Friday, October 20, 2017

Well, good for her. And count me among those who "seemed to be sure what was right and what was wrong."

"Gerty Pestalozzi and Eduard Thurneysen really tried to understand the different problems each of the three had and did not advise a certain direction.  But others seemed to be sure what was right and what was wrong. . . .  His mother very often expressed how little she agreed to what he was doing.  In 1933, when they consider the option of divorce, he tells his mother that he is tired of having to discuss all issues with her:  'Again:  I would be very happy if you could tell yourself that a man who is 47 years old should be able to know what he does when he comes to such a conclusion after a marriage of 20 years, and if you could trust this son of yours who after all is not unfamiliar to you that he does not want unscrupulously [(er nicht gewissenlos will)].'  His mother responds the following day harshly that God’s commandments are for all.  'What is the most brilliant theology good for, if it is to be shipwrecked in one’s own house [(Was hilft die scharfsinnigste Theologie, wenn sie im eigenen Hause Schiffbruch leidet)]?'"

     Christiane Tietz, "Karl Barth and Charlotte von Kirschbaum," Theology today 74, no. 2 (July 2017):  106-107 (86-111).  There are problems with this article:  the fact that the wife of Barth's youth gets only a few lines in a footnote by way of a biography, but Charlotte, nine short paragraphs in a eponymously entitled sub-section of the main body; the clumsy translations; Tietz' (starstruck?) refusal to cut bait (as exemplified by the condescension exhibited here towards those who "seemed to be sure what was right and what was wrong", as well as the word "harshly"); and so forth.  And then there are the serious problems with Barth as outlined by (but by no means condemned in) it:  the compromised life, the theology of personal "experience [(Erfahrung)]" (!) and feeling constructed to justify it, and the implications of the said theology of personal experience for the very great confusions our own time, despite Barth's purported "No!" to all of that (though of course I am by no means a Barth specialist).  If this makes me "'the legalist that under different circumstances [(i.e. without the persistent adultery) Barth] might have become'" (111), then so be it.  For "We reject the false doctrine that with human vainglory the Church could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of self-chosen desires, purposes and plans" (The Barmen Declaration).

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