Academic journal article
By Gautier, Mary L.
Journal of Church and State , Vol. 40, No. 3
The Church for Others: Protestant Theology in Communist East Germany.
By Gregory Baum. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996. xviii+156 pp. $15.00.
At the Synod held at Eisenach in 1971, the newly formed federation of East German Protestant churches proclaimed that the church was "nicht neben, nicht gegen, sondern im Sozialismus"-"not beside, not against, but in socialism." An explanation of why this organization came into existence, as well as an analysis of the theological grounding for this unique federation, is the task undertaken by Gregory Baum in this book.
Professor Baum is a Roman Catholic theologian and professor emeritus in the faculty of religious studies at McGill University in Montreal. He originally set out to compare the theology of the Protestant church in communist East Germany to Latin American liberation theology, a Catholic theology that also presents itself as socialist. When he found that the two are actually strikingly different, he wrote this book to introduce the unique theology of the church in socialism to the English-speaking audience. His background and objective distance are definite assets in this case, as the book provides a clear and concise explanation of the theology of the church in socialism.
This explanation was, for me, the strongest feature of this book. Other books have done a better job of explaining how the unique situation of the church in East Germany came to be. Baum devotes the first chapter to a very brief history of the relationship of the East German churches to the state during the years of communism, but even he admits that Goeckel's book does a better job with this. What Baum's book does superbly is provide a coherent explanation of why the unique situation of the church in socialism came to be.
As Professor Baum extracts the different threads of the theology behind the church in socialism policy, he does a very nice job of describing how the church as a social actor (mostly through the actions of its elites) sought to create a social space in which to act from within a rather hostile social environment. …