Tag Archives: Karl Barth

The exorcism of a girl by the Rev. Johann Christoph Blumhardt

Johann Christoph Blumhardt, evangelisch-luther...

Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805–1880)

Over at the blog run by several key folks at BIOLA’s Torrey Honors Institute, The Scriptorium Daily, today’s date elicited a meditation on Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805-1880) and the exorcism that propelled him to fame, such that he came to influence Karl Barth, among others. The following is written by Fred Sanders:

Today (December 28) in 1843, an unclean spirit cried “Jesus is victor!” as it departed from a young girl in Möttlingen, Germany.

The possessed girl was Gottliebin Dittus, and the presiding pastor was Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805-1880). An account of the conflict can be read in the book The Awakening, available as a free pdf from Plough books. In fact, several books by and about Blumhardt and his son are available from Plough. The account of Blumhardt’s encounter with the unclean spirit is carefully written to avoid anything prurient, and to discourage unhealthy curiosity. But given the subject matter, it’s inevitably chilling and weird. It ranges from standard poltergeist behavior (loud knocking) to apparitions of the guilty departed, to intimations of the dark, spiritual world inhabited by fallen angels. Some of the scenes are, to speak anachronistically, straight out of exorcist movies. Continue reading

Reflections on new openings in world missions, from an African perspective

Today is the annual Collegiality Day of the Minnesota Consortium of  Theological Schools. Luther Seminary‘s Paul S. Chung will present a reflection on changes in missions since the Edinburgh conference a century ago (“Mission today in light of the 1910 Edinburgh Conference.”) A number of folks will respond, including me. Though it will likely be trimmed a bit, my response will look something like this:

The successive “openings” of mission since Edinburgh

I hear in Dr. Chung’s paper a series of “openings” of world missions activity and thought since Mott and the 1910 meeting at Edinburgh. I want to review these briefly and then, as I am a historian, to illustrate them with a brief story from recent Christian history in the global south.

By the time of the 1952 Willingen missions conference, Karl Barth had sparked an opening or broadening from Edinburgh’s “pragmatic, purposeful, activist, impatient, self-confident, single-minded, and triumphalist” accent—in other words, its accent on human initiative—to a theological insistence that mission comes at the initiative of the Trinity. It is God who sends, and we who follow. Continue reading

The Christian integralism of Dorothy Sayers: Precursor to radical orthodoxy?

It occurs to me as I look over the previous post of notes from Lee W. Gibbs, The Middle Way: Voices of Anglicanism (Cincinnati, OH: Forward Movement Publications, 1991) that Sayers sounds like a precursor of today’s “radical orthodoxy” movement. This is so both in her insistence that theology be resurrected as “queen of the sciences” and in her ressourcement from the Middle Ages. Here’s the bit that triggered the thought:

“Sayers is not so much anti-science or anti-technology as she is a Christian integralist who perceives that science and technology have become over-emphasized and predominant in the modern world, too often at the expense of theology and philosophy as equally valid and necessary paths to truth and knowledge. What she calls [109] for is a return to the more proper balance achieved during the Christian Middle Ages, where philosophy was seen to be a subdivision of theology, and science a subdivision of philosophy.” (108 – 9)

And here’s the wikipedia bit on radical orthodoxy. Note especially the “Main Ideas” and “Influences” listed here: Continue reading

Rick Warren says: U need to know Christoph Blumhardt. OK. Blum-who?

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.”[1] Or consider these words recently published by Jürgen Moltmann: “My ‘Theology of Hope’ has two roots: Christoph Blumhardt and Ernst Bloch.”[2]

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

The woman detective novelist who was one of Karl Barth’s favorite theologians

The Christianity Today history blog has just posted a piece by me on the British mystery author and lay theologian  Dorothy L. Sayers. And yes, the great modern theologian Karl Barth not only enjoyed Sayers’s detective stories, but called her one of the “outstanding British theologians.” He himself translated three of her essays into German.