Monday, March 11, 2013

Karl Barth’s Reflections Christianity in America vs. in Switzerland

Finally, a quote I can present entirely without comment! 

*pauses*

Did that count as a comment? 

*sighs*


Karl Barth, Fragments Grave and Gay, 49. 
As for Christian America and Christian Switzerland, one thing struck me most of all, and that was that in American Christendom the congregation is still a real thing. People do not just attend divine service and then go home again, as they do with us; they do not go just to listen to the minister, but also to be with one another. They ‘gather together’ for worship. Even in the big cities I visited, such as Chicago, Washington and Richmond, they knew, greeted, talked to one another. Going to church is not a mere private matter; it is a ‘social gathering’, as the Americans call it. This may have its dangers, but basically it is a good and gratifying thing; the Gospel binds people together. On the other hand, with us the preaching is on the whole better, or at any rate deeper. American Protestantism is still strongly marked by the somewhat superficial reasoning of the Enlightenment movement.

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5 comments:

Alexander said...

I don't think the latter point is still true (if it ever was)...

Bobby Grow said...

Alexander,

You don't think American Evangelical preaching is not marked by the enlightenment movement?

I can't speak for Swiss preaching, but American Evangelical preaching (and Liberal for that matter) is markedly marked by a style of pietistic rationalist exegesis that is more me driven (i.e. answering applicational questions based on my "feelings") than Christ driven. At least this is my experience of American Christianity in general, and in particular its preaching.

Bobby Grow said...

Alexander,

You don't think American Evangelical preaching is not marked by the enlightenment movement?

I can't speak for Swiss preaching, but American Evangelical preaching (and Liberal for that matter) is markedly marked by a style of pietistic rationalist exegesis that is more me driven (i.e. answering applicational questions based on my "feelings") than Christ driven. At least this is my experience of American Christianity in general, and in particular its preaching.

blair said...

Interesting as I finish up IV.ii after I've just read IV.iii.2 . People can push against a contextual reading of Barth but when he makes these kinds of observations about context it seems like an opening to ask contextual questions. In what ways is his ecclesiology shaped by his European context? How should that shape our appropriation of Barth in North America?

W. Travis McMaken said...

Thanks for the comments, gentleman, and sorry for the tardy response.

I think Barth must be read contextually, just like every other theologian (and thinker in general). That said, answering your questions would require a monograph. Want to write it? ;-)