Karl Barth in Conversation – Teasers from Christian T. Collins Winn
Here is a glimpse at what Christian T. Collins Winn got up to in his response to John Drury’s putting Barth into conversation with John Wesley. Both Drury’s essay and Collins Winn’s response are new to the volume.
W. Travis McMaken and David W. Congdon (eds.), Karl Barth in Conversation (Pickwick, 2014), 23–24.
Moving from Christology to ecclesiology and ethics, for Barth, “revolution,” though only properly applied to the work of God in Christ (i.e., the revolution of God), includes or elicits a corresponding human action which is described as “revolutionary” in character. As Barth notes elsewhere, “all ecclesiology is grounded, critically limited, but also positively determined by Christology”; and this is no less true for “Christian ethics,” especially as concerning Christian identification with the poor. “He whom the Bible calls God is on the side of the poor. Therefore the Christian attitude to poverty can consist only of a corresponding allegiance.” In an even more precise formula: “The Church is witness of the fact that the Son of Man came to save the lost. And this implies that—casting all false impartiality aside—the Church must concentrate first on the lower and lower levels of human society. The poor, the socially and economically weak and threatened, will always be the object of its primary and particular concern.” One can find similar passages throughout the Church Dogmatics. In an especially succinct formulation, which gathers up the various forms of Christian solidarity with humanity in all of its misery and deprivation, Barth describes all this as the “revolt against disorder.” “Christians are summoned by God’s command not only to zeal for God’s honor but also to a simultaneous and related revolt, and therefore to entry into conflict.” Christian solidarity with the dispossessed, the poor, the outcast, the refugee, the sick, those rightfully or wrongfully imprisoned, is nothing less than a revolt against the prevailing system and its judgment as to human worth, dignity, and life.
One would have to imagine that Wesley, the political conservative, would have found it difficult to identify “revolution” with “Christianity.” Nonetheless, though lacking the same systematic grounding, Wesley shares in Barth’s convictions regarding the necessity of Christian solidarity with the poor and the dispossessed. Furthermore, his writings also reveal a radicalism toward the prevailing order that comes close to the spirit of Barth’s “revolt against disorder.”
Wesley’s work with the poor is well-known, but what is less well-known is that Wesley made solidarity with the poor constitutive of the maintenance of one’s salvation.