Karl Barth's Emergency Homiletic, 1932-1933: A Summons to Prophetic Witness at the Dawn of the Third Reich

Karl Barth's Emergency Homiletic, 1932-1933: A Summons to Prophetic Witness at the Dawn of the Third Reich

Karl Barth's Emergency Homiletic, 1932-1933: A Summons to Prophetic Witness at the Dawn of the Third Reich

Karl Barth's Emergency Homiletic, 1932-1933: A Summons to Prophetic Witness at the Dawn of the Third Reich

Synopsis

What does a theologian say to young preachers in the early 1930s, at the dawn of the Third Reich?

What Karl Barth did say, how he said it, and why he said it at that time and place are the subject of Angela Dienhart Hancock's book. This is the story of how a preaching classroom became a place of resistance in Germany in 1932-33 -- a story that has not been told in its fullness. In that emergency situation, Barth took his students back to the fundamental questions about what preaching is and what it is for, returning again and again to the affirmation of the Godness of God, the only ground of resistance to ideological captivity.

No other text has so interpreted Barth's "Exercises in Sermon Preparation" in relation to their theological, political, ecclesiastical, academic, and rhetorical context.

Excerpt

Nico Smith, the late South African Afrikaner minister and professor of theology at Stellenbosch University, frequently told the story of his “conversion” with regard to the issue of apartheid. the decisive factor in his change of heart, Smith said, was a conversation he had with Karl Barth in the early 1960s. Smith was a staunch supporter of apartheid at the time.

He describes the key moment of the exchange as follows:

Barth then looked at me and said: “May I ask you a personal question
before you leave? Are you free to preach the gospel in South Africa?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’m completely free as we have freedom of re
ligion in our country.”

Barth immediately responded by saying that that was not the type
of freedom he had in mind. He wanted to know whether I, if I came
across things in the Bible that were not in accordance with what my
friends and family believed, would be free to preach about such things?

I was once again embarrassed and said I really did not know as I
had never yet had such an experience.

Barth then leant a little forward in his chair, and said, “But you
know, it may become even more difficult. You may discover things in
the Bible that are contrary to what your government is doing. Will you
be free to preach about such issues?”

Once again I had to say I really did not know.

Barth then just said: “It’s ok. You may go.”
In the tram back to the city center, I thought about Barth’s ques
tion: “Are you free?” I said to myself, “I’m sure Barth thinks we in

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