Moltmann, Barth, Bloch, and Blumhardt (any 'B's missing?)
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Karl Barth read the Theology of Hope together with Eduard Thurneysen immediately after its publication. On 8 November 1964 he wrote to an old friend that he found it ‘very stimulating and exciting, because the young author makes a vigorous attempt to cope better with the eschatological aspect of the gospel than the old man in Basel did in his Romans commentary and his CD. I read him with a completely open mind, but hesitate to follow him because this new systematization, though much can be said in its favour, is almost too good to be true.’ To me personally he wrote more critically, so that the young theologian wouldn’t get a swelled head [Ed. note: ! ]: ‘To put it somewhat brutally: isn’t your Theology of Hope just a baptized version of Herr Bloch’s Principle of Hope?’ I suspect that he had in fact never read a word of Bloch’s [Ed. note: ! ], so the admission that follows is more important: ‘You know that I also once had it in mind to strike out in this direction, but that I then decided not to touch it.’ It was only later that I followed up this hint of Barth’s about his youthful decision and came upon his love for Christoph Blumhardt, whom he had visited in Bad Boll in 1915. In his Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century, he called Blumhardt a ‘theologian of hope,’ and his first commentary on Romans of 1919 is still full of Blumhardt’s spirit of hope. . . .
Barth presumably ‘decided not to touch it’ because in the end, like Franz Overbeck, he viewed such an eschatological theology as too radical, and because, on the other hand, Blumhardt was still very much imprisoned in the nineteenth century’s faith in progress. In 1922 Barth’s second commentary on Romans appeared, and lo and behind: Blumhardt has now been replaced by Kierkegaard, and the time-eternity paradox has superseded the dynamic dialectic of past-future. Blumhardt’s dynamic forward-looking hope has fallen victim to the enveloping mantle of eternity in the moment of time, and Blumhardt’s importunate expectation of Christ’s future has been replaced by the contentedness of faith in the eternally bounteous God. Eternity is now supposed to encompass time from all sides—pre-temporally—con-temporally—post-temporally—but it is no longer to have any particular ties with the future of the God ‘who will come.’ My Theology of Hope had reminded Barth of this key turning point in his theological development in 1920–21. Hence the contradictory reaction.