Karl Barth, The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day

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Religion 50, Liberation and 20th Century Christian Thought

Spring 2011

Reading questions for Klaus Scholder, The Churches and the Third Reich; Karl Barth, The Church and the Political Problem of Our Day
1. You need to read only pp. 168-177 of the Scholder.

2. Barth’s text was written in late 1938; this is relevant for understanding his narrative concerning the development of National Socialism. (Kristallnacht took place in November 1938).

3. The ‘Oath’ to which Barth refers on p. 39 was a loyalty oath required of all public servants in Germany after 1934. The oath bound the loyalty of its swearers not to the German nation or state but to Adolf Hitler personally.

1) What does Scholder mean by ‘political theology’, and according to him what attitude did Dehn and Barth (the ‘dialectical theologians’) assume towards it?

2) What fundamental task does Barth ascribe to the Christian church, and how in general does this task relate to political matters?
3) How does Barth describe the position of the Confessing Churches in the early 1930s, and what attitude does he take to that posture from the vantage point of 1938?
4) Why did Barth change his position regarding the Christian church’s responsibility in relation to National Socialism between 1933 and 1938? What role did the anti-semitism of the National Socialists play in this alteration?

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