Archives For Political Theology

Details about Simone Weil’s life and thought are enigmatic. Other than what’s included in the general encyclopedic biographies circling the internet, I know very little about her. Unlike someone such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there is no long, authorised biography written by her friends. What knowledge I have been about to find out about her, is padded by what I’ve learnt from conversations with internet friends, whose admiration for her work has increased over the years.

Simone was a French intellectual. Like Jacques Ellul, Weil worked in the French resistance, was an admirer of Karl Marx, and a contemporary of Albert Camus.

Weil moved back towards Roman Catholic Christianity and took an interest in Catholic mysticism. This detached her from the French intellectual trends of her day. Weil also made a break with Marxism. Whilst Weil remained a fan of Karl Marx, alongside her criticism of [crony] capitalism, she also wielded a heated criticism of Marxism.

Some of these criticisms are set out in Oppression & Liberty, 1955. Weil’s major criticisms begin with the monopoly of centralisation. This is what Weil says fuels forms of ‘bureaucratic oppression’ from a ‘bureaucratic caste’[i]:

‘All exclusive, uncontrolled power becomes oppressive in the hands of those who have the monopoly of it… instead of a clash of contrary opinions, we end up with an “official opinion” from which no one would be able to deviate.’ (pp.15 & 16)

Three bureaucracies exist: these are ‘state, capital industries and worker’s organisations (trade-unions)’ (p.17). Given the right environment (such as Germany in the 1930s) all three can merge into one. The state takes control of the market and runs it from a centralised politick, with a salaried and bureaucratic hierarchy. Weil calls this ‘state capitalism[ii]’. This means that the economy is managed by the government and government approved capital industries. In 1930’s Germany, this manifested as a dictatorship resting on the twin supports of trade unions and the national-socialist movement[iii]’ (p.25).

The zenith of all of Weil’s criticisms is when she calls Marxism ‘a fully-fledged religion in the impurest sense of the word’ (p.165). Two other earlier statements back this up: ‘‘Marxism is the highest spiritual expression of bourgeois society’ (p.124); ‘Marxism is a badly constructed religion; it has always possessed a religious character’ (p.154).

In a similar way to Jacques Ellul, Weil advocates the truth in Marx’s critique, but is not a believer in Marxism.  For her, the social, economic and political mechanisms of bureaucracy and industry, turn men and women (the working class), into machines. The working class becomes a means to an end.

Weil’s praise for Marx doesn’t go any further than this:

the truth in Marx’s critique is found in how he ‘defined with admirable precision the relationships of force in society […] Two things in Marx are solid and indestructible. First: method; study of and defining the relationships of force. Second is the analysis of Capitalist society as it existed in the 19th Century – where it was believed that in industrial production lay the key to human progress ’ (p.152).

Weil’s short lived praise for Marx ends here: ‘Marx was an idolater; he idolised the Proletariat and considered himself to be their natural leader’ (p.151); Marx made oppression the central notion of his writings, but never attempted to analyse it. He never asked himself what oppression is’ (p.154)

Oppression & Liberty concludes with Weil’s summary of Marx’s failings. This includes his obsession[iv] with production, class war and moralism.

‘The only form of war Marx takes into consideration is social war – (open or underground) – under the name of class struggle.  Class struggle or social war is the sole principle for explaining history. Marx was incapable of any real effort of scientific thought, because that did not matter to him. All this materialist was interested in was justice. He took refuge in a dream and called it dialectical materialism.’ (pp.178 & 180)

As Weil explains,

‘Marx fell back into the ‘group morality which revolted him to the point of hating society. Like the feudal magnates of old,  like the business men  of his own day, he had built for himself a morality which placed above good and evil the activity of professional revolutionaries; the mechanism for producing paradise’ (p.182). Marx’s ‘moral failing was that he do not seek the source of the good in the place where it dwells.’ (p.183).

When I was given a copy of Oppression and Liberty, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I hadn’t planned on reading the book, but I’m thankful to have had the chance to make a careful study of it.

The subject matter is dense. This is made more complex by Weil’s writing style. However, this complexity doesn’t make Oppression & Liberty unbearable to read. Weil takes aim at a lot of relevant themes which pose serious questions for our contemporary setting. These themes include unintended consequences, ‘bureaucratic oppression’[v], monopolies, power, materialism, group-think morality, sociopolitical force, the mechanisms of power, and subjectivism.

The latter coming out through her discussion and warning about seeking morality in places other than where genuine goodness and authentic morality dwells. This can be interpreted to mean that God is the only means by which humanity has a moral anchor. Weil’s example of this is Karl Marx and his obsession with justice, production and power. These led to contradictions in his theory and its application. His subsequent moral failing was that his quest for morality searched everywhere, but where the source of goodness and authentic morality is, can, and therefore, ought to be found.

Oppression & Liberty is a book that teaches something new each time it’s opened. Weil’s book is a gold mine, with a complex nature and a variety of themes which require careful navigation. Because of this it’s difficult to take ownership of Weil’s main points with just one reading.

Oppression & Liberty’s main theme pivots on an analysis of Karl Marx. Within this analysis, Weil yields a critique of Marxism. This criticism is balanced by her agreement and disagreement with Marx. For Weil, any centralised control of an economy (monopoly), leads to the oppression and tyrannical rule over those who work under it, or are made to serve it. In sum, this criticism states that despite appearances, Marxists, plutocrats and bureaucrats alike, all pose a threat to equity and morality.

The warning from Simone Weil in Oppression & Liberty is loud and clear: those who chose to entertain Marxism, big bureaucracy or crony capitalism, ride the backs of monsters.


References:

[i] Weil, S. 1955, Oppression & Liberty, 2001. Routledge Classics, ‘the dictatorship of the bureaucratic caste’ (p.14)

[ii] Weil credits Ferdinand Fried with the term and its definition.

[iii] An interesting add-on to this is Weil’s statement: ‘The communists accuse the social-democrats of being the “quartermaster-sergeants of fascism”, and they are absolutely right.’ (p.27)

[iv] Ibid, (p.178)

[v] ‘the bureaucratic oppression; the bureaucratic machine’, (p.13)

Todd Friel, from Wretched Radio, argues a solid case for the importance of maintaining the distinctions between hurt feelings and physical violence; as well as maintaining the distinction between ‘believing all women’ and taking all women seriously.

I don’t want to draw the Ford-Kavanaugh debate out on this blog, but I stumbled onto this video. Friel’s presentation has to be one of the sanest things I’ve heard said in relation to the subject, the rhetoric and the raw emotion associated with the debate.

 


 

Some time ago I took up a detailed exchange on twitter with a lady who had proudly stated that she was cutting out “hate the sin” from the phrase, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’.  She was happily proclaiming her decision to stick with ‘’love the sinner’’ because this was apparently more biblical.

Her post won her a few retweets and likes, but I disagreed and gave good reasons for doing so. The biblical imperatives such as: “Let love be genuine, abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9) mean that there is a distinction between love for the sinner and sin. To remove the “hate the sin” clause is to leave too much room for  “love the sinner” to easily become “ignore the sin” or worse “love the sin as much as the sinner”.

The distinction between loving the sinner and hating the sin, is at the very core of Jesus Christ’s reconciliation of humanity with God. Without a separation  between sin and sinner grounded in God’s act in Jesus Christ, there can only be a further separation of the sinner from God. For sin separates the sinner from the Sinless. Only in Jesus Christ can the sinner be freed from sin and reconciled to God.

In a rebuttal to my response, an academic (I presume a theologian) proudly stepped in. He then decided to lecture me on the error of my ways.

In response, I brought up Bonhoeffer:

‘Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners! But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, as sacrifice, a work; he wants you alone.  You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him […] He wants to be gracious to you. You can dare to be a sinner [dare to be who you really are before God; a sinner]. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but Hates the sin.’ (Confession & Communion, Life Together, 1954)

My interlocutor huffed with pride. He said that he’d read everything of Bonhoeffer’s work and was sure that Bonhoeffer had never used the phrase. So I provided page, date, book title, chapter and verse. Then pointed out, “loving the sinner, hating the sin” isn’t something Bonhoeffer spoke as a one off. Bonhoeffer had also included it in The Cost of Discipleship,

‘May we be enabled to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to the sinner. May we withstand our foes, and yet hold out to them the Word of the gospel which woos and wins the souls of men.’ (p.xxxiv)

After I provided the reference which proved him wrong, he dismissed my thoughts and ended his correspondence. The lady maintained her position. Then had to have the last word by tweeting at me her reasons for doing so.

It will not make me popular, (because it didn’t) but standing by the exegetical accuracy of Bonhoeffer’s statements on the issue, is far safer ground than building an unbiblical ethic around subjective human ideas of God. Standing on what, where and in whom God reveals himself, is far safer ground than making deceptive theological statements which repaints Christianity as solely being about an ethic of “niceness”.

I’ll end this with Reinhold Niebuhr, who very aptly hinted at the same thing when he wrote:

‘A position of detachment destroys our responsibilities in life’s controversies for the sake of avoiding sinful corruptions of those responsibilities. We ought to be angry when wrong is done; but we must learn the difficult art of being angry without sinning.’
(R.Niebuhr, Discerning The Signs of the Times.)

References:

[i] Bonhoeffer, D. 1954. Life Together, HarperCollins Publishers

[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. 1934. Cost of Discipleship, SCM Press

[iii] Niebuhr, R. 1946. Discerning the Signs of the Times 

Artwork: John Martin, 1840 ‘Calvary’ 

From the start of his candidacy, I’ve considered Donald Trump a diamond in the rough. It’s a working hypothesis that I’ve held onto in the face of an onslaught of fear and dire predictions about his alleged “reign of terror”, a lot of which came from almost everyone I know (theologians and pastors included). Joining the bandwagon condemnation of Trump, in order to spread fear, was always a darkened side-road best left in the rear-view mirror. Minus a few friends and two years on, this hypothesis still stands strong.

While I believe that God can transform, and still is in the business of transforming people’s hearts, I’m also cautious of Donald Trump and the euphoric support which surrounds him.  For instance, I’m no fan of the ‘’god emperor’’ memes or any view of Trump that implores manifest destiny or deus ex machina.

I’m as fervent in my caution about this as I am in my opposition to people who deify victimisation, and use reckless narratives in order to irrationally “Hitlerise” personalities, because they see potential political gain in doing so. (No one should seek to make a profit from suffering, unless those who have suffered are the primary beneficiaries.)

My caution of Trump is the same as my caution of ‘the bureaucratic caste’[1]. The highlight of reports today was Trump being laughed at during his speech at the U.N. This myopic reporting gives justification for such caution. The Washington Post was drooling with satisfaction at what they said, was a fair response from the German delegation. Trump “made claims” about German dependency on Russian energy. According to the W.P., Trump, ‘as usual, got his facts wrong’. However, one look at the transcript of his speech shows that Trump was issuing a warning about the trajectory of German dependency on Russian energy. He wasn’t claiming that Germany is completely dependent on Russia, as was implied by the W.P.

Even BBC World News was quick to misquote the Trump:

 

 

Despite the red herring headlines, there are a lot of positive things which can be said about Trump’s speech to the U.N. He rejected the ‘ideology of globalism’, called for diplomacy and a better deal. He didn’t just speak about American sovereignty. He spoke about the uniqueness of every non-belligerent nation, and their valuable contribution to the peace and prosperity of their neighbours.

In addition to this, Trump discussed the dangers of allowing globalists (and I would add in with them: those who operate from within the Leftist cult of modern liberalism[2]) to set the national and state, right down to regional, and local, agendas of nations; nations that allow an un-elected bureaucratic caste to rule over them, such as exists within the current structure of the European Union. This is the very definition of imperialism and Donald Trump is right to oppose it.

Globalism is imperialism. Ultimately globalism undermines the usefulness of the United Nations. Through a uniformity of identity, diversity is diminished. Behind the veil of words about diversity, equality and tolerance, there is no unity in diversity because the telos of globalism is a quagmire of sameness.

Compliance is monetarily rewarded. Dissent punished. There is no real check or balance allowed under this kind of absolute power. The global demonization of Donald Trump, and Trump administration supporters, provides a taste of life under global imperialism and how its newspeak is used to sure up its centralised control of the masses[3].

Globalism is a surrender of sovereignty, rights, citizenship and cultural identity. It is the stuff of a monolithic alliance. Poised to strike at all who oppose the faceless, would-be lordless powers who control it. Higher institutions of learning are weaponized. The education industrial complex jackboot marches side by side with the entertainment and military industrial complexes. They all fall into line and are employed to indoctrinate, shame, negate history and healthy culture via manipulation, appeasement and revisionism. Thus globalism promotes the use of shaming techniques and manipulative propaganda. It provokes national genocide and advocates perpetual war behind a veil of humanitarian benevolence.

It would appear that most news outlets have chosen to report only on the areas which can be utilized to further demonize and mock Donald Trump. What’s ironic about this is that there’s a bunch of do-very-little bureaucratic elites and spectators sitting in chairs, laughing at a leader, who may have the flaw of speaking too much about his own success, and not staying on script, but is leading a team, which is, according to balanced reporting, achieving a great deal of success[4]; and they’re achieving this despite unprecedented attempts by a bitter and resentful group of political opponents, to manipulatively interfere in undermining that success.

For the rest of us watching it’s a bizarre era, not because of Donald Trump and his idiosyncrasies or flaws, but because of the bizarre behaviour of many who cry wolf, simply because he was elected President of the United States.

Perhaps Trump and his critics could take a step back and consider what Theodore Roosevelt said in 1910:

‘’The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt…
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (‘Man in the Arena’)

While I still see Trump as a diamond in the rough, I remain cautious. He isn’t God. He is human and therefore prone to the same temptations and failings as the rest of us. This same caution needs to also be applied to those who would seek to be our self-appointed lords, such as an un-elected bureaucratic caste; those who would gain and then maintain power via newspeak, agitprop and by profiting off of the subjugation of others.

Donald Trump is right to oppose globalism because it is another form of imperialism.  The conclusion of globalism is injustice; a quagmire of sameness enforced by foreign rulers over nations not their own. A monolithic alliance filled with paralysed citizens, who are burdened by a meta-state with division, mistrust, fear and suspicion.

Criticism of Trump and those in his administration should be heard, but every thinking person should apply the necessary filters to sift the wheat from the chaff. For the words of America’s 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, still ring true: ‘the poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt…’[5]

Britannica defines Imperialism as ‘state policy, practice, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas.’

In the light of this, Donald Trump’s “no” to globalism, is a no to imperialism and a “yes” to freedom.


Notes & References:

[1] Simone Weil, Oppression and Liberty.

[2] Faceless (largely Leftist) powers who operate as though they were god; in other words masters of humanity; lordless.

[3] Watch any news conference between Donald Trump and the reporters. It’s easy enough to hear the prejudice and hostility. The product of lament and bitterness because their team lost the 2016 election.

[4] E.g.: Trump’s work on the Korean Peninsula, continued to commitment to NATO, pulling an aggressively expansionist Communist China into line, and practising diplomacy with Russia and Syria, instead of triggering a total, or maintaining a covert war against both.

[5] Roosevelt, ibid.

Roosevelt, T. 1910. The Man In The Arena (sourced 26th September 2018, from http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com)

‘Trump‘ photo by Kayle Kaupanger on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Karl Barth is viewed by many as being one of the 20th Century’s most important theologians.The chief reason for this is the renewed focus on Jesus Christ that he brought back into all aspects of theology. Barth’s approach to Jesus Christ and the Bible, involved letting Jesus Christ and the Bible approach him. He “let the Bible speak for itself.”

I see a great deal of humility and joy in that approach. Not only do I aim to savour every bit of time I set aside to read Barth, I aim to let Barth’s approach to theology be an example, which I can borrow from in my own journey towards an ever maturing theological education.

So it’s with some reluctance that I outline and seek to explain my three core criticisms of Karl Barth. From the outset it’s important to point out that these criticisms are not in regards to persevered contradictions in his theological conclusions. The goal here is to work from the ground up, covering aspects of his work which provide certain difficulties for his students today.

My first criticism of Karl Barth is his extramarital affair with his secretary and primary researcher, Charlotte Von Kirschbaum.  Second is his reluctance to criticise the brutal nature of Communism and third is the question about whether Barth did enough to avoid his work descending into a closed community; a kind of pious and esoteric, Barthian social club.

My first criticism is straight forward. Barth found himself between two loving women, but he crossed lines. This was something his family was silent about, until recently, when they opened up access to correspondence between Karl, Nelly (Karl Barth’s wife and mother to his five children) and Charlotte (his secretary/fellow researcher and theologian in her own right). Up until this time, Barth’s extramarital affair had been quietly mentioned by biographers, but was always footnoted as conjecture.

The positive take away from their letters is that they show Nelly Barth, hurt, but still shining the light of Christ through her reactions and responses. Nelly presents an example of resilience, determination and faith in difficult and trying circumstances.

In addition, Karl Barth wrestled with his situation and choices. He never publicly boasted about his relationship with Charlotte. The extramarital relationship reminds us that Karl Barth was just a man. He was susceptible to the same issues as every other man, no matter how great they are. As others have pointed out, his own theology speaks it’s own criticism of his decisions. He wrestled within himself and with his own theology. Any accusation Barth used his theology to justify his spousal abuse is inconsistent with what is encountered in Barth’s words and work. What we encounter is a man who was constantly confronted by the contradiction between his own theology and the consequences that stemmed from the decisions he made. None of this, however, removes Karl Barth from being accountable for engaging in a relationship that he would have known was a betrayal of his wife, Nelly.

My second criticism is not so straight forward. Barth was an outspoken anti-Nazi theologian. So much so that he was deported from Germany for refusing to take the Hitler oath, unless changes were made, whereby the ideology and its leader were not deified. Unfortunately, when it came to Communism, Barth refused to show the same fierce consistency. He is silent about Marxist killing fields in Asia, and about its oppressive totalitarian rule in Eastern Europe.

Two possible reasons exist for this. Reason number one was Barth’s age and circumstances. He wasn’t in the position he was in when living in Nazi Germany; being a lot older he probably considered the fight against Communist terror to be well covered and didn’t want to lend support to an ever-increasing hysteria or phobia of the Russian people. If that protest is well established and achieving its goals, why add your voice to the “howling of wolves”? To do so would have been more about self-promotion, than promoting awareness about the suffering of others.

Reason number two is the possibility that Barth figured his theological statements and work, would stand for itself as a restrained critique of Marxism. In view of Church Dogmatics 3:2, it’s probable that Barth saw his theology, particularly his “Nein” to natural theology, as being also an inherent nein to Marxism. Barth’s anthropological theology in 3:2 contains a subtle rejection of Marxism’s deification of class war, social division, the state, subjugation of theology (into the service of an ideology), the reign of terror and potential global reign of terror attached to it.

One example of many is this statement which is contra to Marxist historical materialism/determinism:

‘Man & woman’s historical determination is that God wills to be with them and they with God.’
(Karl Barth, CD. 3:2:427)

It’s naïve to suggest that Barth was simply ignorant of the oppression and violence faced by those living under Marxist rule. Just as naïve would be the assumption that Barth did know, but simply brushed it off as a “capitalist conspiracy.” While it’s possible that Barth took the same approach as the French Communists in their denial of Gulags, purges and the fear of the Cheka, it’s unlikely that Barth was so deliberately dismissive.

Equally unlikely is the implication which stems from this, that suggests Barth was dedicated to protecting a political party and its toxic ideological platform. Although Barth refusing to ”howl with the wolves”, was him simply refusing to add to the hysteria of the mob, his absence from genuine criticisms of the crimes of communism is inconsistent with his stand against Nazism.

My third criticism is split between Barth and his students. On Barth’s side, there’s an effort to detach himself from becoming an idol, but did he do enough to avoid people reading his work before the Bible? On the student’s side there’s a tendency to idolise Barth and turn his theology into a rigid systematic method; or support a rigid oppressive system[1], rather than view Barth’s theology as a helpful travelling companion[2].

Trying to grasp Barth’s theology is like to trying to hold water in cupped hands. The water can’t be easily grasped, and is even harder to hold. This lends itself to explain the problem when people try to build their own systems around Barth’s theology. The biggest example of this is found in what I would call a pompous, Barthian Gnosticism.

Whilst this definition is not definitive, it’s the best description I can find for the closed community, which has built up a dam like castle from which ordinary people are prevented access. Barth is only reachable for an elect few. Everyone else is doomed to hearing Barth through their lens, or the lens of their choosing. Consequently, we hear more from theological journalists, than we hear from Barth.

Whether intended or not, there are ‘towers of Babel’ built up around Barth[3]. Like the not so easy to grasp Church Dogmatics, it’s difficult to contribute or participate in a Barthian realm. The tower is defended by those who often proudly identify ideologically as “Leftists or progressives”.Some of whom are are “privileged”, Ivy League scholars, who tend to blurr the line between Karl Barth and Karl Marx; as they take to the perch of Marxism to preach a kind of Barthian social gospel[4]. Anyone with a different view is viewed as a threat, and the offender is subsequently dealt with.

Hence the pompous Gnostic nature of the closed community, they only let in those who choose to conform to the agreed upon special knowledge they might claim to have found in Barthian theology, or become subservient to the prevailing ideology that is built up around it. For this elect few, knowledge of Karl Barth is special, and only available to those deemed worthy of being able to hold it. Therefore it’s perceived to be a given that a conservative cannot be a Barthian, but a Barthian must be a progressive or a socialist[5].

The Socialist hold on Karl Barth comes from the fact that he was a member of the Social Democrats. Another part of this socialist hold on Karl Barth is that he was called the “Red Pastor” during his ten-year tenure as Pastor in Safenwil. However, he wasn’t a sold out fan. He distanced himself from the rhetoric and movement[6]; and “Red Pastor” was fed partly by suspicion, partly by frustration, but is mostly sarcasm. This is to be taken more cum grano salis, than as a literal description of Karl Barth’s political and ideological allegiances. The title “Red Pastor”, to my knowledge, was a title that Barth never wore with pride, let alone promoted or wanted promoted.

Herein rests the crux of my criticism. If this socialist cementing of Karl Barth as a Marxist hero goes unanswered, he will become more unreachable for the average lay person. The closed community that surrounds Barth is under lock and key. Like the hysterical hounding[7] which surrounded Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, access to Barth would be denied to the “working class”.  Metaxas, a conservative, entered a modern liberal world, and invited the masses to hear about an important historical figure. It was more Metaxas’ conservatism than the content of his book, which led largely left leaning academics to reject it. It seems that only those with permission from Leftist academics, and who can prove that they have the “correct” political leanings, can comment on or write about subjects that Leftist academics think they own, or have been granted a kind of divine special knowledge about.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, but this similar lens is applied to Barth. His works and words are encapsulated in a kind of sacred Leftist packaging. Everything which differs from the political narrative built up and forced onto Barth is downplayed, mocked or rejected.The perpetual Marxist war between an “us & them” ejects conciliation, as it propels the elect few into rejecting-without-just-cause all opposing viewpoints from anyone outside the socialist paradigm. Without examination, opposing viewpoints are met with suspicion written off as tainted, ignorant or worse. The exceptions to this include some more of balanced aspects of Princeton’s Centre for Barth Studies, authors such as John Webster, Daniel Migliore, Ebherhard Busch, Frank Jehle, and the Social Media site Karl Barth for Dummies.

The impression I received when trying to engage in the Barth community is that the elect few read Barth, and cheer others on, as long as the material justifies their own ideological positions. They take ownership of Barth and become guardians of a mythos[8] that the closed community has built around him and his theology. This is something Barth refused to cede to the conservative evangelicals of his day. I believe he would be of the same mind, with regards to socialists and progressives today.

In conclusion, it was with some reluctance that I set out to explain three core criticisms of Karl Barth. These criticisms are core concerns that function as a guide post on how to navigate a community closed to foreigners[9] and theological orphans. These three criticisms include the disconnection between parts of Barth’s theology and his life choices. The sole example of this was Barth’s extramarital relationship with Charlotte Von Kirschbaum. Secondly, I made a point of criticism about his silence when it came to the crimes of communism and the suffering of those who live under its regimes. The third criticism is that Barth didn’t intend to create a Barthian school, and discouraged others from creating one, but unfortunately, his silence about communism seems to have worked against this goal. He might have refused to be owned by any faction[10], but a faction has risen in his name all the same. This shows that Barth was either too trusting or didn’t adequately anticipate the cult like movement that would use him, and his theology, to promote a utopian ideology responsible for the oppression, death and suffering of millions.


Notes & References:

[1] Examples include: moralism and Marxism (which is, in praxis, a form of moralism in and of itself)

[2] (Think of the jovial Friar Tuck, flawed Father Mulcahy and the gracious, but assertive paternal voice of Gandalf.)

[3] This is a tiresome subject and is wrought with holes. Nothing is clear cut, because there are overlaps. This said, for anyone looking to engage in the community of theologians who read Barth, they will come up against a closed community; one that resembles a pious and esoteric social club.

[4] I will agree that Barth uses a lot of the similar language of Marx. I would not agree that a person needs to be an expert on Marx, to properly understand Barth. Barth was a product of his age. This doesn’t mean his theology itself is written through the lens of Marxism – “us & them” – there is a clear difference. For Barth it’s “God & us” and the unbridgeable divide between proletariat and bourgeoisie in Marx, is for Barth the qualitative distinction “God is God and we are not”. Although other examples exist, the distinction made here between Marx and Barth could not be any clearer.

[5] I consider myself neither a conservative nor a progressive. I would only own the statement that I currently share in the concerns that conservatives have about the direction of Western society and everything in between.

[6] As in Barth refused to be a poster boy, much to the dismay and frustration of many who were Social Democrats.

[7] It’s interesting to note that this was before Trump was elected, but has the same ungracious “resistance” and hate attached to it.

[8] A set of assumptions and beliefs.

[9] Those who hold an opposing view or are seen as different and unacceptable because of their ideological/political leanings.

[10] Placing his profile, as some have done, on a red background next to the Bolshevik leader Lenin, and the like, can be nothing other than a brutal betrayal of Barth.

* ‘Bureaucracy is the encounter of the blind with those whom they treat as blind…It is not the man who works in the bureau, for to some extent we all have to do this, but the bureaucrat who is always inhuman.’ (CD. 3:2:252)

** ‘Those who try to fight the Gospel always make caricatures, and they are often forced to fight these caricatures. Nietzsche’s own (and not all that original), was to equate Christianity with Socialist teaching.’ (CD 3:2:242)

*** ‘Marxism with its exclusively economic view of human affairs and all the theoretical and practical consequences, is a violation of history which in its way is no less bad than [the social Darwinism] which Haeckel and his associates imposed on human nature.’ (CD:3:2:386-389)

**** ‘The New Testament does not look for an amelioration of present conditions or for an ideal state, but for the coming of the Lord – Maranatha.’ (CD.3:2:486-487)

**** ‘Man can owe no creature what he owes to God – himself in his totality. Nothing [created] can claim from humanity, servitude. When a created thing imposes this demand on man, and when man recognises the demand, we have nothing but the invalid claim of false gods. No created thing can substantiate the Creator’s right over [what and who He created].’ (CD.3:2:414)

Header image credit: Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Guest post by Heather Mertens

Changing words and ways over to a “reinterpreted” view, especially when done to fit an agenda, has certainly made its mark in this world by this new generation of “thinkers”. But how did they become so emboldened to change words to mean what they decide they should mean? A silent generation, that’s how.

It’s been proven throughout history that mass amounts of people will believe something, even something untrue, if they are told it enough times with loud enough voices.

The 1980’s ushered in the “I’m okay, you’re okay” worldview in the western world, which was birthed out of that silent generation’s children. But nothing lasts long these days. About 15 years or so ago, that all turned into “I’m okay because I’m going to do what I want and believe what I want. What you believe is irrelevant and unconcerning”.

Worse yet is what that mentality has turned into this past 5 years or so… the generation of “If I am okay that’s all that matters, and you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Now, I never speak in gross generalizations, and I loathe labeling for the sake of lumping people groups together.  So, I know not every person in each of these generations fell into those agendas. However, a movement of sorts came out of each that has shaken the modern world’s particulars to the core. At least, to a great degree of certainty and observation, we can say this all to be true about the United States, which has led the world in freedoms… some run amok.

As far removed as this newest generation would love to believe that they’ve taken themselves from the few generations that paved a way many now regret, the truth is obvious and painful. They are in complete chaos. They took the adamant desire to “not be silent” and ran so far in the other direction that they feel a misguided obligation to essentially shove their very agendas down the throats of everyone else.

From a whole generation 75 years ago that cherished and expected silence came this generation of chaos to never be silent again.

And that silent generation has birthed this chaos.

To the world and in the world they were silent…

They were silent about sex.

They were silent about sexuality.

They were silent about identity.

They were silent about politics.

They were silent about God.

They were silent about giving a reason for their faith.

They were silent on so many things. And now there is chaos.

It might not have happened overnight in the last 75 years, but it happened rather quickly. And the masses have changed drastically in the last decade. Why? Because inside chaos people don’t know what they are hearing; they can’t tell which end is up. So they look around for clues.

You have the most signs? You talk the loudest and most often? People will listen. And people will believe what you say. Why? Because nearly an entire generation has lost its ability to think for itself. And why is that? Because the generation that came years before them was silent.

Silence got us to a point that we didn’t fight for what we knew was worth fighting for in life. Like life. 

Silence got us abortion on demand … because they demand it … “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Silence got us an identity crisis to exponential levels … because they demand it …  “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Silence got us redefined concepts of family … because they demand it…  “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

Silence got us politics just shy of lunatics … because they demand it …  “you HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

And they were silent about God and His Truth in public places. They were silent about most of these things in churches, too. In this regard, silence got us redefined churches by the whole denomination and “reinterpreted” Scripture to fit this chaotic culture.

Liberal theology, which was already far enough removed from actual Biblical Truth in many areas, became dominated by progressive politics.

And they’ve changed the language and meaning of words. Love is being redefined. Faith is being redefined. Life is being redefined. God. God is being redefined.

But only to a generation unwilling to think for themselves… or worse yet, to the extent they actually believe they are thinking things through for themselves while clouded by the chaos around them.

But…

Truth is immutable. 

God is immutable. 

His Word is immutable. 

A new generation of forceful agenda driven people can’t change the immutability of God’s Truth.

Silence can’t change it.

They can talk differently. Sing differently. Congregate differently. They can change to fit the new ways…  “You HAVE to believe what I believe for me to be ok”.

But they can’t change Truth.

Who is going to stand up for Truth? We must. But are we running out of time?


Heather Mertens has studied Scripture and Theology in various ways throughout the years, sharing much of what she has learned via her studies as well as her life experience. She has a Certificate in Apologetics-Core Module from Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Academy. She has also had the joy and blessing of learning Theology and Biblical Studies from her daughter, who is finishing up her 2nd Theology and Biblical Studies degree and has a Biblical Studies Certificate, all from Liberty University.

Heather shares her personal experience and writes in Apologetics-style at 40YearWanderer.wordpress.com as well as on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HeatherMertens) and on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/thelifeofwhy/) where she shares Scriptural Truth for Life’s Biggest Questions in hopes that people can come together to know what the Bible actually says.

Her pure joy is raising her daughter to adulthood and now enjoys her freelance web design and marketing career of helping people find their unique web presence… and the beach!


Photo credit: Echo Grid on Unsplash

Yesterday, reacting to the maiden speech by Katter’s Australia Party senator, Fraser Anning, who broadly (and in some areas of his speech, recklessly) called for a review of Australia’s immigration policies, Australian senator, Lucy Gichuhi, (who was born in Kenya) asked the question: “At what point do you become an Australian?”

Lucy’s answer was, “…when I get a citizenship paper! Full stop! Period! Finished!”

I follow Senator Gichuhi’s political posts. I supported Senator Bob Day, of the Family First party, passing his position over to her after his election win was declared invalid because of a candidacy conflict with the Constitution. I was encouraged when Senator Gichuhi was duly found by the High Court to have a legitimate election win. In addition to this I was thankful Senator Gichuhi had taken a  brave stand for healthy traditional family values in Australia, and I’m often interested in hearing her opinion on other subjects. However, the Senator’s answer to her own question yesterday was off the mark.

The answer to Senator Gichuhi’s question,  “At what point do you become an Australian?” isn’t as simple as obtaining a piece of paper that grants the right of citizenship. What comes with that right is also the responsibilities and commitments which are attached to citizenship. It’s discouraging to here a Senator in the Australian parliament claim that what makes a person an Australian is “…when they get a citizenship paper! Full stop! Period! Finished!”

Australian citizen doesn’t stop with a piece of paper. Citizenship papers signify not only the right to be recognised as a citizen, but also that the person who has chosen to become an Australian citizen, is willing to live out the responsibilities associated with the recognition of citizenship. For anyone not born in Australia, to both be and become an Australian goes hand in hand. The adoption has been made official, but it takes time to own membership in that family. Membership in that family is learned. Membership in that family cannot truly become membership if the adoption is rejected by the person being adopted.

Civics 101 talks about the reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationship between citizen, neighbour and state. Rights do not get to trump responsibility. Both collective and personal responsibility are vital elements of successful cohesion within a diverse society, and the oversight of small, good government.

The question “At what point do you become an Australian?” is easily answered as:

1.) A person who signs on to become a citizen or is born in Australia.

2.) A citizen who chooses to abide by English common law as set down in Australian law

3.) A citizen who has a respect for and knowledge of Australian history and civics – including a clear understanding of the importance of Judeo-Christian, and classical liberal values.

4.) Speaks English reasonably well, or is willing to learn it (for their own benefit as much as everyone else’s).

5.) Has a love, or at the very least a deep appreciation for all these things and what they’ve delivered.

6.) Is willing to defend (a) through (d) and respect our national holidays.

All these points line up with The Australian Citizenship Act of 2007:

‘The Parliament recognises that Australian citizenship represents full and formal membership of the community of the Commonwealth of Australia, and Australian citizenship is a common bond, involving reciprocal rights and obligations, uniting all Australians, while respecting their diversity.

                   The Parliament recognises that persons conferred Australian citizenship enjoy these rights and undertake to accept these obligations:

                     (a)  by pledging loyalty to Australia and its people; and

                     (b)  by sharing their democratic beliefs; and

                     (c)  by respecting their rights and liberties; and

                     (d)  by upholding and obeying the laws of Australia.’ (Source)

Citizenship is reciprocal and involves a daily commitment to the nation and its people as agreed to in the Pledge of Commitment:

“From this time forward, under God,
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect,
and whose laws I will uphold and obey.”  (Source)

The imperatives of citizenship are participation and contribution. These entail the right to be recognised and the responsibility to dignify that recognition, by honouring the agreed upon commitment made between both the nation and the individual.

Even though multi-ethnic communities form part of what it means to be Australian. Australian culture is not multiculturalism. Just as Australian citizenship is not defined by the colour of a person’s skin; Australian citizenship is not defined by a person’s ethnicity.

However, immigrants to Australia should be sensitive to what it means to be an Australian. This means knowing, adopting and respecting the fact that the mother tongue of Australian culture is English. That Australian culture, its civics, its theology and politics are built on a Judeo-Christian, classical liberal European and Indigenous Australian heritage.

As Senator Fraser Anning so clumsily tried to communicate, there are immigrants who have come to Australia, are granted citizenship, have accepted that citizenship, but have refused to become what it means to be Australian. Immigrants who do this, are not living up to their end of the citizenship agreement.

Unfortunately, if anyone raises concerns about this issue they’re immediately frowned upon with suspicion immediate accusations of racism or ethnocentricity. They’re branded as a white supremacist, or at the very least, a white nationalist sympathiser. In favour of logical fallacies,the argument, concerns and ideas put forward are pushed to the side, and the individual who sought to defend Australian culture, with the aim of preserving its diversity, and rich heritage, is demonised into silence.

Senator Fraser Anning wasn’t the only Australian senator to speak recklessly. Senator Gichuhi’s assertion was disappointing because it was too simple; suggesting either a lack of understanding about Australian civics and citizenship, or a deliberate denial of the obligations that are part of citizenship. Being an Australian citizen goes beyond just being given an official piece of paper and the rights that pertain to citizenship. It also means responsibility.

Rights and responsibilities are not separate from one another. Citizenship does not have a full stop after “…when I get a citizenship paper!” Citizenship is lived out. It grabs freedom, warms to adoption (through sensitivity to the culture) and responds with gratitude to those who make, and have made, that citizenship possible.


References are hyperlinked.

Photo credit: Joey Csunyo on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018