Christian Anarchy 5
In an earlier chapter, you may recall, in which I listed those thinkers who, to my mind, constitute the modern tradition of Christian Anarchy, I centered upon Blumhardt and named Barth and Bonhoeffer as more-or-less followers who consequently were themselves more or less anarchical. Being only more or less sure of myself, I was that tentative so as not to invite anyone to call me out and challenge me to prove that Barth was a Christian anarchist.
Recall, then, that the very idea of "Christian Anarchy" had been triggered by Bernie Ramm's saying that he had read something on the subject that named Blumhardt. Well, when Ramm finally got around to disclosing his sources, it turned out that what he had been reading was nothing particularly about Blumhardt but a book which (incorrectly as we shall see) identified Karl Barth as an anarchist--a political anarchist, that is. Inevitably, this as much as forced me to investigate Barth--and whoever it was who wanted to call him an anarchist. In the course of that investigation, I was brought to the conclusion of this chapter title: that Barth's is actually "a theology of Christian Anarchy."
The book Ramm had been reading was George Hunsinger's Karl Barth and Radical Politics (hereafter: Hunsinger)(Westminster, 1976). That book--of which Hunsinger is simply editor and contributor of one essay--is a debate (all right, "wild brawl") involving both Continental and American scholars. It concerns, first, how Barth's political stance is to be described and identified and, second, to what degree that stance was determinative for his theology. The different writers argue so many different conclusions that the book's total impress is simply confusion.
However, because Hunsinger was the best source I had or knew of, I originally wrote this chapter over it--simply by gleaning Barth quotations from various of the Hunsinger contributors. Then, long after my manuscript was at the publisher, I came across a much superior source which, in effect, obliged me to junk that first effort and re-do the whole thing. (At one point Barth complained that he had to write everything twice--once to get the ideas down and then a second edition to get them "right." And at least to that extent, I'm a Barthian.)
My new source was a truly amazing book, Eberhard Busch's Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts (Hereafter, Busch) (Fortress, 1976--now distributed by Eerdmans). During the last years of Barth's life, Busch was his secretary and assistant. And, having total access to Barth's works and papers, what Busch produced would need to be called "a constructed autobiography." The words are predominantly Barth's own (or Busch's careful paraphrasing)--with no attempt at interpretation or critical analysis. Most importantly, they are all properly placed in the biographical context of Barth's personal history and development (and my citations of Busch will preserve that feature by bracketing in the date of Barth's various statements). Quite apart from the purposes of this chapter, I recommend Busch as the best one-volume means both of meeting the man Karl Barth and getting a perspective on his total theology and work.
Where Busch has it all over Hunsinger is in showing that it was never Barth himself who was confused about his political stance, his Christian Anarchy, or anything else. That confusion has been the contribution of the scholars who were trying to make sense out of him. However, we will now come at Barth's Christian Anarchy by letting him tell it his way. Let us be clear as to what we are attempting: It is not that we will do a selective reading, picking out those statements of Barth having to do with his political stance--then to propose that one particular (and minor) strand of his overall theology might be identified as Christian Anarchy. Not at all; we will let Barth (through Busch, of course) identify his own major themes--and then show that, all together, those add up to what with complete accuracy can be called "a theology of Christian Anarchy."
The story of this seven-year period is abundantly clear. Barth is the Reformed pastor in the Swiss village of Safenwil. With him at every stage of development is his close friend and neighboring pastor, Eduard Thurneysen.
There are two dominant realities standing as the unquestioned (and unquestionable) assumptions of Barth's religious worldview; they had been bred into him. The first is the general theological stance which will be referred to under many different names but which we here try to pin down as 'Neo-Protestant Liberalism." It is this theology he will come to repudiate as "the counter-Barth," the heresy--the enemy, the threat to Christian truth.
Only in the course of time following our initial period will Barth pinpoint the specific loci of this theological abomination, but what it comes to is this: The historical fountainhead was Friedrich Schleiermacher. The one of Barth's own teachers and mentors best exemplifying it was Adolf von Harnack. The three of his contemporaries and colleagues giving him the most trouble over it were Friedrich Gogarten, Emil Brunner, and Rudolf Bultmann (with Paul Tillich so far out of it as to go virtually unnoticed). Brunner caught Barth's most pointed attack--though this may have happened precisely because Barth knew that Brunner was more biblically oriented than any of the others and so held out more hope of bringing him to repentance. Gogarten was simply scratched off as a bad deal. And Bultmann was the most troublesome. Barth had known him from student days. Bultmann had a popular following--some of his students even attended Barth's classes. The two men made repeated efforts to get together--only to have to face the finality of their theological opposition.
A final manifestation of this theology--which won't quite fit the term "Neo-Protestantism" but belongs here in any case--is the Roman Catholic doctrine of analogia entis.
The second "given" of Barth's religious milieu was a profound and serious social concern--which, in these days, focused primarily upon "world peace" and "the plight of the working man." The channel of action for this concern was a widespread religio-political party, Religious Socialism. As Safenwil pastor, Barth not only preached and lectured on these social themes but also was very much politically involved with them.
However, come the turnaround, Barth will be far from totally repudiating his social concern--as he did his Neo-Protestant theology. His social concern will remain as strong as ever; what he will repudiate is the theological rationale of Religious Socialism. The expression of his social concern will have to take a quite different form.
The collapse can be dated to the day--August 1, 1914, the outbreak of World War I. Karl Barth, in retrospect, says:
On that very day "ninety-three German intellectuals issued a terrible manifesto, identifying themselves before all the world with the war policy.... And to my dismay, among the signatories I discovered the names of almost all my German teachers.... To me they seemed to have been hopelessly compromised by what I regarded as their failure in the face of the ideology of war...." Thus "a whole world of exegesis, ethics, dogmatics, and preaching, which I had hitherto held to be essentially trustworthy, was shaken to the foundations, and with it, all the other writings of the German theologians." (Busch, p. 81)
For Barth the outbreak of the World War was "a double madness," involving not only his theological teachers but also European socialism.... "All along the national war fronts we saw it swinging into line,... the failure of German Social Democracy [that day's 'peace movement'] in the face of the ideology of war" (Busch, p. 82).
Note well what it is specifically with which Barth is so completely disillusioned: "arky faith," namely, the confidence that the organized human piety of a nation's leading Christians (the progressives, even) could bring society to moral health--or at least preserve it from moral death. And this faith of his (thank God) Barth was never able to recover.
Another aspect of this disillusionment must be mentioned. Recall that both Barth and Thurneysen are pastors. Once the poverty of neo-Protestantism had been exposed, they were desperate to find a gospel that could be preached as help and good news to their people. Throughout his career, Barth's one interest in theology had nothing to do with his own intellectual satisfaction; he simply wanted to find the message that could truly be preached as gospel.
Christoph Blumhardt, a friend of the Thurneysen family, had occasionally visited in that home. A sister of Barth's mother--his beloved Aunt Bethi--was a Blumhardt follower who regularly resorted in Bad Boll. Both Thurneysen and Barth had visited Bad Boll from time to time during their school days. But when, in April 1915, Barth spent five days there--that was different: it was a deliberate seeking of help.
Above all, it has become increasingly clear to me that what we need is something beyond all morality and politics and ethics [i.e., beyond arky faith]. These are constantly forced into compromises with "reality" and therefore have no saving power in themselves. This is true even of the so-called Christian morality and so-called socialist politics.... In the midst of this hopeless confusion, it was the message of the two Blurnhardts with its orientation on Christian hope which above all began to make sense to me. ( Busch, p. 84)
The unique feature, indeed the prophetic feature (and I use the word deliberately), in Blumhardt's message and mission was in the way in which the hurrying and the waiting, the worldly and the divine, the present and the future, met, were united, kept supplementing one another, seeking and finding one another. (Busch, pp. 84-85)
Call this way of thinking "dialectical." Although Barth's will be called "dialectical theology" as early as 1922, we will discover that it took him some time to get his theology as well dialecticized as Blumhardt's already was. But then consider that the very thinkers we have been identifying as Christian anarchists are also the ones best known for their dialectic method. Christian Anarchy is dialectical by nature.
"Soon after his return [Barth] began to read Zündel's book on the older Blumhardt. He found that he was extremely moved by what he encountered in Bad Boll" (Busch, p. 85). "A longing began to stir in Barth 'to show himself and others the essentials'" (Busch, p. 86).
"[Blumhardt] simply passes over dogmatic and liberal theologians, those interested in religious morality and us socialists. He is friendly, but quite uninvolved. He does not contradict anyone, and no one needs to feel rejected, but at the same time he does not agree with anyone's view.... I think that he would also have all sorts of things to say about the conflicts and problems which now affect us. But he does not want to say it; it is not important enough, because other things are more important to him" ( Busch, p. 86). Wherever has Christian Anarchy been better characterized?
Here we will spot the themes and emphases Barth develops between the time of his Blumhardt visit (1915) and the 1918 publication of his first book, The Epistle to the Romans (hereafter: Romans I). He ascribes none of these ideas directly to Blumhardt, but it is obvious that all of them were prominent there.
The Poverty of Human Arky. "[It is not that] the whole of human independence and self-assurance are weighted in the balance and finally found wanting? ... [This] is the question which then came down on me like a ton of bricks round about 1915" (Busch, p. 91). "We must begin all over again with a new inner orientation to the primitive basic truths of life; only this can deliver us from the chaos arising from the failure of conservative or revolutionary proposals and counter-proposals" ( Busch, p. 89). "The problem of 'war or peace?'--about which there was so much talk and writing--had to give way to the radical and deadly serious problem of faith: 'With God or--as so far--without him?'" ( Busch, p. 84). (How long has it been since anyone else ever gave the question of God priority over that of war or peace?) "Above all, it will be a matter of our recognizing God once more as God.... This is a task alongside which all cultural, social, and patriotic duties are child's play" ( Busch, p. 89). (And how long has it been since a theologian has seen "theology" as his first order of business?)
The Wholly-Otherness of God. "It was Thurneysen who whispered the key phrase to me, half aloud, while we were alone together: What we need for preaching, instruction, and pastoral care is a "wholly other" theological foundation'" ( Busch, p. 97). This theme will become both crucial and controversial--so keep an eye on it. Notice (surprisingly enough) that it begins as a pastoral concern. Then consider that it is simply the other side of the coin to "the poverty of human arky"--on the way to minting the double-sided piece of Christian Anarchy. "Wholly other than what?" Than human arky, of course. A Good wholly other than our human idea of "good." A Justice wholly other than our human idea "justice." A Power wholly other than the "power" of our human exercise. A Glory wholly other than our human vision of "glory." An Arky of God wholly other than even the best and most Christian of human arkys.
"[With us] everything--above all everything that has to do with the state--is taken a hundred times more seriously than God ( Busch, p. 87). (Ain't it the truth?) "The kingdom of God is the kingdom of God. We cannot conceive radically enough [the magnitude] of the transition from the analogies of divine reality to human reality. The pattern of [the moral] development [of the race] is a failure.... The new Jerusalem has not the least to do with the new Switzerland and the revolutionary state of the future; it comes to earth in God's great freedom, when the time has arrived" ( Busch, p. 109). (I just happened to read the review of a book by a prominent Christian social ethicist of our day, in which the reviewer reports: "[The author] is convinced that the kingdom of God can not come until institutional structures are changed in North and Latin America." So much for God and his kingdom!)
A New Look at the Bible. This one is as critical an aspect of Christian Anarchy as any--the Bible being its one source and authority. "We tried to learn our theological ABC all over again, beginning by reading and interpreting the writing of the Old and New Testaments more thoughtfully than before.... I sat under an apple tree and began to apply myself to Romans with all the resources that were available to me at the time" (Busch, p. 97). And under that apple tree began the move toward the Romans books that would climax the whole development.
In 1917, Barth delivered a lecture which was the first public account of his new biblical studies. He called it The Strange New World within the Bible: "In the Bible we find something quite unexpected: not history, not morality, not religion, [not human arky,] but virtually a 'new world': 'not the right human thoughts about God but the right divine thoughts about men"' (Busch, p. 101). This is more than just a new look at the Bible; it is looking at the Bible as the word of God in a new (a more honest and open) way.
The Eschatological Orientation of the Gospel. "I began to be increasingly preoccupied with idea of the kingdom of God in the biblical, real, this-worldly sense of the term" (Busch, pp. 92, 97). "For Barth, the question of according God a place of central importance was becoming more and more fundamental. And since he had met Blumhardt, it was very closely connected with the eschatological question of the Christian hope" (Busch, p. 87). "Nothing new, Barth argued, was to be expected from 'secular circles,' among which Barth also included human attempts at reform and even the church: 'The world is the world. But God is God'--the 'but' is there because new things are to be expected from God" ( Busch, p. 87).
Religious Socialism: Barth, Kutter, Ragaz. This matter was a most sticky one for Barth and is most crucial regarding Christian Anarchy--partly because it involves political praxis rather than just theological theory. We have now a triangular relationship between three dedicated religious socialists--all three of whom appeal to Christoph Blumhardt as mentor. (Recall that, much earlier, Blumhardt himself had been very much into religious socialism--joining the party, running for office, and representing it in the Württemberg legislature. Yet somewhat later he had decided to withdraw completely.) In addition, Barth, Kutter, and Ragaz were all three Swiss--sharing a common sphere of influence--and all three had begun their careers as pastors in the Reformed Church.
Hermann Kutter represented the "waiting" pole of the Blumhardtian dialectic and Leonhard Ragaz the "hurrying" pole--without either managing to dialecticize the relationship. "Accordingly, the two sought to exploit the upheaval caused by the First World War in very different directions: Kutter with a summons to tranquil reappraisal, Ragaz with appeals for pacifist action" (Busch, p. 86). Yet no more than Jesus did regarding the tribute money was Barth about to let himself get trapped into that "either/or." He chose to go dialectical with Blumhardt: "Isn't it better to strive for the point where Kutter's 'no' and Ragaz's 'yes'--Kutter's radical tranquility and Ragaz's energetic tackling of problems ... come together?" (Busch, p. 86). "Barth realized even more clearly that he was 'always forced to follow Kutter in matters of emphasis' but that he 'could not rule out Ragaz's position on any important issue'" (Busch, p. 86).
In 1916, "under the title 'Wait for the Kingdom of God,' Barth had sent Ragaz a review of Blumhardt's House Prayers for [the magazine] Neue Weg. In it he wrote some words which were unmistakably directed against the Religious Socialists: 'Our dialectic has reached a dead end, and if we want to be healthy and strong we must begin all over again, not with our own actions, but quietly "waiting" for God's action.' Ragaz refused to publish the review because he rejected its argument as being quietistic" (Busch, p. 92). "Ragaz and I roared past one another like two express trains: he went out of the church [which he felt to be a 'drag' on his social activism], I went in [feeling the church was the 'place' for a new theology]" (Busch, p. 92). And years later, Kutter wrote a letter to the effect that he could only regard Barth as a 'general rejection' of his own theology (Busch, p. 162). Barth's anarchy lost him his friends at both ends of the dialectic.
In 1918, then, "Barth now even dissociated himself clearly from Ragaz and Religious Socialism--for all his acknowledgement of it and dependence on it. 'Pacifism and social democracy do not represent the kingdom of God, but the old kingdom of man in new forms [almost Blumhardt's exact words when he was in the similar situation]'" (Busch, p. 101). As a powerful example of Christian Anarchy, Barth shows the inherent dialecticism that refuses to commit itself to either the quietist or the activist alternative--either the conservative or the revolutionist--in the struggle to give to God what belongs to God.
Religious Socialism: The Tambach Conference. For Barth, his disillusionment with Religious Socialism did not imply his dropping of membership, participation, or interest. Rather than an "annihilation," his was a "desacralizing" or "profaning" of that arky. Simply and honestly as sheer human arky (and nothing more than that), he would have been quick to grant that it was one of the best around. No, it was only when it went on to claim for itself kingdom-significance as an object of Christian faith and hope--as a subunit, or authorized deputy, of the Arky of God--it was only then it became him an abomination of desolation.
"I regard the 'political pastor' in any form as a mistake. But as a man and a citizen ... I take the side of the Social Democrats" ( Busch, p. 88). He spoke of his "very limited interest in socialism. For the most part it was only practical [emphasis mine--VE]. But I was only marginally interested in socialist principles and ideology" ( Busch, p. 104). (Spoken like a good Christian anarchist.) "Thou shalt not have your heart in your politics. Your souls are and remain alien to the ideals of the State" ( Hunsinger, p. 208). "[Let there be] strike, general strike, and street fighting if there must be, but no religious justification or glorification of them; ... military service as soldier or officer, if it must be, but on no condition as military chaplain;... social democratic but not religious socialist" ( Hunsinger, p. 208).
Those statements introduce a crucial idea, to be explored in depth in Chapter Seven. One must be entirely clear as to which actions are those of "a man and a citizen," done within the political horizon of cause-and-effect results calculated as sheerly human probabilities and possibilities--and which actions are those of "a Christian," done within the theological horizon of obedience to God and in the faith that he can use them as he will to produce the incalculable results of his grace and power. But just as soon as human, political arky of the one sphere tries to justify itself with religious, Christian pretensions from the other, it has usurped the place of God to become idolatrous.
Barth's relationship to Religious Socialism came to a head when, in 1919, at Tambach, Germany, he addressed a conference of about a hundred religious-socialist leaders from Germany and Switzerland. The formal response to Barth's paper was made by one Eberhard Arnold, who observed that the lecture was "a rather complicated kind of machine that runs backwards and forwards and shoots in all directions with no lack of both visible and hidden joints" (Busch, p. 110).
(Arnold could have been prophetic if had only gone on to say: "--which is just how an engine of Christian Anarchy should operate." Eberhard Arnold was himself within a year or so of founding that Christian community which has survived to the present day as the "Bruderhof" movement. In examining Arnold's own thought in the recently published anthology of his works--God's Revolution [Paulist Press, 1984]--it becomes apparent that he is Blumhardtian enough that any Christian Anarchy ascribed to Blumhardt would have to apply to Arnold as well. Yet it is Arnold who may take the prize as the very first person to use the term "anarchism" according to the exact definition and with the exact application we intend now. In the Introduction and Survey to his 1926 sourcebook--The Early Christians [Baker, 1979]--he wrote: "At the same time, it was within the Church that monasticism once again achieved that radical 'anarchism' of faith responsible to God alone which had been alive in the beginning" [pp.52-53].)
In his Tambach address, then, Barth made
a clear and fundamental distinction between Christ or the kingdom of God on the one hand and human actions, whether conservative or revolutionary, on the other. "The kingdom of God does not first begin with our movements of protest. It is the revolution which is before all revolutions, as it is before the whole prevailing order of things." In contrast to both conservatives and revolutionaries it is radically new, in such a way that says "no" to both of them--though in this "no" the one is qualified by a relative affirmation of the other. Thus on the one hand protest against the prevailing order of things is certainly part of the kingdom of God. But on the other hand Barth also reckoned with "parables of the kingdom of God," "analogies of the divine," on the earthly scene. And in any case he found himself compelled to dissociate himself from the danger which he now recognized as such, "of secularizing Christ" for the umpteenth time, e.g., today for the sake of democracy, or pacifism, or the youth movement, or something of the sort--as yesterday it would have been for the sake of liberal culture or our countries, Switzerland or Germany. (Busch, pp. 110-11)
Take note, this early in Barth's development, of the positive references to "the parables of the kingdom of God" and "analogies of the divine" on the earthly scene. We will give them specific attention later--but they do not signify any change in his evaluation of human arky.
All the Christian groups, trends, and "movements" of his time could not carry on as they were doing. [With them,] "everything had always already been settled without God... [which means that,] whatever ensues, it cannot be new action or aid on God's part. In the last resort it will prove to be a reform, or the old situation in a new guise. From God's standpoint that is more of a hindrance than a help, since it continues to delude people about the need for the coming of his kingdom. Our 'movements' then stand directly in the way of God's movement; our 'causes' hinder his cause; the richness of our 'life' hinders the tranquil growth of the divine life in the world.... The collapse of our cause must demonstrate once that God's cause is exclusively his own. That is where we stand today." (Busch, pp.99-100)
Men can never make "God's standpoint their own partisan standpoint" and therefore no individual or group simply stands on God's side over against others.... All human distinctions--between the religious and the irreligious, the moral and the immoral--become relative.... The kingdom of God is not "a rebellion within the old aeon but the dawn of a new one"; it is not "a development within previous possibilities but the new possibility of life." Thus there is a clear distinction between this kingdom and all human attempts at reform.... But there is also a clear distinction between this kingdom and man's religious and moral possibilities: "they do not create anything new." (Busch, p. 100)
The two contributions for which Kierkegaard is credited are, of course, again the two sides of the one anarchical coin. The inexorable, critical, "cutting down to size" of the arkys (all arkys) is simply the necessary move in enabling the infinite qualitative distinction to stand tall and clear. Later, Barth will claim theologically to have moved away from Kierkegaard--though it can be debated endlessly as to whether that represented a real move or only a misunderstanding of Kierkegaard. In either case, it is plain that the two thinkers never were in disagreement on the points stated here.
It was in 1920 that Barth decided that he needed to entirely rewrite Romans for its second edition of 1921. "Only now did my opposition to Schleiermacher become quite clear and open" (Busch, p. 114). In Romams II he wrote: "For this [Schleiermacherian] theology, to think of God meant to think in a scarcely veiled fashion about man--more exactly about the religious, the Christian religious man. To speak of God meant to speak in an exalted tone, but once and again and more than ever about this man--his revelations and wonders, his faith and his works [i.e., the potential of his arky power]. There is no question about it: here man was made great at the cost of God" (Busch, p. 119). (And consider now, more than sixty years later, just how completely modern theology is done in this Schleiermacherian mode.)
So Busch characterizes Romans II by its "abundance of negative definitions (this is where the second edition of Romans differed from the first); [Barth] stressed that God could not be conceived of; that he was beyond this world, the wholly other" (Busch, p. 119). (It might lead one to suspect that Kierkegaard had a hand in Barth's decision to rewrite.)
This book already has made it plain that, regarding a thinker's Christian Anarchy, his handling of Romans 13 (along with Mark 12) is the litmus test. And in being so tested, Barth gives us what must now be considered "a classic statement of Christian Anarchy."
Clearly, what Barth sees as being his first order of business is the dissolving of all we customarily have accepted as being the natural continuity, affinity, or relatedness between the following "unpairs." There is no possibility of "bridging" between one element its counterpart:
|THE ARKY OF GOD||ALL HUMAN ARKY|
|CHRISTIAN ANARCHY||POLITICAL ANARCHISM|
|GOD'S SOCIALISM||POLITICAL SOCIALISM|
|GOD'S REVOLUTION||HUMAN REVOLUTIONS|
Some of these represent my terminology and some Barth's, yet the anarchical presupposition is the same in any case.
Rather than "the Establishment vs. the Revolution" (our terminology of the previous chapter), Barth speaks of "the principle of legitimism vs. the principle of Revolution." Same difference. Barth, along with all Christian anarchists since Paul himself, is clear that the apostle has not the slightest desire to legitimate any human arky as being "of God" (perhaps the Roman arky least of all). Yet there was certainly no reason for Paul to hammer that point. After all, his readers were Christians living in Rome within recent memory the Emperor Claudius's having strong-armed and man-handled them a bit. Who there would feel any temptation to hallow Rome, of all arkys?
No, Barth agrees with what we said earlier, that Paul (as also the case with Jesus and the tribute money) immediately is concerned to apply the anarchistic warning much more against Leftist revolution than against Rightist collaboration. Paul certainly has no interest in legitimizing Rome; but his particular concern is that his Christian readers not legitimate revolution against Rome, either.
However, when it comes to the question as to why God wants a Roman Empire in place, why he wants it left there rather than being knocked out and replaced by a truly godly arky of the Christian revolutionaries, Barth offers a new interpretation. Our earlier suggestion was simply that God was "putting up with" the Roman empire out of his respect for human freedom--the freedom of allowing the world to be as sinful as it chooses to be. If God grants the Roman Empire the freedom to be whatever it has in mind for itself, who are we to try to deny it that freedom?
But Barth comes at the question from an entirely different (and most intriguing) direction. He proposes that, in God's eyes, the Roman Empire of Paul's day--and thus any state, or in our parlance, any human arky--stands as a "sign" of God's own Arky (the kingdom of God).
Hey, wait a minute! That's the liberal line--in fact, a gross extension of the liberal line. Liberals would say that only their holy leftist arkys are signs of God's Arky--not that rightist Roman arkys are, for goodness' sake. Barth's idea doesn't make any sense at all. He is actually 'pairing' the things he supposedly set out to 'unpair.'"
That's what you heard, because you didn't let me finish what I was saying. Barth's understanding is that every human arky is intended by God as a NEGATIVE sign of his own Arky. He wants all those arkys in place to keep his people reminded that anything we have now is not yet the kingdom, that even the best of human arkys is no acceptable substitute for God's Arky. And come to think of it, the Roman Empire did serve God's purpose very well in that regard. The book of Revelation makes it clear that the early Christians owed it solely to the Roman Empire that they kept praying, "Come, Lord Jesus." The very presence of the empire added a certain fervency to that prayer. Thanks to the empire, among them, the kingdom of God became what might be called "a felt need."
It was no accident that the church's taking that arky to its bosom as being the HOLY Roman Empire coincided in point of time with its ceasing to pray for the coming of the Lord Jesus. Once we get in with an arky that treats us all right and serves our own personal interests, we tend to lose all hunger for the Arky of God. We think a Holy Empire which befriends rather than persecutes the church is "good enough," "as much as can be hoped for"--no matter what it may be doing on other counts. Yet this experience is no indication that God's idea of "negative pairing" was a bad one but, rather, that we exercise our penchant for misusing every good thing (such as a bad arky) the Lord provides us.
In this, the logic of Barth's thought might say that the worst arky (from our standpoint) is the best (for God's purposes). Yet this cannot be taken to mean that Christians ought to be out encouraging bad arkys for the sake of their spiritual benefit. The natural supply of bad arkys certainly is sufficient for our every need. And if we had our eyes open, we would see that even our best arkys are bad enough to leave the Arky of God a consummation devoutly to be wished. For Barth's "negative pairing" to drive us to God does not call us to do anything regarding the arkys, but only to clarify our own perceptions of them. Yet, by negatively pairing human arky and divine arky, Barth has gone beyond even the mere "unpairing" of them. Let's call this "anarchy-squared."
(In their turn--not being as intellectually or theologically sophisticated as either Barth or Ellul--the sixteenth-century Anabaptists generally derived their Romans-13 anarchism by an argument different from either of these other two. Why does God want the arkys in place and forbid his people to try to overthrow or revamp them? The Anabaptists tended to latch onto Paul's observation about the arkys being a threat only to bad conduct and an instrument of God's punishment of evildoers. The argument then went that God's own people, the Christian believers, are not evildoers, that the arky license therefore does not extend to them, and thus they are anarchistically free from any arky power or authority. It did not necessarily nor even regularly do so, but this interpretation could lead to a certain disregard over whatever hurt the arkys might be inflicting on non-Christian "evildoers." Nonetheless, my perception is that, whether the exegesis be that of Ellul, Barth, or the Anabaptists, it all comes out at the same Christian Anarchy. Paul's text will support any of the three; each can be accepted as true; there is no need to chose between them.)
Now, whether or not it proceeds from a common negative principle, Barth's proposal that God "negatively" correlates his Arky and human arky is paralleled by another. His new proposal is that Paul actually is counseling that our relationship to the arkys should take the form of what we "not do" concerning them rather than what we "do" do. This idea of "doing" God's will by a deliberate "not doing" that of the arkys can be very helpful in our reading of Romans 13. However, it will not work as a general principle that can be used independently of very careful attention to what the apostle actually says. The difficulty is that any command of either "doing" or "not-doing" can be worded the other way around and still mean the same thing.
For instance, revolutionary civil disobedience and tax withholding could be thought of (and perhaps most often are) as belonging to the "not-doing" alternative, i.e., as being a defiant refusal to do what the civil-arky demands. By the same logic, Paul's "being subject to the authorities" would be seen as the "doing" alternative, the doing of whatever the state asks of you. Yet, in effect, Barth argues that Paul means things to be worded the other way around.
Revolutionary civil disobedience and tax withholding are now the active and aggressive "doing" of entering the worldly contest with an offensive play (i.e., the political power of a good arky) intent to bring pressure against those arkys perceived to be evil. Conversely, for Paul, "being subject" is the Christian "not-doing." It is the not doing of any arky-style response, the not doing of rebellion and self-assertion. It is Paul's own "not being conformed to the world" and "not paying evil for evil." It is Jesus' "not resisting one who is evil."
Paul, of course, is one who knew best that "being subject to the authorities" in no way threatens the prior principle that we must obey God rather than man. He had been in trouble with the law no telling how many times for not stopping preaching when the authorities had ordered him to. Yet, even when such obeying of God necessitates the disobeying of an arky, this is no abrogation of the principle of "being subject." It does not amount to a "doing" of revolt and contest. It probably shouldn't even be called "civil disobedience"--that term customarily denoting a disobedience for the sake of disobedience, as a political means of attacking the bad arky, challenging, protesting, provoking, and exposing its evil. No, in cases like Paul's refusal to stop preaching, the action is still a "not-doing" of revolution. The intent is entirely that of obeying God--it being entirely incidental that, unavoidably, the arky had to be disobeyed in the process. Indeed, the disobeyer can even remain entirely subject to the authorities by expressing regret that his obedience to God left him no recourse but to disobey the arky.
Barth's distinction between "doing" and "not-doing" is admittedly a fine one--although not for that reason less true or less helpful in getting us to the heart of Romans 13. At which job we are now ready to let Barth speak for himself.
We will follow Barth's exegesis but be free to supplement Romans quotations with quotations from elsewhere in Barth. We will find him confirming many of the anarchical observations made in previous chapters. (I know it can be questioned as to who is confirming whom. Granted, he had written long before the present book was even a gleam in its father's eye [or better I was even a gleam in my father's eye]; but I had not read until after my previous chapters were already in black and white.)
Set not your mind on high things(Rom. 12:16)--and a "not-doing" counsel, notice. Regarding which, Barth says:
Christianity does not set its mind on high things. It is uneasy when it hears men speaking loudly and with confidence about "creative evolution"; when it marks their plans for perfecting the development of pure and applied science, of art, of morals, and of religion, of physical and spiritual health, of welfare and well-being. Christianity is unhappy when men boast of the glories of marriage and family life, of Church and State, and Society. Christianity does not busy itself to support and underpin those many "ideals" by which men are deeply moved--individualism, collectivism, nationalism, internationalism, humanitarianism, eccelesiasticism.... In all these growing towers Christianity beholds at least a parable of death.... It finds itself unable to place serious confidence in the permanence of any of these "important" things, or in the value of any of these "values." Christianity perceives men moving, it is true, but moving to deprivation. (Romans, pp. 462-63)
"Why, the man indiscriminately mixes good arkys and bad arkys as though they were all the same!" Yup, that's anarchy--although it is not that the arkys are all the same but that our hallowing of our "serious confidence in" them is. For instance, Barth, as we will discover, knows very well that Christianity sides with the poor and lowly. Yet, long before "liberation theology" was invented, he saw that even so worthy a concern easily could become "arkyized": "It may therefore be that those whom we think to be lowly have long ago become in fact exalted. It may be that their humility has been turned long ago to horrid pride. It may be that their ambiguity has been formed into an idol, and their 'brokenness' into some new popular theology" (Romans, p. 464).
The root difficulty here is what we earlier identified as "zealotism," the unquestioned confidence that, in our perception of right and wrong, we are as much as infallible:
[Man] is only a dilettante, a blunderer; in his attempt to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, acting as though he really has the capacity to do it.... Neither in his own cause nor in that of others can he be a wise and righteous judge. (Hunsinger; p. 165)
In Genesis 3, the desire of man for a knowledge of good and evil is represented as an evil desire, indeed the one evil desire which is so characteristic and fatal for the whole race. (Hunsinger, p. 166)
I am already choosing wrong when I think that I know and ought to decide what is right, and I am doing wrong when I try to accomplish that which I have chosen as right. I am already putting myself in the wrong with others, and doing them wrong, when--it makes no odds how gently or vigorously I do it--I confront them as the one who is right, wanting to break over them as the great crisis. (Hunsinger, p. 166)
"Break over them as the great crisis"--which is to say, "force them to choose between what I present as the great options of Good and Evil."
That to which Barth is objecting is that which is most characteristic of arky faith. Has he not here spotted the most fundamental (and most impositional) power of arkydom, namely, the power of knowing oneself to be an elect representative of "the right," asserting my strength as that of ten, because I know my heart is pure? And what virtue is so utterly lacking in the arkys as "humility"? Barth is even thoughtful enough to put the matter into the "absolutist/relativist" language of our previous chapter:
Let us not deceive ourselves. Our conceits are haphazard. To this rule there are no exceptions.... [The] relativity of the ethics of grace is the axe laid at the root of our own haphazard conceits (Rom. 11:25). The root from which our conceits spring, the secret which lies behind all human exultation, is disclosed in the persistent regularity with which men crown themselves with the security of some absolute answer. By putting an end to all absolute ethics, Christianity finally puts an end to all the triumph and sorrow that accompanies the occupation of any human eminence. (Romans, p. 466)
Inevitably, then, our sense of absolute rightness moves us to promote and enforce that righteousness:
Am I also to take into my own hands the preservation of that right? ... Our determination to introduce the higher righteousness is precisely that which renders it altogether lost: For the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18). The wrath of God is revealed against human ungodliness in doing evil and in doing good; it is revealed against the enemy and against me, if I purpose to be the enemy of my enemy. This is the criticism of militarism, but it is, in passing, a criticism of pacifism also. But who among us does in fact leave room, not for the wrath of men, but for the wrath of God? Who among us does seriously reckon with the fact that human action will, not only here but everywhere, be driven off the field by the pre-eminent action of God? (Romans, p.473)
Then, in a rather cryptic statement out of a quite cryptic passage, I think Barth picks up our idea about arkys using the unreality of collective solidarities to override the real individuality of sparrows and human beings. He is talking about "encountering the great positions of Church and State, of Law and Society" in which they claim to have all the answers. Then he says, "In all of them the plurality of individuals has been limited by the Whole" (Romans, p. 477).
As Barth moves into his central argument--that which says, in effect, that Christian Anarchy equally rejects both legitimism of the arkys and revolution against them, he claims to be following Paul in very unequally giving his attention to revolution. That takes some explaining which gets him to the very heart of his anarchical concern. We begin with some crucial statements from outside his Romans book:
"The little revolutions and attacks by which [the powers of history] seem to be more shaken than they really are can never succeed even in limiting, let alone destroying, their power. It is the kingdom, the revolution of God, which breaks, which has already broken them. Jesus is their conqueror." (Hunsinger, pp.90-91)
"At this point there can be no reversal. The victory of Jesus Christ, and thus what can be called the victory of light over darkness, can never be inferred from any victories of humanity--never at any rate with real certainty." (Hunsinger, p. 94)
Here and in the following is the idea we had in mind when presenting "God's Revolution/Human Revolutions" as one of the couples Barth was intent to "unpair." And in the above Barth is doing little more than quote Blumhardt. Back, then, to the Romans book:
Why is it that we [with Paul and Jesus] have to watch so carefully the forces of revolution? Why are we not equally anxious about the manifest dangers of conservatism? ... We are anxious about the forces of revolution and not about the forces of conservatism, because it is most improbable that anyone will be won over to the cause of reaction--as a result of reading the Epistle to the Romans!...
[Barth was addressing the liberal intelligentsia of the Continent and knew that none of them were candidates for conservative legitimism. Whether he considered that Romans 13--with its "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities"--could and often would be used as counsel of legitimism, we do not know.
Even so, he is still correct: a fair reading of the entirety of Paul's "Epistle to the Romans" could never be made to serve "the cause of reaction." Barth continues:]
"The revolutionary Titan is far more godless, far more dangerous, than his reactionary counterpart--because he is so much nearer the truth. To us, at least, the reactionary presents little danger; with his Red brother it is far otherwise" (Romans, p. 468).
The phrase "Red brother" alerts us to when it was Barth wrote these words and introduces us to an intriguing aspect of his personal anarchism. Writing in 1920, Barth was in the atmosphere of the Bolshevik "socialist" revolution getting its regime into place--about the same time Walter Rauschenbusch was calling it the world's best hope for peace and brotherhood and Malcolm Muggeridge's friends were visiting Russia and being entranced. In calling the Red brother "so much nearer the truth" than the political conservatives, Barth is saying simply that the rhetorical line of the revolutionary Left always is superior to that of the Right. With its talk about freedom, justice, equality--about helping the poor and oppressed--it even sounds very much like Jesus. It is precisely in that similarity that the danger lies--the danger of our taking it for Jesus.
In 1919, Barth "spoke about the Russian revolution, which he saw as an attempt which had to be made but was not to be imitated. He was also well aware of the problems in this attempt: violent revolution (which meant the establishment of the new society 'on the old foundations'), the exclusiveness of the working class (in contrast to the abolition of classes) [see Chapter Three], and minority rule ('the acknowledged shortcomings of democracy are not improved by its abolition')" (Busch, p. 106).
It will become entirely plain that, throughout his life, Barth's own sociopolitical preference was that of "socialism." Yet already we have seen him repudiate Religious Socialism; now that of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and yet to come the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazism). Of course, he is aware of the moral distinctions between these different forms of socialism, but his repudiation of each is not based upon that assessment of relative morality. Fundamentally, each is equally out of order for being a human arky claiming messianic status for itself. So Barth's rejection of Soviet socialism is in no sense that of an ideologue who brands that arky as demonic in the effort to get his own preferred holy arky (say, capitalism) into its place. No, Barth is the Christian anarchist who is not about to legitimize Soviet socialism but who is not about to legitimize any other arky's fighting against it or trying to replace it, either. "Give to God what belongs to God."
Years later, the liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr--whose own arky faith always wanted him on board the arky "nearest the truth"--became highly incensed with what he saw as Barth's political flip-flopping. Yet right here in Romans II, we see the consistent (though anarchical) principle that makes sense of Barth: always warn against that arky nearest the truth, the one Christians will most be in danger of taking for the Arky of God.
[The travesty of it all is] that men should, as a matter of course, claim to possess a higher right over their fellow men, that they should, as a matter of course, dare to regulate and predetermine almost all their conduct, that those who put forward such a manifestly fraudulent claim should be crowned with a halo of real power and should be capable of requiring obedience and sacrifice as though they had been invested with the authority of God, that the Many should conspire to speak as though they were the One, that a minority or a majority (even the supreme democratic majority of all against one) should assume that they are the community.... This whole pseudo-transcendence [claimed by] an altogether immanent order is the wound that is inflicted by every existing government--even by the best--upon those who are most delicately conscious of what is good and right. [Even so,] the more successfully the good and the right assume concrete form, the more they become evil and wrong--summa jus, summa injuria..... If, for example, the Church of Calvin [for Barth, the nearest-to-the-truth church] were to be reformed and broadened out to be the Church of the League of Nations, this doing of the supreme right would become the supreme wrong-doing. (Romans, p. 479)
Now that's anarchy (though I claim it would still be just as good anarchy even if Barth had put it into shorter and clearer sentences).
From this perception of the evil that lies in the very existence of existing government, Revolution is born. The revolutionary seeks to be rid of the evil by bestirring himself to battle with it and to overthrow it. He determines to remove the existing ordinances, in order that he may erect in their place the new right.... The revolutionary must, however, own that in adopting his plan he allows himself to be overcome of evil (Rom. 12:21 [which is, by the way, another "not-doing" command]). He forgets that he is not the One, that he is not the subject [the creator] of the freedom which he so earnestly desires, that, for all the strange brightness of his eyes, he is not the Christ.... What man has the right to propound and represent the "New," whether it be a new age, or a new world, or a new ... spirit? ... Far more than the conservative, the revolutionary is overcome of evil, because with his "No" he stands so strangely near to God. This is the tragedy of revolution. Evil is not the true answer to evil. (Romans, p.480)
Overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21). What can this mean but the end of the triumph of men, whether their triumph is celebrated in the existing order or by revolution? And how can this be represented, if it be not by some strange "not-doing" precisely where men feel themselves most powerfully called to action?... What more radical action can [one] perform than the action of turning back to the original root of "not-doing"--and NOT be angry, NOT engage in assault, NOT demolish? This turning back is the ethical factor in the command, Overcome evil with good. There is here no word of approval of the existing order; but there is endless disapproval of every enemy of it. It is God who wishes to be recognized as He that overcometh the unrighteousness of the existing order. (Romans, p.481)
When an arky takes it upon itself to impose upon society what it chooses to call "God's good," it is being just as defiant of God as is the arky intent to do evil.
Let every man be in subjection to the existing powers (Rom. 13:1). Though "subjection" may assume from time to time many various concrete forms, as an ethical conception it is here purely negative. It means to withdraw and make way; it means to have no resentment, and not to overthrow. Why, then, does not the rebel turn back and become no more a rebel? [I propose that the reading here must have intended: 'Is there, then, no reason for the rebel to turn back? Yes, there is; simply because....,'] Simply because the conflict in which he is immersed cannot be represented as a conflict between him and the existing ruling powers; it is, rather, a conflict of evil with evil. Even the most radical revolution can do no more than set what exists [namely, "a human reality"] against what exists. Even the most radical revolution--and this is so even when it is called a "spiritual" or "peaceful" revolution--can be no more than a revolt; that is to say, it is in itself simply a justification and confirmation of what already exists [namely, a sinful human arky we have chosen to absolutize as demonic and one we have chosen to absolutize as holy]. (Romans, pp.481-82)
What, then, is the Christian to do about the arkys?
It is evident that there can be no more devastating undermining of the existing order than the recognition of it which is here recommended, a recognition rid of all illusion and devoid of all the joy of triumph [i.e., a recognizing of them for what they are, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"]. State, Church, Society, Positive Right, Family, Organized Research, etc., etc., live off the credulity of those who have been nurtured upon vigorous sermons-delivered-on-the-field-of-battle and upon suchlike solemn humbug. Deprive them of their PATHOS, and they will be starved out; but stir up revolution against them, and their PATHOS is provided fresh fodder (Romans, p.483)
Consider that this is another counsel of "not-doing": we are not to credit the arkys for what they present themselves as being.
"To be in subjection is--when it is rightly understood--an action void of purpose, an action, that is to say, which can spring only from obedience to God" (Romans, p. 483). And it follows that, even if an action springing only from obedience to God happens in the process to involve disobedience to the existing arky, it still represents "being subject" and ought not be identified as a revolutionary action of "civil disobedience."
Barth, then, makes his point about God's ordaining the arkys as "negative signs" of the kingdom:
Is not, therefore, the exiting order a pregnant parable of the Order that does not [yet] exist? For the creature was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it in hope (Rom. 8:20).... But the existing order is justified against revolution precisely at this source; for here the demand is made that the revolutionary should not take the assault and judgment into his own hands, but rather should recognize that the evil of the existing order bears witness to the good, since it stands of necessity as an order contrasted [emphasis mine--VE] with THE Order. (Romans, p. 485)
Vengeance belongeth unto me (Rom. 12:19). Our subjection means, therefore, no more than that vengeance is not our affair.... [That revolutionaries lay their hands] upon the sword of judgment cannot be excused on the ground that the power has already employed the same sword against them. That is its judgment, not their right. The moment when they rise up in protest is the moment when a protest must be directed against them: Wherein thou judgest the other, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest dost practice the same things (Rom. 2:1). (Romans, p. 486)
Regarding, then, the Christian who, in obedience to God, is "being subject to the existing ruling powers," Barth says:
All unsuspecting, rulers rejoice over a citizen so remarkably well-behaved; but they are in fact rejoicing over one whose behavior [signifies nothing other than] the judgment of God [against the rulers themselves]--one who has so much to say that, [there being no point in doing so,] he no longer complains of them. And, in spite of the irony of his position, [the Christian] really does make a "good citizen," [in that] he has turned back to reality and is rid of all romanticism. Having freed himself of all idolatry, he does not need to engage himself in endless protestations against idols. Nor is he continually busying himself with pointing out the manifest inadequacy of each solution of the problem of life as it is propounded, of each form of government as it is erected, of each human road along which men propose to journey. And this is because he knows that the shadow of the judgment of God which spreads itself over them all is the shadow of righteousness. (Romans, pp. 487-88)
The Christian doesn't have to fret and fight regarding every evil of the world, because he knows that all will be made right in God's good time and in God's good way.
Calm reflection has thus been substituted for the convulsions of revolution--calm, because final assertions and final complaints have been ruled out, because a prudent reckoning with reality has outrun the insolence [about] "warfare between good and evil," and because an honest humanitarianism and a clear knowledge of the world recognize that the strange chess-board upon which men dare to experiment with men and against them-in State, Church, and Society--cannot be the scene of the conflict between the kingdom of God and Anti-Christ. (Romans, p. 489)
On this board we make no move that is not met by some dangerous counter-move; no step that does not in some way have back at us; no possibility that does not contain its own impossibility. Whether we support or oppose the existing order, we stand on the same level with it, and are subjected to one condemnation. Occupying some position, positive or negative, on the plane of the existing order, we are bound to have to pay for the fact that all [positions] are relative.... The encroachment of revolution [God] meets with the sword of government; the encroachments of governments with the sword of revolution. And in the fate of both we behold our own destiny--in fear and in pity. The wrath of God falls upon all of us. Upon each one in some way or other the sword is drawn; and it is not drawn in vain. Whether we attempt to build up some positive human thing or to demolish what others have erected, all our endeavors to justify ourselves are in one way or another shattered in pieces. We must now assert that all these endeavors of ours not merely cannot be successful, but ought not be so. (Romans, p. 490)
Finally, we get Barth's reading of Paul on a detail considered earlier: "For this cause ye pay tribute also (Rom. 13:6). Ye are paying taxes to the State. It is important, however, for you to know what ye are doing. Your action is, in fact, pregnant with 'not-doing,' with knowledge, with hope" (Romans, p. 491).
That is to say, if you are paying those taxes as a "doing," as a positive legitimation of the state and its evil activity, you are wrong. If, the other way around, you are withholding those taxes as a "doing," as an act of protest and rebellion against the evil state, you are wrong again. "But what other option is there?" Perhaps the difficulty is that we have been stating the case wrongly. If Jesus is correct that Caesar's image on the coin is proof enough that it "belongs" to him, rather than saying that we do pay him taxes, wouldn't it be more correct to say that we do not try to stop him from collecting what belongs to him (a true case of "not-doing")? As Barth has it, "It is important for you to know what ye are doing [or, in this case, 'not-doing']."
As we move on to the tracing of Barth's career, we jump backwards in his treatment of Romans--to pick up a statement made-to-order as our transition. When speaking of the human world as a strange chessboard which cannot be the scene of the conflict between the Kingdom of God and Anti-Christ, he continued: "A political career, for example, becomes possible only when it is seen to be essentially a game; that is to say, when we are unable to speak of absolute political right, when the note of 'absoluteness' has vanished from both thesis and antithesis [i.e., both our position and that of our opponents], and when room has perhaps been made for that relative moderateness or for that relative radicalism in which human possibilities [regarding absolute right and wrong] have been renounced (Romans, p. 489).
A common explanation has been that, subsequent to 1921, Barth rather quickly moved beyond and away from his position of Romans II, into a new and different theology. We would do well to hear what he has to say on that point.
In 1954, he described his 1921 "dialectical theology" in these terms:
This theology has aptly been called a "theology of the Word"; the term "dialectical theology" is less apt, but it does describe its characteristic thought-forms.... "In contrast to the historical and psychological account which the 'religious man' tended to give of himself at the beginning of the century," the characteristic feature of this theology was "its question about the superior, new element which limits and determines any human self-understanding. In the Bible this is called God, God's word, God's revelation, God's kingdom, and God's act. The adjective "dialectical" describes a way of thinking arising from man's conversation with the sovereign God who encounters him." (Busch, p. 144)
In 1961, he opened by quoting a line from Romans II:
"Christianity that is not eschatology, utterly and without remainder, has absolutely nothing to do with Christ." Well roared, lion! ... I still think that I was ten times more right than those against whom my remarks were directed.... My remarks at the time were rash ... but not because of their content. It was because they were not matched by others equally sharp and direct to compensate for their total claim. (Busch, p. 120)
What he needed to do--and proceeded to do--was make his "dialectical theology" truly dialectical.
He thought that there was not a "new Barth," "as many people have hastily assumed today." "But it is true that I have learnt some things on the way. At least I hope so.... While once man apparently had no place in my theology, I think over the years I have learned to speak of God the Creator and his relationship with man as his creature in a way which allows man a greater prominence.... I do not think that I have forgotten and denied anything of what I learned and put forward earlier. But I think that in thinking and speaking about the great cause of God and man I have become more peaceful and happier than I could be when I was arguing fiercely against the attitudes current at that time." ( Busch, p. 418)
"A genuine revision does not amount to a retreat after second thoughts; it is a new advance and attack in which what was said before has to be said again, but in a better way." Barth certainly did not want to retract ... the recognition that God is God. ( Busch, pp. 423-24)
We need to see how Barth manages to better "dialecticize" the God/man relationship and give man more prominence--yet without at all compromising either his "wholly-otherness of God" or his "Christian Anarchy" (indeed, actually enhancing both). Recall that, as early as the Tambach Conference of 1919, he had spoken of "parables of the kingdom of God" and "divine analogies" that appear on the earthly scene. In 1955, he was ready even to say:
In the form in which she exists among them [the church] can and must be to the world of men around her a reminder of the justice of the kingdom of God already established on earth in Jesus Christ, and a promise of its future manifestation. De facto, whether they realize it or not, she can and should show them that there already exists on earth an order based on that great transformation of the human situation and directed toward its manifestation. To those outside she can and should not only say, but demonstrate by deed, ... that things can be different, not merely in heaven but on earth, not just some day but even now. (Hunsinger, pp. 89-90)
This easily could be read as Barth's backing off from his earlier "wholly otherness" of God. Yet we heard him insist that the forming of a dialectic--let's call this one a dialectic tension between "the glory of God's wholly-otherness" and what Kierkegaard calls "the glory of our common humanity"--that the forming of the dialectic in no way marks a repudiation (or even de-emphasizing) of either truth. Consequently, the "glory" of our humanity cannot be a glory of the same quality as the "glory" of God, thus putting our glory into competition with his, making us "like God" (which, recall, was serpent's line in Genesis 3). Indeed, it is just here that the principalities and powers of human arkydom are disallowed--for claiming a glory competitive with that of God.
No, it is Kierkegaard who dialecticizes the matter best--doing it throughout that major part of his writings he calls "discourses" (better: "biblical meditations") and especially in the two entitled "The Glory of Our Common Humanity" and "Man's Need of God Constitutes His Highest Perfection." The glory of the human, he tells us, lies, not in our being "like God," but in our "imaging" of him, being in his image--a relationship of correspondence rather than competition.
As Kierkegaard once put it: with a ship in the water, its reflection appears to extend precisely as far below the surface as the ship itself stands above it. The "glory" of our humanity is a "reflected glory" that can worship God in a way truly corresponding to his "glory." Rather than a glory that challenges or threatens God's "wholly otherness," humanity's is the glory of confessing, praising, and reflecting that very otherness. Or let me try an illustration of my own: A clever cyclist invents and builds for himself a wonderfully new sort of bicycle. Yet certainly, the "glory" of that machine is not meant to be apparent simply in looking at and examining the bicycle itself. No, its true glory is manifest only with the rider aboard, showing what it can do (actually, what he can do on it). Man's is, indeed, a true glory--yet always very much of a reflected one. (And by the way, had not the necessity for polemics lain so heavily upon Barth at the time, either his mentor Blumhardt or Kierkegaard could have taught him this dialectic from the outset.)
Yet regarding Barth's passage about the church being a sign of the kingdom, the question must be put as to what "church" he had in mind. All the way through, he lumps in "church"--along with "State," "Society," and other such arkys--often enough to make it plain that the church he here "pairs" with the kingdom cannot be the arky church, that church which sees itself primarily as a sociopolitical entity and considers its greatest contribution to be its holy power-bloc influence in the world of arkydom. No, what Barth has in mind must be the anarchical church, what we have called the ekklesia--the community of gathered saints who strive in themselves to live out the arky of God but who have no interest in trying to impose that or any other order on the world about them.
Indeed, it is as much as incredible to find this noted cleric of the established Church of Calvin opposing that very church's arkydom on so many fronts: denying the validity of "episcopal or synodical authority"; of infant baptism; of anything the church calls "sacrament"; of formal liturgy; of houses of worship which incorporate "pictorial and symbolic representations" or pipe organs (cf. Busch, pp.320, 329, 343, 399, 428, 444, 474). If any church is "a sign of the kingdom," it clearly is not through any features of this sort. Just as much as if he were an Anabaptist, Barth's Christan Anarchy applies to the church as to any other arky.
There is, then, one other specification I think Barth would have wanted to make: As he says, even now churches (better: ekklesia-communities) can perform as signs, witnesses, and presentiments of God's coming kingdom. Yet that depends entirely upon God's gracious choice and empowerment of the community rather than the community's desire to qualify itself for the role. So, as soon any group presumes to claim and to name itself as a sign of the kingdom--this, then, as an excuse to pull rank and start foisting its ideas of holiness upon the world--at that point we are on the way to Holy Roman Empires, the Crusades, and all manner of clearly negative signs. No, the last thing a true kingdom-sign community will do is to recognize itself, nominate itself, or promote itself under that identity. "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see ourselves as, or program ourselves to be, a sign of any kingdom?'" "Signs of the kingdom" give the glory to God rather than claiming it for themselves.
In time, then, Barth came to realize that his original "wholly-otherness of God" needed to be balanced up by "the glory of our common humanity." But this did not affect his Christian Anarchy. It is true, of course, that Christian Anarchy involves a putting down of human pretension--but not by that token a putting down of the truly human. Quite the contrary, Christian Anarchy is dedicated precisely to the liberation of the truly human--i.e., God's freeing it by putting down the enslaving principalities and powers.
In 1921, with the publication of Romans II, there came also the call for Barth to leave the pastorate and assume a professorship in Germany. A detail it will be important for us to remember is that, on the Continent, university professors are actually civil servants. This connection, in 1926, led to Barth's taking on German citizenship--in addition to his native Swiss citizenship. Throughout the period we are now to consider he is essentially a German--which period will end with his leaving Germany to spend the rest of his life as a Swiss professor.
Under this head, we will simply establish the continuity of Barth's thought by seeing him add insight to what he has said before.
The Pastoral Orientation of Theology."One can ... say that to ground theology in the church and especially in the work of the pastor and make it relevant is a characteristic of the whole theological renewal movement" ( Busch, pp. 136-137).
The New View of the Bible.Barth is insistent in correcting the "liberal" use of Scripture: "Barth contrasted his view of the Bible as evidence of the concrete revelation of God with the view of the Bible as a general religious document" ( Busch, p. 134). "The Bible, an earthly, human book, is a witness to revelation and thus itself the Word of God. So it is not merely a source of Christian knowledge, but its critical norm" ( Busch, p. 161).
Barthian vs. Bultmannian "Eschatology."Rudolf Bultmann's own "eschatology" had him wanting to talk about "last things"--by which he meant the ultimate issues of life the religious individual must face in his own experience and regarding which he must make momentous decisions (i.e., momentous for his own existence as a person). Bultmann asked Barth how he understood "eschatology"; and Barth responded that eschatology had to involve an actual transformation of the whole world order: "He only speaks of last things who would speak of the end of all things, ... of a reality so radically superior to all things that the existence of all things would be wholly and utterly grounded in it and in it alone; i.e., he would speak of their end which in truth would be none other than their beginning" ( Busch, p. 149). Notice that only a Barthian eschatology will do for Christian Anarchy; the Bultmannian variety has no way of even recognizing the objective, historical existence of principalities and powers--let alone their being overcome by a kingdom of God.
Yet Barth also wants to say how essential eschatology is to the full revelation of God and how relevant it is to the Christian life here and now:
"Because it speaks of the boundary, of the end, Christian eschatology is fundamentally conscious of saying things which only God can say directly as they are [i.e., human wisdom and invention are of no help here]." Thus, "its object is not the future [per se] but the ONE [caps mine--VE] who is to come.... Christian eschatology is not interested in the last things for their own sake.... The revelation which constitutes the Word of God is itself eschatological.... Christian eschatology is no idle knowledge"; it has the character of a claim to faith and obedience which directs itself specifically to man." ( Busch, p. 166)
During the period now under consideration, we find Barth making a change of terminology and something of a change of emphasis--yet actually intensifying the earlier polemic. Rather than speaking so much of the wholly-otherness of God, he now turns his fire on the falseness of the man-centered theology which the wholly-otherness of God was meant to correct. No longer is the term "NeoProtestant" much used to identify that false theology; "natural theology" takes over as a more general, more inclusive, and more accurate identification. It covers any variety of thought proposing that--outside and independent of God's special revelation to us through Jesus Christ and recorded in Scripture--there are "natural" affinities and connections giving man sufficient access to the divine that he can come to know God on his own. Man, now, does not live to wait for God to reveal himself; he has his own means for initiating encounter.
Picking up from where we left Barth, he is now willing to concede that there are signs of the kingdom on the human scene--but he will not budge an inch toward making these the seed of a natural theology: "[Barth] could say that 'the work of culture ... can be like a parable.... It can be a reflection from the light of men the eternal logos who became flesh.... [But] the hope of the church rests on God for man; it does not rest on men, not even on religious men--and not even on the belief that men with God's help will eventually build and complete that tower (of Babel)'"  Busch, p. 171). In the same address from which these lines were taken, Barth also said that this address represents "a rather different view" from what he had expressed at Tambach seven years earlier. I suggest that it is not actually as different as it sounds; the basic Christian Anarchy, the complete disallowance of any sort of arky faith, is fully preserved.
Schleiermacher Is Still the Villain."[Barth] saw the theology of Schleiermacher as an attempt to make 'religion, revelation, and relations between God and man comprehensible as a predicate of man.... [The secret now is] that theology had long since become anthropology'" ( Busch, p. 169). "[Schleiermacher] was seen [by Barth] as the representative of a theology in which 'man is left master of the field insofar as he alone has become the subject, while Christ is his predicate'" ( Busch, p. 221).
The Arky Faith of Natural Theology Must Collapse.lt is still the preached message in the life of the congregation that is at issue: "Christian preaching is a proclamation 'of the mighty acts of God' and not 'a proclamation of the acts and works of man'" ( Busch, p. 176). "'From a man's point of view, in its decisive act, faith [emphasis mine--VE] is the collapse of every effort of his own capacity and will and the recognition of the absolute necessity of that collapse. When a man sees the other aspect, [namely,] that when he is lost he is justified [emphasis mine--VE] ... he sees himself from God's point of view.' But 'this righteouness does not become a psychological capacity; it remains in God's hand", ( Busch, p. 172).
Along with "Natural Theology," "Natural Ethics" Must Go.This subpoint calls for special notice in that "Christian ethics" is probably the area of theology done in the greatest disregard of God and his word, done sheerly as human calculations of what is right or wrong, good or evil. But Barth says, "'Ethics, too, is concerned with reflection on the Word of God'--and 'especially with the reflection on the claim that this Word of God makes on man.'... 'What is good?' 'Man acts well in so far as he acts as one who has heard the Word of God, and obedience is good"' ( Busch, p. 182).
The Secret Battle against Natural Theology.In 1931, Barth published his most off-beat book--a study of the medieval Catholic theologian, St. Anselm--from which he proceeded directly to begin his gargantuan Church Dogmatics. Roman Catholic scholars in particular had trouble accepting Barth's book as an accurate understanding of what Anselm was taking about. Barth responded that he didn't really care whether he had Anselm right or not--what he wanted was for people to understand what he was talking about.
My interest in Anselm was never a side-issue for me. On the contrary, whether my historical interpretation of the saint was right or not, I took him very much to heart.... Most commentators have completely failed to see that this Anselm book is a vital key, if not the key, to understanding the process of thought that has impressed me more and more in my Church Dogmatics as the only one proper for theology. (Busch, p. 210)
Just what is that key? This: "[freeing my thought] 'from the last remnants of a philosophical or anthropological ... justification and explanation of Christian doctrine....' The book on Anselm of Canterbury's proof for the existence of God ... I think I wrote with more loving care than any other of my books and ... it has been read the least of all my books'" (Busch, p. 206). In effect, the Anselm book and the whole of the Church Dogmatics were dedicated to the absolute elimination of arky faith and any vestige of natural theology.
What the "Nein" to Brunner Cost Barth.From the public view, this 1934 pamphlet was Barth's strongest blast against natural theology. It had to be the costliest and most painful to Barth from a personal standpoint. He certainly realized that, of all the "name" theologians of the era, his Swiss compatriot, biblically committed colleague, and fellow Blumhardtian Emil Brunner was the one whose thought stood closest to his own. Yet he publicly humiliated Brunner with "an out-spoken piece of polemic." And why? "[Because] Brunner had put forward the argument that 'the task of our theological generation is to find a way back to a legitimate natural theology'" (Busch, p. 248). Obviously, for Barth, what was at stake was not simply a point of intellectual, theological argument but the very truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Analogia Entis as the Catholic Form of the Heresy.Barth had to fight his war against natural theology on (at least) two fronts at the same time. Yet the Catholic front opened up long after the Protestant--only in the early 'thirties. The Catholic doctrine of analogia entis (analogy of "being") proposes that God's divine nature and our human nature each include qualities of "being" analogous (similar) enough to make them mutually attracting. Thus, naturally, our human "being" rises to meet God even as God's divine "being" comes meet us--plainly a "like God" relationship rather than a "correspondent image" one. "I regard the analogia entis as the invention Anti-Christ, and I believe that because of it one cannot become a Catholic" ([1931-32] Busch, p. 215).
Without using the term, Barth hangs the idea upon Augustine:
Augustine is "the classic representative of the Catholic view ... that there is a continuity between God and man which is to be thought of as originating from man's side and which constantly threatens to make man his own creator and reconciler." [In Barth's view, however;] Because the connection between God and man--which also exists from man's side--is an "event" in the Holy Spirit and only in him (that is, only as a gift of God), there is no connection apart from this "event"--either before, as an innate property, or afterwards, as the product of some "infusion." ( Busch, p. 188)
[Barth] thought that there was probably an analogy, a point of correspondence, between God and man, by virtue of which man is "capable" of knowing God. But ... this "point of correspondence" is not given to man by nature, by virtue of his situation, ontologically. It will, however, be given to him in faith (analogia fidei) since the only possibility of knowing God and his Word is to be found in the Word itself. ([1931-32], Busch, p. 116)
"Analogy of faith" suggests that it is only God's faithfulness to us that creates in us a faith" correspondent to it.
Our attention now turns from the theological side of Barth's Christian Anarchy to its political side, from theory to praxis. Recall from his first period that Barth treated his membership with Religious Socialism in a most anarchical way, as a peripheral matter in which he was every bit as quick to criticize the party as to support it. At that time, also, we heard him warn that we dare not put our "hearts" into our politics; that our political careers must be treated as "a game"; and that, above all, we dare never use "God" (i.e., religion, theology, Christianity) as justification or support for what are actually our own political, human-arky ideas. In his political involvements now to be described, Barth will continue to be entirely consistent with these principles of Christian Anarchy.
It was in 1932, as a full-fledged German citizen, Barth took out membership in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). At about the same time, he made an important statement regarding the church's involvement in politics: "The proclamation of the church is by nature political in so far as it has to ask the pagan polis to remedy its state of disorder and make justice a reality. This proclamation is good when it presents the specific commandment of God, and is not good when it puts forward the abstract truth of a political ideology" ( Busch, p. 216). The church can (and should) speak Scripture to the state; but once the church starts identifying itself with the arkys of particular political philosophies and cause groups, that is bad.
The true significance of Barth's taking SPD membership becomes apparent only when we are aware of the general political situation in the Germany of that day. The following is Barth's retrospective description of what he saw as early as 1926:
I also saw and heard the so-called "German nationals" of the time--in my memory the most undesirable of all God's creatures whom I have ever met.... With their inflammatory speaches they probably made the greatest contributions towards filling to the uttermost a cup of wrath which was then poured out on the German nation over the next two decades. ([1947) Busch, p. 189)
"German Nationalism," of course, is what in time will lead to the horrors of Nazism. Yet that which Barth here finds so offensive cannot be those horrors--which haven't surfaced yet. No, what incenses Barth is the blatant pretension that the Germanic spirit (culture, nationalism, and blood) qualifies as God's holy, messianic arky for the saving of the world. But at the time Barth joins it, the SPD is clearly the "opposition party," the minority party standing as an alternative to the rising National Socialism of the Nazis. Barth's choice is a deliberate act of refusing to legitimize Nazism. Yet as a true Christian anarchist, he isn't going to stoop to the level of trying to fight or subvert the Nazis, either. He will concentrate, rather; on giving to God what belongs to God.
Barth explained in a letter to Paul Tillich:
Membership in the SPD does not mean for me a confession to the idea and world view of socialism. According to my understanding of the exclusivity of the Christian confession of faith, I can "confess" myself neither to an idea nor to a world view in any serious sense. Hence I also have no necessary intrinsic relation to "Marxism" as such.... As an idea and world view, I can bring to it neither fear nor love nor trust. Membership in the SPD means for me simply a practical political decision.... I saw [the] requirements for a healthy politics fulfilled in, and only in, the SPD. Therefore, I choose this party. (Hunsinger, p. 116)
Barth does his politics as a "not-doing" of politics; he shows nothing of arky faith, the messianic "gung-ho here we go" zealotism that marks normal politicking. He joins the party, rather, as an anarchist with no illusions about the holiness of the arky; no talk about God's leading him to join; no implication that all good Christians should be there with him; no talk of serving God's kingdom through party; no dreams of the party's accomplishing "the victory of Good in the world."
By March 1933, the Nazis held enough power that it could mean trouble for government employees (including university faculty members) to be known as SPD members. In that situation, the party itself recommended that, rather than jeopardizing their posts, SPD faculty members simply resign their party membership and continue their activity in private. Tillich accepted this as a good idea; but Barth would have none of it. For him, this was the very time not to back down on one's formal, public commitment. "Anyone who does not want me like this cannot have me at all" (Busch, p. 225).
Without any hint of defiance, Barth straightway communicated his decision to the proper official, the Prussian Minister of Cultural Affairs, asking whether, as a SPD member; he would be allowed to continue his teaching for the summer term. The minister gave permission--on the condition that there would be no "formation of cells." However, in June, before the summer was well underway, the SPD was disbanded and prohibited nationwide. At this point the administrative head of the university asked Barth how he saw his relationship to the SPD. "I said: 'I have arranged things with the Minister himself.' So perhaps I was in fact the last member of the SPD in the Third Reich" (Busch, p. 225).
Notice, Barth was not about to let himself be pushed around; he was adamant against doing anything that could possibly be interpreted as a legitimizing of German Nationalism. Yet, the very figure of courtesy and propriety, he is just as careful not to be guilty of defiance, rage, condemnation, and rebellion against the established arky, either. His stance can be typified as nothing other than "anarchical."
Hitler's take-over of January 30, 1933, caught Barth in bed with the flu; but he knew immediately "where I stood and what I could not do. In the last resort, this was simply because I saw my dear German people beginning to worship a false god" (Busch, p. 223). Barth realized that the quick and easy capitulation of the German people--including many even of his faculty colleagues and former students--was owing to the fact that the church had for so long been buying into whatever cultural or political arky made messianic noises that it saw this as just one more instance of the same. "It transpired that 'over the centuries the Protestant church had in fact been "assimilated" as a result of all kinds of other less ostentatious and aggressive alien pressures to such a degree that it simply could not repudiate [emphasis mine--VE], promptly and confidently, the crude assumption that the church, its message, and its life could be "assimilated" into the National Socialist State'" (Busch, p. 223). Notice, then, that Barth's own "resistance" to the State is not at all an "attack" upon it but simply the refusal to "assimilate" or "legitimize."
But what, then, is Barth (or any Christian) to do in the face of such monstrous evil? He speaks as a true Christian anarchist: "His 'first priority' ... [was] to urge the students for whom I was responsible to keep on working as normally as possible in the midst of the general uproar, ... to maintain the biblical gospel in the face of the new regime and the ideology which had now become predominant'" (Busch, p. 224). The theological task of preserving the biblical gospel from ideological take-over is much more important to the course of history than is the political effort to destroy Hitler's regime.
Barth's first eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with that regime came with the directive that all university classes were to open with the Hitler salute. Barth's never did. As he explained to the administration, he had understood it as being a "recommendation" rather than an "order." Besides, it was his custom to open class with a hymn and prayer--and the Hitler salute didn't seem to quite fit. The administration decided not to make an issue of the matter; and Barth carried the day on that one (Busch, p. 242).
On the next go-around, Barth was not so fortunate. The university prescribed an "oath of loyalty to the Führer." And was our professor so defiant as to refuse? Of course not! "Granted, 'I did not refuse to give the official oath, but I stipulated an addition to the effect that I could be loyal to the Führer only within my responsibilities as an Evangelical Christian'" (Busch, p. 255). However, apparently Der Führer didn't find this loyalty quite enough. Immediately suspended from teaching, by 1935 Barth was permanently "busted" from the university and had moved (he would hardly say "fled") back to Switizerland to finish his career there.
With neither the salute nor the loyalty oath can Barth be said to have practiced "civil disobedience" (in the sense of Chapter Eight here following). He did not stage his disobedience as a calculated political power-play. He made no effort to organize his own ideological bloc to contest that of the evil regime. He did not play up to the media as a form of public demonstration, protest, or witness. He exhibited no rage toward nor condemnation of his adversary. He refused to treat the State as "enemy." He was intent only to give to God what belongs to God. And in doing that, he was careful to tread the fine, anarchical line between legitimizing the establishment the one hand and legitimizing revolution against it on the other.
We must back up to 1933 before moving forward again with this line of development. But Karl Barth was the central figure in the interdenominational church "struggle" that came to be identified as the Confessing Church; he was himself the main author of its constituting Barmen Declaration.
At the outset, Barth established the guideline that the church stick to theology and not politics: "I cannot see anything in German Christianity but the last, fullest, and worst monstrosity of Neo-Protestantism" (Busch, p. 230). The problem is essentially a theological one; the answer to it must be essentially theological as well. "Barth began by declaring that at this very moment it was important to do 'theology and only theology'--'as though nothing had happened. This, too, is an attitude to adopt ... and indirectly it is even a political attitude"' (Busch, p. 226). Just so; it is the politics of "not-doing politics"--which, by the way, the Nazis found most difficult to handle. Regarding "straight politics," they knew just what to do and could counter every move, but "Barthian not-doing politics" had them out of their field. How does one counter that? This Christian Anarchy business is a real pain!
"Above all, [Barth] warned against mere church-political tactics: 'We must be men who believe [my emphasis--VE], first and last. That--and nothing else'" (Busch, p. 231). And when a visitor asked how the American churches could help, "Barth emphasized that the Anglo-Saxon churches should now support the Confessing Church in one way and only in one way, by showing theological solidarity with its struggle against [not the Nazis but] natural theology [emphasis mine--VE]" (Busch, p. 231).
Then, regarding the 1934 Barmen paper:
An important clause in the declaration stated that the "real problem" of the present was not [my emphasis--VE] "how one could get rid of the German Christian nonsense, if that was God's will--but how it was possible to form a front against the error which had devastated the Evangelical Church for centuries," ... namely the view that "alongside God's revelation, ... man also has a legitimate authority of his own over the message and form of the church." (Busch, p. 236)
Well then, was the Confessing Church a "resistance movement"? Yes indeed, one of the best--as long as Karl Barth was running it and as long as the "resistance" was that of Christian Anarchy rather than "holy arky power play."
The war against Hitler marked a decisive turn in Barth's thought. We now start with that and run our survey up to the writing of his second classic presentation of Christian Anarchy, the Royal Man passage of 1955.
I consider Barth's role in the fight against Hitler to mark a serious defection from his own understanding of Christian Anarchy. He started out well enough: "I considered my most immediate and important duty to play my part in seeing that theology should be carried on, thoroughly and 'as if nothing had happened,' in at least one place in an insane Europe--in our Swiss island" (Busch, p. 299). But he was not able to hold that course. It must be said that he did rather quickly recover himself--which has the effect of making the episode all the more instructive for its contrast to both the "before" and the "after" Barth. Our comprehension of Christian Anarchy will be enhanced in here seeing what it is not.
To my mind, Barth's defection came--not so much in his resort to violence--but in his mounting a Christian rationale and justification for the same. This, from the man who had been so consistently opposed to allowing any political, human arky to claim Christian, theological standing. I propose that Jacques Ellul (in his book, Violence--with the subsequent "rectification" in Christianity & Crisis, Oct.19, 1970, p. 221) offers us the best framework in which to evaluate Barth's actions.
Within the horizon of political activity--limited to human actions that can be calculated to produce particular cause-and-effect results according to sheerly human probabilities and possibilities--within this sphere, Ellul suggests, it does seem to be the case that situations arise in which violence shows up as inevitable and necessary. The "pacifists" who, still from entirely within this horizon, argue that there can never arise a dilemma which does not include the option of a workable, humanly practical, nonviolent solution--these people are utopians, showing no sense of political realism at all. Of course, no one is saying that every instance of human violence has been or is necessary; that leaves all sorts of room for political peacemaking to quell a great deal of our violence. Nevertheless, Ellul would seem to be correct that there are situations in which violence is necessary; in which we have no other choice; in which, therefore, voilence is politically justified. The political distinction between "necessary and unnecessary wars"--"just and unjust wars"--is absolutely essential if we are to make moral judgments in the matter at all.
However, politically justified is NOT to say Christianly justified. Christians, of course, know that the political horizon is not the final limit of reality. That limit (if as "limit" it should be thought of) certainly opens out to include God and all of God's possibilities--even to the point of resurrection from the dead, the kingdom, and all kingdom possibilities. From out of this larger sphere, for anyone to say that violence is necessary is nothing short of blasphemy--a suggestion that God himself is under the same constraints of necessity we are, that violence is something even he has not the wherewithal to avoid. For that matter, Ellul suggests, God has given us Jesus Christ for the very purpose of freeing us from all human necessity--the necessities of sin, greed, hard-heartedness, self-centeredness, violence, and what all. What is necessarily necessary within the horizon of human politics becomes totally unnecessary once the God-possibilities are taken into account. Christianly, then, violence is never justified--though Christians can, of course, still recognize the relative political justice and injustice of different wars and conflicts.
So, Ellul concludes, whenever Christians support or participate in violence, what this indicates is that--for at least that moment, in that action--they have had a failure of faith; have not truly trusted in God and his possibilities; have forgotten their freedom in Christ, rather to slide back into the realm of necessity, taking the political limit for the actual limit of reality. For such a lapse--as for any other--there is, of course, forgiveness; yet any Christian capitulation to the necessity of violence is a denial of the freeing work of Jesus Christ and consequently a sin.
I consider it indisputable that Karl Barth knew all this and could have written the above paragraphs better than I have done. But under the terrible pressures of Hitler, he forgot.
In 1938, Barth wrote a letter in which "he told Czechoslovakia, threatened by Hitler's attack, 'that now every Czech soldier will stand and fall not only for the freedom of Europe, but also for the Christian church'" (Busch, p. 289). Later he explained, "In my letter to Hromádka--for the sake of the faith--I issued a summons to armed resistance against the armed threats and aggression which are now being made. It was not a call to a World War ... but certainly to resistance" (Busch, p. 289).
Why couldn't Barth have been content to address this political situation politically--arguing the political necessity of Czech resistance (for which a good case could have been made)? Why did he have to go against all his own theological principles--bringing in "the Christian church" and "the faith"; anointing the Czech army as a holy arky sponsored by and in the service of God? Christian anarchists know better than that!
"If political order and freedom is threatened, then this threat also indirectly affects the church. And if a just state tries to defend order and freedom, then the church, too, is indirectly involved." Granted, "as a church it can struggle and suffer only in the spirit," but "it would not be taking its own proclamation seriously if it remained indifferent here." ( Busch, pp. 289-90)
We can be grateful for at least the hint that the way of the church might be different from that of the state, although he still has "the church" and "the just state" in closer collaboration than Christian Anarchy will be comfortable with.
"Unconditionalresistance must be offered against Hitler--both ideological and military ... [The churches] should not [raise the objection] that the people of the democratic states are fighting against God; they should tell them that for God's sake [emphasis mine--VE] we may be human and must defend ourselves against the onslaught of manifest inhumanity with the power of despair" ( Busch, p. 303). Here Barth not only fails to recognize any God possibilities beyond the immediate political possibilities, he actually asks us to capitulate to political necessity--for God's sake. No, earlier (when he was in his right mind) he had it: if we see no other possibility, let's fight--but let us at least have the grace not to say that it is for God's sake we are doing it.
"He said that the Christians were on the way to a final battle which was 'much harder and more momentous' than earthly wars, but which spurred them on to fight 'transitory' human wars boldly and justly with human means" ( Busch, p. 305). Our human wars are now positive signs of God's eschatological war for the kingdom? Personally, I much prefer the Barth of Romans II, when he had it the other way around (and right): Our human wars--and all other such arkys--are negative signs indicating the absence, the not-yet, of the kingdom.
While he did not see Switzerland as a Christian country (rather, it was an "unholy Switzerland"), he nevertheless understood it as a country with a Christian foundation. As "a community of free peoples of free individuals allied by law," the Confederation was in fact, though undeservedly, "like an Alpine twilight, a reflection of the gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed to us and to all the West. To preserve this Switzerland, its people were confronted with the uncompromising alternative "either to surrender or to resist." ( Busch, p. 310)
Now he would have us believe that it is "a Switzerland reflecting the gospel of Jesus Christ" that is the anointed arky and positive sign of the kingdom. But can Swiss nationalism be depended upon to be all that much better than German nationalism turned out to be? Why couldn't Barth have presented "democratic freedom" as being simply a political value in its own right--a value which political necessity dictates must now be defended by force of arms? As it is, he is losing (momentarily) the very distinction between politics and theology that has been the hallmark of his Christian Anarchy.
Yet, by 1942 Barth is back on the right track. In a message to the American churches he warned against
any "crusading ideology": the church must not ... provide "the necessary religious accompaniment" to the "terrible sounds of war." Nor should the war be understood as "an instrument of divine vengeance" instead of as "the last terrible instrument for restoring the public order which has been damaged and destroyed by common guilt." It was only possible to have "a good conscience" if the war against the Germans was "in fact also being carried on for [emphasis mine--VE] them." (Busch, pp. 317-18)
Welcome home, Professor! The war is to be understood as a tragic necessity brought about by the constrictedness of the political horizon of human arky. Although it may have been fully justified politically, there shouldn't have been even the thought of trying to justify it theologically.
Regarding both Barth here and Bonhoeffer in the chapter to follow, I don't believe there is even a question of their having made a theological about-face, rejecting their earlier thought and heading off in a new direction. I see them, rather, as two human beings who--under terrible pressure--simply found themselves unable to live up to their own ideals. So, to whatever reader has never found in himself the same failure of faith, I herewith extend the invitation to step forward and cast the first stone.
Barth was invited to address the World Council of Churches Amsterdam Assembly but was reluctant to accept: "Formerly I took no part, or only a small part, in the 'ecumenical movement'; indeed, had all kinds of criticisms to make of it, since I have always been suspicious of all movements" (Busch, p. 357). That, obviously, is a back-on-the-track anarchist speaking. So when he actually did get to Amsterdam, he took the occasion to lecture the movement about Christian Anarchy:
There was a serious danger that Christianity might come to grief not only in its human descriptions and assessments of earthly needs, but finally also in its human plans and measures for fighting against these needs and overcoming them.... He criticized the preparatory studies above all for the view, which could be found in all of them, that "as Christian men and as church people we [emphasis mine--VE] ought to achieve what [actually] God alone can accomplish and what he will [emphasis mine--VE] accomplish completely by himself.... We shall not be the ones who change this wicked world into a good one. God has not abdicated his lordship over us.... All that is required of us is that, in the midst of the political and social disorder of the world, we should be his witnesses." ( Busch, p. 358)
Barth participated in the preparations but was not able to make the 1952 WCC Assembly at Evanston. He felt that the theme should not be "The Hope of the Church and the World" but, as you might guess, "Jesus Christ, the Crucified Lord, the Only [emphasis undoubtedly his] Hope for the World." And "when [Reinhold] Niebuhr, reflecting on the conference theme, had left eschatology 'on one side,' Barth became angry and, having given up hope [not his "Christian hope," of course], wanted to go home.... [He] regretted above all 'that we have to tear our hair so much over Christian hope, of all things, instead of rejoicing at it'" ( Busch, p. 396).
The Church, State, and Politics. "[The church should exercise] an active and responsible participation in the state. [But] of course, the church's decisive service to the state was, in Barth's view, its preaching: 'By proclaiming the divine justification, it performs the best service to the establishment and maintenance of human justice'" ( Busch, p. 288). But what socially concerned churches today are even preaching the divine justification, let alone considering that their primary political service? Talk about doing politics by a "not-doing" of politics!
In 1946, Barth gave Konrad Adenaur "an urgent warning ... not to found a Christian Democrat Party. He thought that while the church should indeed have political commitments, these should not take the form of a Christian party" (Busch, p. 333)--which would, of course, imply God's election of a particular human arky. "He thought that the church could neither prescribe a political decision nor leave it open (as though it were merely a 'matter of discretion'); its task was to make the issues quite clear" ( Busch, p. 386). This "clarifying of the issue" I take to mean an open presentation of all interpretations and points of view rather than the pushing of one line the pastor (or somebody) has already decided is the Christian one. Good (anarchical) advice.
If It Isn't Biblical and Pastoral, It Isn't Christian Theology.Regarding scholars and teachers of theology, "he thought that people would notice 'at every turn' if these would-be teachers had never made 'the kerygma--to which there was so much appeal--their own responsibility; if they had never presented it in its canonical Old and New Testament form, with humility and patience, with delight and love, in preaching, instruction, and pastoral work, serving a real community, instead of always just thinking about it and talking about it'" ( Busch, p. 353). "He also believed 'that the question of the right hermeneutics cannot be decided in a discussion of exegetical method, but only in exegesis itself'" ( Busch, p. 390).
The Case against Natural Theology Is Refined but Not Changed.We here may have his best word in answer to the analogia entis. Years before, he had repudiated it and, in its place, proposed the analogia fidei--the analogy of faith in which our "faith" is actually but the reflection, the correspondent image, of God's prior "faithfulness" to us. Finally, now, we get the analogia relationis--the analogy of relationship that finds its reflection down from level to level of human experience: "Barth's explanation of the image of God in man ... consists [first in] the Trinitarian 'self-encounter' of God the Father and the Son [which, second,] is 'reflected in God's relationship to man' and [third], in turn, in the human encounter of (I and Thou,' [to fourth,] 'of man and woman' [by which I take him to mean 'husband and wife'" ( Busch, p. 317). Notice that, consistent with the rest of his thought, this "analogy" is strictly unidirectional. That is, the reality at each level "creates" the reflection below it; at every point it expresses God's defining us rather than our defining him.
"Christian Humanism" is flawed steel.... The central concern of the gospel is also with man. But what the gospel [emphasis mine--VE] says about man, for man (even against man) and to man begins where the various humanisms cease.... In the light of the gospel one can understand all these humanisms, affirm them to some extent and allow their validity.... But in the end one must also counter all humanisms in the light of the gospel...." "I myself spoke of the 'Humanism of God.' By that I did not mean any humanity contrived and brought about by man, but the delight in man taken by God [emphasis mine--VE] as the source and norm of all human rights and all human status" [wording reordered for clarity--VE]. ( Busch, pp. 366-67)
And in what is it, specifically, that God "delights"? He delights in that which his own grace has brought up in man.
Barth takes on "the natural theology of freedom" in words our modern liberationists need to hear: "Barth argued that freedom was neither a natural right nor a possession which was bestowed by nature. It was God's gracious gift, grounded in God's own freedom. Freedom was not a formal power of control, a freedom of choice, but freedom in encounter, freedom for" ( Busch, p. 400).
"The Natural Theology of Ethics" Is Noted, Too."In Barth's view the law follows the gospel and therefore ethics has the task of declaring 'the law as the form of the gospel....' [what ethics presents] therefore is not an 'ideal,' but a commandment which has already been fulfilled. Ethics is an 'ethics of grace, or it is not a theological ethics at all.' And so the answer to the old question 'What are we to do?' is, 'We should do whatever corresponds to this grace' ( Busch, p. 302).
He began by decisively rejecting the doctrine of "ordinances of creation"--in so far as these are understood as being laws which are independent of the Word of God and capable of being known "naturally." ... Thus the central concept of [Christian] ethics is that of "freedom": not understood in contrast to obedience, but as "the freedom of the children of God" which is "the freedom of [emphasis mine--VE] obedience and therefore true freedom." ([1951) Busch, pp. 376-77)
How much of what passes as "Christian ethics" in our day is actually anything more than "natural ethics"--how much shows the slightest interest in the "theological ethics" of what Barth speaks?
After having "blown it" during World War II, Karl Barth bounced back to redeem himself during the Cold War by giving us some of his best expressions of Christian Anarchy. Because of personal connections and interests there, he tended to focus upon Hungary.
In a lecture delivered in that country, he pointed out that it is
A dangerous temptation for the "Christian community" either to set itself up in opposition to the new order in principle, by keeping to the old, or by identifying itself with the new in an equally partisan fashion. Or it could retreat into a false neutrality on an apolitical "inner" line. On the other hand, "the church best performs its service in the midst of political change when its attitude is so independent and ... so sympathetic that it is able to summon the representatives of the old and new order alike ... to humility, to the praise of God, and to humanity, and can invite them all to trust in the great change (in the death and resurrection of Christ) and to hope in his revelation." ( Busch, p. 355)
A rather close application of "Jesus and the tribute money," wouldn't you say?
On subsequent occasions:
A church which is concerned to tread a cautious path between opposition to the new state and collaboration with it--which has clearly come to terms with the question of guilt--[should] for the rest [be] concerned with evangelization and building up the community.... Barth felt compelled to write to his friends in Hungary, saying in an open letter that they now seemed "to be going too far in the direction of compromise with the new order." (Busch, p. 355)
Emil Brunner tried to goad Barth into issuing "a call to oppose communism and make a Christian confession"--as he had done against the Nazis. But this time, Barth chose to stick with his Christian Anarchy, pointing out that
The church of Christ never passed judgment "on principle," but by individual cases, "making a new evaluation of each new event" [which, note, as opposed to automatically following the principles of some party line, is a rather anarchic approach in itself].... One difference between the former period and the present was that to "deify" Bolshevism was hardly a serious temptation in the West, though this kind of possibility had been very much the case during the time of the Nazi danger.... [But] "I am against all fear of communism. A nation which has a good conscience, whose social and democratic life is in order, need have no fear of it. Much less the church, which is sure of the gospel of Jesus Christ." (Busch, pp. 355-56)
I take it that Barth has in mind "fear that the western democracies will fall for communist ideology"; he seems not to consider the possibility of Soviet military expansionism. In a 1949 lecture, his argument was
that the formation of an Eastern bloc and Western bloc was based on a conflict of power and ideology and that the church had no occasion to take sides in it, either with the East and its "totalitarian abominations" or with the West, as long as it gave the East grounds for just criticism. But today "the way of the community of Jesus Christ in the present" has to be "another, third way of its own," in great freedom. (Busch, p .357)
Ilya Ehrenburg, who had wanted to get him "to sign the Stockholm (i.e., Moscow) peace appeal against the atomic bomb, [he dismissed] after a two-hour conversation." "I now react in a decidedly negative fashion to such obvious propaganda moves....," But Barth also refused to identify himself with the other side, and in any case, in the summer of 1950, he learned from a sound source that he was under scrutiny from the American Secret Service.... "So one is always between two firing-lines." ( Busch, p. 382)
Christian Anarchy won't make you friends anywhere.
Not that I have any inclination toward Eastern communism, in view of the face it has presented to the world. I decidedly prefer not to live within its sphere and do not wish anyone else to be forced to do so. But I do not see that either politics or Christianity require or even permit the conclusion which the West has drawn with increasing sharpness.... I believe anti-communism as a matter of principle to be an ever greater evil than communism itself [presumably because, as "the arky nearest the truth," it makes Christian claims which dupe people into taking it for Christianity].... The Christian churches should have considered it their task to influence both public opinion and the leaders who are politically responsible by a superior [emphasis mine--VE] witness, to the peace and hope of the kingdom of God."  Busch, pp. 382-83)
"Anti-" means against. God is not against, but for men. The communists are men, too. God is also for the communists. So a Christian cannot be against the communists but only for them. To be for the communists does not mean to be for communism. I am not for communism. But one can only say what has to be said against communism if one is for the communists. ( Busch, p. 383)
Before any reader is too quick to applaud this sentiment, let him ask himself whether he would be just as happy to have Barth turn it around to say that one must also be for anti-Communist rightists. Can you buy it that Republican presidents are men, too? It is Christian Anarchy only if Barth's formula is read both ways--all ways.
I hereby nominate the following as the best line in this book--and what should become the standard anarchical response to the eternal cry of the zealot, tare-storming activists of arkydom. On a Swiss radio broadcast came the question: "What should we do? [emphisis theirs]--as small, helpless people who seem to have no influence on the present confrontation between the powers." Barth's answer: "WE SHOULDN'T WORRY SO MUCH"--a counsel of "not-doing," note well, which Jesus worded, "Be not anxious; you can't add an iota to God's work in any case" ( Busch, p.385).
After he had read my treatment of Barth on Romans 13, it was Warren Groff of Bethany Theological Seminary who pointed me to Barth's "Royal Man" passage from his Church Dogmatics IV/2 (1955). Although displaying an approach entirely different from the Romans II passage of 1921, "The Royal Man" stands as a second classic presentation of the biblical concept of Christian Anarchy. It has to be sheer coincidence, but the "Royal Man" passage came seven years before Barth's 1961 retirement just as his "Romans 13" passage came seven years after the 1914 birth of dialectical theology. Anyone who cares to can take these as Barth's Alpha and Omega.
The great advantage of this second statement is that it opens out the New Testament basis of our thought. Heretofore, not only Barth but the rest of our thinkers as well have had us concentrated pretty much on Mark 12 and Romans 13. Now the entire Gospel account of the historical Jesus will be brought into view:
"The conformity of the man Jesus with the mode of existence and attitude of God consists actively in what we can only call the pronouncedly revolutionary character of His relationship to the orders of life and value current in the world around Him" (p.171). That word "revolutionary" (not italicized in Barth's text) is the one we need to watch if we are to understand him. As we read on, it will become obvious he is not using it as he did in Romams II, as the principle of "revolution" which--along with the counterpart principle of "legitimizing"--is prohibited and rejected. The word "revolutionary" will read in Barth's sentence only if it be taken as "the Revolution of God" which can't even begin to be correlated with any sort of human revolution. Actually, the word "anarchical" (Christian Anarchy) is the one that would best express what Barth has in mind. We will need to make this adjustment each time Barth uses "revolution" or "revolutionary" in connection with Jesus.
Jesus was not in any sense a reformer championing new orders against the old ones, contesting the latter in order to replace the former [which, of course, is what, earlier, Barth and ourselves have been identifying as "revolution"]. He did not range Himself and His disciples with any of the existing parties.... Nor did he set up against them an opposing party. He did not represent or defend or champion any programme--whether political, economic, moral, or religious, whether conservative or progressive [this pair, both here and hereafter, can as well be read by our previous terminology "legitimizing or revolutionary"]. He was equally suspected and disliked by the representatives of all such programmes, although He did not particularly attack any of them. Why His existence was so unsettling on every side was that He set all programmes and principles in question. And he did this simply because He enjoyed and displayed, in relation to all the orders positively or negatively contested around Him, a remarkable freedom which again we can only describe as royal. (Pp. 171-72)
Every element of our definition of Christian Anarchy appears here.
On the other hand, He had no need consistently to break any of them, to try to overthrow them altogether, to work for their replacement or amendment. He could live in these orders [namely, Barth specifies, those of the temple cult and the Roman civil regime].... He did not oppose other "systems" to these. He did not make common cause with the Essene reforming movement. He simply revealed the limit and frontier of all these things--the freedom of the kingdom of God. (p. 172)
The kingdom, the Arky of God, comes into Barth's picture just where Christian Anarchy says it should.
Earlier we suggested that the problem of the arkys is not that they are diabolical but that they are human. Now Barth says it: "Inevitably [the orders', or arkys'] provisional and relative character, the ways in which they were humanly conditioned, their secret fallibility, were all occasionally disclosed" (p.172).
And this anarchy of Jesus is itself transparent of the anarchy of God himself:
In the last resort, it was again conformity with God Himself which constituted the secret of the character of Jesus on this side too. This is the relationship of God Himself to all the orders of life and value which, as long as there is history at all, enjoy a transitory validity in the history of every human place. This is how God gives them their times and spheres, but without being bound to any of them, without giving any of them His own divine authority, without allotting to any of them a binding validity for all men. (Pp.172-73)
At this point, Barth goes into the small-print section in which he adduces all sorts of scriptural evidence to fill out his argument. We will trace the outline of that argument with only the barest hint of the amount of Scripture he uses: "Attention should first be paid to what we might call the passive conservatism of Jesus. Rather curiously, Jesus accepts and allows many things which we imagine He ought to have attacked and set aside both in principle and practice" (p.173).
What Barth calls "passive conservatism" could as well be called "apparent legitimism," what Paul called "submission to the governing authorities," or what we earlier referred to as "God's sufferance of the arkys." And of course, it is this aspect of Christian Anarchy which, both in Jesus' day and ours, revolutionary activists simply cannot abide: "We will not put up with all this wickedness!" Barth, on the contrary, scripturally documents Jesus' submission to: (a) the temple cult; (b) the cultural order of the family; (c) the synagogue and the Jewish law; (d) "the economic relationships and obligations of His time and background"; and (e) "in respect of political relationships and orders and disorders."
In my wods (not Barth's): If the name of the game is "Let's Fight the Evil Arkys"--replacing them with a Christian social order or overhauling them to be part of that order--then "submitting" to their illegitimacy is the worst possible move one could make. If, however, the case is that Jesus already has conquered them and is continuing to actualize that victory, then our "submitting" is the best thing we can do to keep out of the way and let him overcome them with his good. And surely it must be plain that it is only his good that can overcome evil. Paul could never have meant to suggest that our good ideas, good intentions, and good deeds are sufficient for that task.
Yet Jesus' "submission" is only one, the first element of his anarchism. Barth now:
It is quite evident, however, and we must not ignore this aspect, that there is also no trace of any consistent recognition in principle. We can describe the attitude of Jesus as that of a passive conservatism in the further sense that it never amounted to more than a provisional and qualified respect (we might almost say toleration) in face of existing and accepted orders. Jesus acknowledged them and reckoned with them and subjected Himself to them and advised His disciples to do the same; but, He was always superior to them. And it was inevitable--we now will turn to this aspect--that this superiority, the freedom of the kingdom of God, should occasionally find concrete expression in His words and actions, that an occasional creaking should be unmistakably heard in the timbers. (p. 175)
Barth now proceeds to run through his same (a) to (e) list, this time giving scriptural documentation as to how Jesus' "submission to the arkys is qualified. It should be said that in no instance does that qualification take the form of hinted or threatened attack and revolt. We shall quote only two examples, the first out of the (a) category of Jesus' submission to the temple cult: "When He paid the temple tax for Peter and Himself in Matt. 17:24f, He did not do so on the basis of an unqualified recognition which the disciple was to regard as binding, but ['the children are free,' however we pay] 'lest we should offend [the authorities]'" (p.175). Almost: "Yes, I and my followers will submit--but, you should know, we don't have to." Or, as in John 10:18, "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." Let's call this "qualified submission." Yet it would seem that Jesus seeks to avoid offending the authorities just where Christian revolutionaries seek opportunity to offend them.
The second example comes out of Barth's (e) category of Jesus' submission to the political authorities:
Ought tribute be paid to Caesar or not? Well, the coin bears the image of Caesar, so: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's--precisely those things and no more, is the obvious meaning--and to God the things that are God's." There is not a second kingdom of God [namely, one God has appointed to Caesar] outside and alongside the first. There is a human kingdom which is authoritative and can demand obedience only as such [i.e., only as a human arky). And this kingdom is sharply delimited by the one kingdom of God. (p. 176)
This, then, is the second element of Jesus' anarchism: the style of his submission that qualifies it as being anything but legitimizing. But what is clear is that revolutionary defiance is far from being the only means of refusing to legitimize the arkys. Jesus knew a better one, "qualified submission."
Barth then finds the third and final element of Jesus' anarchy to be the radical conclusion drawn from the other two--involving, of course, the nature and action of the oncoming kingdom of God:
But the crisis which broke on all human order in the man Jesus is more radical and comprehensive than may be gathered from all these individual indications.... "No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment, etc." (Mark 2:21f.). For Jesus, and as seen in the light of Jesus, there can be no doubt that all human orders are of this old garment or old bottles, which are in the last resort quite incompatible with the new cloth and the new wine of the kingdom of God.... All true and serious conservatism [i.e., legitimizing), and all true and serious belief in progress [i.e., revolutionism], presuppose that there is a certain compatibility [or possibility of transition] between the new and old.... But the new thing of Jesus is the invading kingdom of God revealed in its alienating antithesis to the world and all its orders.... Everything else that we have to say concerning the radical antithesis of the new thing which was actualized and appeared in Jesus to the totality of the old order can be said only in relation to its complete ignoring and transcending of this order. We can merely attempt to see with what profundity He attacked it--by this ignoring and transcending. He attacked it--in a way from which it can never recover--merely by the alien presence with which He confronted it in its own sphere. (pp.176-77)
In our chapter following, what Barth here calls the attitude of "complete ignoring and transcending" Kierkegaard will more colorfully call "God's infinite indifference" to the "worldly passion of partisanship" which so fundamentally motivates the arkys. But however it be identified, the attitude lies at the very heart of what we mean by Christian Anarchy.
Barth proceeds to at least make a try at going through his (a) to (e) list regarding this third element of anarchy. We, again, will quote from his (e) section--where it is somewhat amazing to find Barth citing those teachings of Jesus which Christian revolutionaries are strong in applying on the level of personal relationships but which they somehow keep in abeyance when it comes to their fight with the political arkys:
It is exactly the same in relation to the juridical and political sphere. Here, too, we have a questioning of the very presuppositions, which is all the more powerful in its lack of any direct aggressiveness [emphasis mine--VE]. What are all the attempts at reform or overthrow in which Jesus might have taken part or which He might have instigated or directed compared with the "revolution" [quotes mine--VE] which He did actually accomplish in this sphere? He did not oppose the evil which He came to root out.... His injunction to His followers, not as a law, but as a free call to freedom, is of a piece with this. They are not to resist evil.... If they do not want to be judged, they are not to judge.... They are to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors.... [Indeed, they are to join Jesus in the prayer of his most abject and yet freest act of submission:] "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." (pp. 178-79)
That is Barth's royal and anarchical commentary on "The Royal (and Anarchical) Man." There is one conclusion Barth does not draw but which I (if I may) will: There is no point in our haranguing arkys about their illegitimacy. They can't comprehend what we saying, and no positive results are to be expected on that front in any case. However, it is important that Christians remind one other about the illegitimacy of the arkys (the illegitimacy of all arkys, both good and bad)--yet there is no reason to raise our voices (or our gorges) in doing that.
From here, we follow Barth through his retirement and on to his death.
Of course, the Soviet viciousness in suppressing the Hungarian revolt put Barth under great pressure to desert his anarchical nonpartisanship and join the anticommunists. But he held his ground: "Barth's view was that communism had 'pronounced its own verdict on itself' in Hungary and that 'it did not need ours.' Furthermore, before being interested in the splinters in other people's eyes, people should take the beams out of their own" ( Busch, p. 427).
In this situation, it was none other than Reinhold Niebuhr who was sent by some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians to entrap Barth in his thought.... But knowing their hypocrisy he said, as per Mark 12:
The question "Why is Karl Barth silent about Hungary?" has been raised against me even from America. But Karl Barth has remained silent and knows why. It was obvious that this was not a genuine question. It did not arise from the practical problems of a Christian who seeks an exchange of views and fellowship with another, but from the safe stronghold of a hard-boiled Western politician who wanted to lead his opponent onto thin ice, either to compel me to accept his primitive anti-communism or to unmask me as a crypto-communist--in either case to discredit me as a theologian. What could I have said in reply? ([1957-58] Busch, p. 427)
Well, he might have said, "Give God what belongs to God"; he would have had good precedent.
In a postscript to a work by his Czech friend Josef Hromádka, Barth wrote: "The church on both sides should not let itself be bound by anything--even by tradition, ideology, or the interpretation of history--other than the task to preach the gospel. This task was to be undertaken in an utter openness of faith in which men could start from the view that 'Jesus Christ also died for "Marxists," and he even died for "capitalists," "imperialists," and "Fascists"'" ( Busch, p. 433). Yet, because he still sensed in Hromádka an ideological bent, Barth had to say, "I could not really feel at home in the air of the (Prague) All Christian Peace Movement, although I was very sympathetic towards it." ( Busch, p. 433).
In trying to get across to other Czech friends, he came up with what might be his most trenchant epitome of Christian Anarchy: "The gospel puts us in a place 'above the clouds of the conflicting and feuding ideologies, interests, and powers in the present Cold War.' [Barth] was therefore 'most allergic to any identification of theology with social and political thought, and also to any drawing of parallels or analogies between them--in which the superiority of the analogans (the gospel) to the analogatum (the political insights and views of the theologian concerned) did not remain clear, uninterchangeable, and visible.' However, Barth did not see a standpoint above the conflict as an excuse for social and political indifference. Rather, it was the stimulus to a 'resolute attitude in which we can be of help with our Word, for the sake of God's will. We must show solidarity with the man by showing solidarity with men--of the left and the right, sufferers and fighters, the just and the unjust, Christians and atheists--while at the same time being sympathetically critical towards them'" ([1962-63] Busch, p. 433).
I Stand Alone On the Word of God--the B-I-B-L-E:
"It is not so much a matter of our encountering the witness of scripture as of our encountering the one to whom the testimony of scripture bears witness...." But in no circumstances may "the freedom of the Word of God ... be limited [by] a sovereignty which we already impose on its testimony: it must be allowed its own sovereignty." ( Busch, p. 466)
Scripture shall not be put under the constraints of any of our arky presuppositions--such as, "it must agree with our current political understanding of 'liberation'"; or "it must not express anything of what we have chosen to call 'sexism' or use language we have defined as 'sexist.'
The Church Dogmatics Winds Up, as it Began, with Christian Anarchy:In Busch's précis of that final volume he cites Barth thusly:
[He] went on to talk of the "struggle for human righteousness." This, in his view, is directed against the "uncontrolled powers." What he means are those powers which come into being when the possibilities of human life [break away] from man and rule him--just as man [broke away] from God. [Barth] cited political absolutism, money, ideology, and also fashion, sport, and trade! [He] stressed emphatically that the kingdom of God can be neither realized nor even prepared for by man. It is "a factor sui generis" not only over against the world, but even over against the Christian world. ( Busch, p. 444)
In another return to the beginning, within that last segment of the Dogmatics--in his exposition of the Lord's Prayer, under the phrase "Thy kingdom come"--"in a long consideration of the two Blumhardts he referred to the [mentors] through whom his understanding of the kingdom of God had begun to grow at the beginning of his long career" (Busch, p. 454). Barth concluded the passage with a hymn that, under inspiration, had come to the elder Blumhardt.
|Jesus is victorious Lord|
|Who conquers all his foes;|
|Jesus 'tis unto whose feet|
|The whole wide world soon goes;|
|Jesus 'tis who comes in might,|
|To lead from darkness into light.|
Karl Barth died in his sleep during the night of December 9, 1968. He had spent the day working on a lecture.
He was still at work in the evening when he was interrupted by two telephone calls, about nine o'clock. One was from his godson Ulrich Barth, to whom he quoted a verse from a hymn which spoke comfortingly about the Christian hope. The other person who wanted to speak to him so late at night was his friend Eduard Thurneysen, who had remained faithful to him over sixty years. They talked about the gloomy world situation. Then Barth said, "But keep your chin up! Never mind!"--[signing off with the old Blurnhardt motto:] "He will reign!" (Busch, p. 498)
And so to bed and to sleep--from which, on "that day," he (along with Thurneysen, the Blumhardts, and all the rest of us) shall awake to proclaim: "He reigns, indeed!"