If I had a megaphone: dogmatics for Americans

If I had a megaphone that could sound in the ears of American Evangelicals, (whoever they really are) or people identified as “born again,” I would unpack just two essays that teach lessons from recent history, Christian identity, and church/state relations in the American Protestant church. These two essays would be: (drum roll please)

1.) Karl Barth’s “Evangelical Theology in the Nineteenth Century” (The Humanity of God, pgs. 11-33, 1960, John Knox Press) and

2.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Protestantism Without Reformation”(No Rusty Swords, pgs. 88-113, Fount Paperbacks, 1977).
(Of course, the best place to start for understanding this one is with Eberhard Bethge’s biography of Bonhoeffer on pages 658-660. I’ll spend more time with this in my blog of Chapter Eleven in a bit.)

The first hurdle would be to republish these to make them readily accessible. Secondly, a bridge is needed from the writer’s time to our own, and a general attempt to explain the importance of dogmatics to everyday Americans today. American “born agains” need to understand themselves as part of the universal Church, and with that gain some perspective in terms of what they can learn from other nations, and other histories outside of our perspective. Both of these writings, if unpacked right, offer a potential new awakening. I’m not sure I’m the one to do this. I’m still learning so much myself. If I ever see it in print, or something like it, I’ll let you know!



Filed under Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth, religion and politics, theology

3 responses to “If I had a megaphone: dogmatics for Americans

  1. I am an American, but most likely not the kind you are referring to, but I am interested in hearing more of what you feel these writings offer seeing as how I have never had a chance to read them myself.

  2. WTM

    I concur with your estimation of Barth’s “Evangelical Theology.” It is the first book by Barth that I ever read, and though I have read it numerous times, it never fails to through new light on the many questions that it addresses. It is certainly a book that could bear fruit if studied in the church by thoughtful american evangelicals.

  3. MShed,

    The Barth essay offers a history of nineteenth century Evangelical Theology, and who he had in mind were Schliermacher and those that followed. What he says their story reveals for today is that essentially their theology became so focused on making the gospel relevant socially that God as He is in the Bible ceased to really matter. I see the same thing happening today from American conservatives. They have the theological landscaped sewn up. There is nothing new to learn. We know exactly what God wants and where he’s leading and we think we know how to get there, but in truth it has very little to do with the Bible anymore.

    I suggest looking for Humanity of God and No Rusty Swords on Alibris.com and Abebooks.com. As paperbacks they can usually be found used for a very good price there. I see Humanity of God now on Abebooks for under $10 there now. No Rusty Swords can be found right now on Abebooks.com for $5.47.

    Hope this helps,

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