Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Excepts from the Barth-Thurneysen Correspondence (2)

Revolutionary Theology in the Making: Barth-Thurneysen Correspondence, 1914-1925 (James D Smart, trans.; Richmond: John Knox Press, 1964).
“What a field this is…It is astonishing, and becomes ever more so, with what unshakable confidence all these battlers, using the cleverest means, try to besiege, to ambush, to encompass, and to catch the ‘historical Jesus.’ And now with the so-called ‘form criticism’ a quite new campaign, the most cunning of all, has begun, which will probably somehow make all the early N.T. theologies and introductions out of date, but – meanwhile this historical Jesus is a phantom and these historians have little suspicion of the real and much more astonishing riddle that the New Testament embodies…The krypsis [hiddenness] and kenosis [self-emptying] are greater still by far than they imagine.” (104; Thurneysen to Barth, 6.16.1922)
“In regard to Zwingli it is to be noted that the curve of reflection toward the end has bent round once more in his favor without altering the total picture. Especially in respect to his De Providentia I had to whistle through my teeth a bit and pay my respects to this thunderously audacious eastern Swiss, before the battle of Kappel unavoidably broke in, the battle report with all its details, and also a final summing-up in which I stated that this ‘Providence’ will not do, that Zwingli is an incorrigible Aristotelian who is to be set in direct line with Thomas and Schleiermacher.” (136-7; Barth to Thurneysen, 2.28.1923)
“I am often quite troubled about the crops which seem to be growing from our seed. It is hard to get others, such as young pastors, to do really serious work themselves, each on his own field. Instead, there seem to be no end of fools who have now subscribed to Zwischen den Zeiten and wait for each issue ot appear to see what kind of new, resounding hammer-blows will perhaps be struck against the familiar closed doors…Really, unless Zw. D. Z. becomes a broad field cultivated by many serious workers, we shall before long have to let it drop again.” (146-7; Thurneysen to Barth, 6.21.1923)
“[Speaking of Schleiermacher]…I have the man in my gunsights now and on the whole I see what is going on there. Things are unfortunately even worse than I had expected, at least so far as the research up to this point has indicated. Schl. does intelligently, instructively, and on a grand scale what the useless people of the later time do stupidly, clumsily, inconsistently, and timidly. If one wants a modern Chrsitianity, then it would perhaps be best to stay by Schl. through thick and thin where the thing is at least new and has some go to it; because that certainly is not to be denied him; in almost all that he undertakes he is a man of competence before whom one must lift one’s hat even when one would like to take him by the throat! The manner in which he takes hold of and develops the ethical problems especially is simply brilliant. I fully understand how in his relation with both pietism and the enlightenment he could be regarded as the fullness of the times, and still can – everywhere that men see themselves not basically obstructed in this seizing and developing.” (158-9; Barth to Thurneysen, 12.20.1923)
“Your last special letter was worth a great deal to me. It cannot be otherwise than that our ship nolens volens approaches the doctrine of the church as though it were a new continent; I, too, see it no differently and actually it must be so, for we cruised about in the waters of the third article of the creed since the beginning; there, one might say, lie our home port and ancient coaling station, for the ‘Holy Spirit’ was perhaps somehow our starting point; only we cannot remain spiritualists with Kutter and Ragaz and perhaps also the younger Blumhardt but have to push on further to the point from which the Holy Spirit comes: to the church as the bearer with its doctrine and Scriptures.” (217-8; Thurneysen to Barth, 3.26.1925)

2 comments:

Shane said...

"that this ‘Providence’ will not do, that Zwingli is an incorrigible Aristotelian who is to be set in direct line with Thomas and Schleiermacher.”

I'd be very interested in hearing what kind of line could possibly connect aristotle, thomas aquinas, zwingli and schleiermacher.

sw

WTM said...

Me too! But, unfortunately, I have never read Barth's lectures on Zwingli (although I thought I heard somewhere that they were going to be published in English soon...).

I have read Zwingli's "On Providence", however, wherein Zwingli is pretty much an emanationist / pantheist. Perhaps it has something to do with that? But, I'm just shooting in the dark here...