Presenting a paper in Tübingen
This Monday evening I’ll be presenting a paper in Tübingen on ‘Christology and 1 Cor 16:22’, at the ‘English-German Colloquium in New Testament’ (the forum formerly known as Das Kolloquium für Graduierte). Among others, the author of one of my favourite NT introductions is in Tübingen at the moment and has taken part in the Colloquium thus far, so I look forward to hearing his feedback.
However, I realised that may paper just wasn’t long enough for a good 45 minute presentation followed by a 30-40 minute discussion. I originally thought that I could perhaps simply waffle a bit about my thoughts on 2 Cor 5:21 if we ran out of things to talk about, but that just didn’t seem appropriate. So instead, tonight, I had fun writing, among other things, the following extended and self-indulgent ‘introduction’ which echoes deliberately with vocabulary I use in the conclusion.
“At the beginning of the last century the great theologian Herrmann Lüdemann dictated in one of his lectures, to Barth and the rest of his young colleges, the following thesis: ‘Kraft seines religiösen Bewusstseins weiß der Christ…! Das religiöse Bewusstsein, also ein empirisches Faktum, sei... das Löchlein, durch das wir hineinblicken ins Transzendente’.[fn1] However, after his studies when Barth started to preach in the church of Safenwiler in Switzerland, it soon became clear that das Löchlein was not wide enough. One day as he observed through his church window the happy residents of Safenwiler walking arm in arm in the sunshine, those without a single urge to enter his Church, a dark thought entered his mind and he decided the people walking happily outside were better off where they were![fn2]The text continues, but you get the idea! Not your normal NT paper intro! It was fun to write, and even more enjoyable to echo in the conclusion. Though I’ve now run out of time to respond to your comments to previous posts tonight.
His liberal theological heritage was evidently not helping this young preacher, and Barth was confronted with a serious predicament. Nevertheless, this struggle was to be one of the main forces that lead to the production of one of the most significant works of theological literature of the 20th century, Barth’s commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans. To oversimplify, he argued that instead of squeezing Christianity through ‘das Löchlein religiösen Bewusstseins’, things needed to be done rather differently. Instead of a squinted ‘hineinblicken ins Transzendente’, the proper starting point should be none other than Dominus dixit, the Lord has spoken! As summarised later by Zahrnt, Barth discovered: ‘Der Theologe kann die Wahrheit Gottes ... nicht psychologisch aus dem frommen Bewusstsein des Menschen ableiten ... sondern er kann nur eines tun: auf das Wort Gottes hören und es auslegen’.[fn3] For Barth, all of a sudden the window to the panorama of God’s strange new world was flung open. ‘Within the Bible’, he preached in a sermon in the church of his friend Thurneysen, ‘there is a strange new world, the world of God’.”
You may be wondering what this escapade into the realms of theological history has to do with Christology and 1 Cor 16:22! Well, to continue in the spirit of the Barthian dialectic: everything, and yet nothing! ...”
Fn 1. Cf. Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth: His Life from Letter and Autobiographical Texts, trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 46.
Fn 2. Cf. the summary of the episode in Heinz Zahrnt, Die Sache mit Gott: die protestantische Theologie im 20. Jahrhundert (München: Piper, 1966), 16.
Fn 3. Zahrnt, Sache, 18.