacred
wealth they at least run a great risk. to them for the sake of His righteous judgment and of the
Just because they are rich men, they will in no wise enter into approaching release from poverty?
the Kingdom of Heaven (as hardly as a camel can go through The other side of the question is this: that here and now not
the eye of a needle, as we know), but to this end they must wealth but poverty is the mark of our present life and of the
themselves sell all and become poor. In this respect the distinction future Kingdom promised to both rich and poor. For this King-
made in the Bible is as sharp as a knife: the blessings of wealth dom is not still in the future, but has come already. Christ was
cannot claim to be on an equal footing with the blessings of born: the Son of God, eternally rich, Himself the source of full-
poverty. ness of life for everyone. But the Kingdom is come in poverty
Thus the Bible is on the side of the poor, the impecunious because it is now become a reality to us men, who-rich or
Against the Stream
poor-are all greatly poverty-stricken in comparison with the
abundant riches of the Kingdom. Christ was born in poverty in
the stable at Bethlehem, and He died in extreme poverty, nailed
naked to the Cross. He is, then, the companion, not of the rich BIBLIOGRAPHY OF
men of this world, but of the poor of this world. For that reason
He called the poor blessed, and not the rich. For that reason He KARL BARTH'S WRITINGS
is here and now always to be found in the company of the
hungry, the homeless, the naked, the sick, the prisoners. For that
IN ENGLISH
reason those who are rich must cleave to them, if they would
be close to Him. Therefore, in order that they themselves may
be blessed, the rich must become poor, or at least in all earnest Christian Life (S.C.M. Press, 193 0)
be ashamed of their wealth; if they have to part with that wealth, The Epistle to the Romans (O.u.P., 1933)
whether gradually or all of a sudden, they must not show sur-
prise, nor horror, nor yet try to ward off poverty. Not wealth The Resurrection of the Dead (Hodder & Stoughton, 1933)
but poverty is the mark of Heaven, the mirror of eternal salvation. Theological Existence Today (Hodder & Stoughton, 1933)
For Christ, in whom eternal salvation has come to those who
in this world are rich or poor, is the Christ of poverty for all *Come, Holy Spirit (T. & T. Clark, 1934)
who are poor, all who are truly destitute and suffer any priva- *God's Search for Man (T. & T. Clark, 1935)
tion: such a one is the conqueror, who makes all poor men rich,
and only such a one! In great humility did the most High God The Word of God and the Word of Man (Hodder & Stoughton,
become the Lord of mankind. Man will have to follow the 1935)
example of this humility, will have to confess his poverty, in God in Action (T. & T. Clark, 1936)
order to grow rich in Him.
One of St. Paul's sayings sums all this up: 'Ye know the grace Credo (Hodder & Stoughton, 1936)
of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, although He was rich, yet for The Doctrine of the Word of God (T. & T. Clark, 193 6)
your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might
be rich.' That is, briefly, the Christian attitude to poverty. The Church and the Churches (J. Clarke, 1937)
The Holy Ghost and the Christian Life (Muller, 193 8)
The Knowledge of God and the Service ofGod (Hodder & Stoughton,
193 8)
Trouble and Promise in the Struggle of the Church in Germany
(O.U.P., 1938)
Church and State (S.C.M. Press, 1939)
The Church and the political Problem of Our Day (Hodder &
Stoughton, 1939)
* In collaboration with E. Thurneysen.