Well, we should all know about Johann and (his son) Christoph Blumhardt–that’s for sure. And not just because Rick Warren tweeted the other day and said that we should (the tweet read: “Wherever a handful stand together on the Rock, the realities of God’s Kingdom appear” Christoph Blumhardt (U need to know him)).
You’re in luck! My brilliant friend and colleague, the rising theologian Christian Collins Winn, who teaches at Bethel University (my seminary’s sister institution) has written and continues to write on these fascinating Blumhardts. And when I asked, he was only too happy to provide the following brief meditation on their lives and theology(ies):
[UPDATE: Here is a post describing a never-before-translated biography of the elder Blumhardt.]
Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805–1880) and his son Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919) would certainly qualify as “neglected theologians.” Both Blumhardts, charismatic pastors from southwestern Germany (Württemberg), managed to be two of the most influential “theologians” of the later half of the nineteenth-century without anyone, at least not anyone in the English speaking world, really knowing about it. But don’t take my word for it, listen to Emil Brunner speaking about the origins of what has come to be called dialectical theology: “The real origin of the Dialectic Theology is to be traced, however, not to Kierkegaard, but to a more unexpected source, to a place still farther removed from the main theological thoroughfare-to the quiet Boll of the two Blumhardts.” Or consider these words recently published by Jürgen Moltmann: “My ‘Theology of Hope’ has two roots: Christoph Blumhardt and Ernst Bloch.”
Rhetorical hyperbole you say? Perhaps, but given that not only Brunner and Moltmann, but Karl Barth, Eduard Thurneysen, Friedrich Gogarten, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Oscar Cullman, Paul Tillich and Gerhard Sauter all claim to have been influenced, or at the very least, to have known the thought of the two Blumhardts with some intimacy, a strong case can be made that the “pastors from Boll” had an important role in shaping the theological imagination of one of the most creative generations of Protestant thought in recent memory. This fact alone warrants the Blumhardts far more attention than they have received. Continue reading