May 2001 Newsletter

Association of Contemporary Church Historians

(Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchlicher Zeitgeschichtler)

John S. Conway, Editor. University of British Columbia


Newsletter- May 2001- Vol. VII, no. 5

Dear Friends,

1) Editorial
2) Conference report – Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches
3) Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte Conference, September 2001
4) Book reviews:

Sampson and Lederach, Mennonites and peacemaking
Gerlach, The Confessing Church and the persecution of the Jews
Pangritz, Karl Barth in the Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

5) New Journal articles, Hong Kong, Italy and Germany

I am glad to tell you that next month we shall have a Guest Editor, Reverend
John Jay Hughes, of St Louis, Missouri. He is well known for his stimulating
books, mainly about the Papacy, and his reviews which appear in many
scholarly journals. I appreciate his help enormously.

1) Editorial:
From my necessarily limited and subjective vantage point here on the edge of
the Pacific Ocean, I keep on being surprised and delighted by both the
quantity and quality of the new work being written in our field of
contemporary church history.
When I began to send out this Newsletter in 1995, I thought it would only be
a matter of a few months before the backlog of new titles was exhausted. But
here we are, six and a half years later, and the flood is still coming! And
this is all the more remarkable in view of the low place Church history
receives in most academic curricula.
Germany, of course, as one could expect, is still the chief source of such
riches. The existence of state-supported theological faculties in almost all
their universities, and the plenitude of graduate students producing huge
theses, which then appear in their subsidized presses, are a welcome source
of new scholarship. But even in less favoured countries, very reputable work
appears with a refreshing range of interests. Looking back on the books
reviewed in our Newsletter in its 75 issues, as can be seen in the indices
or web-site, shows a fine variety and exceptional quality of performance.
And new areas seem to be coming back into favour. For example, we Canadians
can take pride in the splendid achievement of W.J.Callahan with his two
volumes on “The Catholic Church is Spain”, or the revived interest in French
church history with the appearance of Michel Cointet’s “L’Eglise sous Vichy,
1940-1945”. And it is to be hoped that soon we shall have English-language
studies of the complex histories and situations in eastern Europe.
Clearly, the so-called third world is missing, or rather word of new
publications in this area has not reached me. I should welcome any advice on
new books, or better still reviews of new research in these areas, to be
forwarded. Your help is much appreciated.

2) 31st Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust and the Churches, St.
Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 3-6th, 2001.
This conference now draws several hundred scholars, representing a variety
of fields and interests, from throughout the world. In response to the
growing number of participants, conference organizers this year experimented
with a new format (which will be used in alternate years). Instead of
issuing a general call for papers, a smaller number of panels on specific
topics were scheduled. The invited panelists were asked not to present
papers but to offer some remarks as starting points for a general
discussion. There were very few concurrent sessions, thus ensuring that most
participants joined the same discussions throughout the meeting. Optional
roundtable discussions at the luncheons were another successful innovation
that allowed participants with common interests to meet.
This format worked. Most panelists kept their remarks brief, allowing
substantial time for discussion among the panelists and audience members.
The panels this year focused on Holocaust denial, the study of “ordinary
people”, the study of other genocide, complicity, post-Shoah education, new
research and the study of women. The “cutting edge” panel presented new work
being done on the legal and nursing professions and the responses of the
Canadian churches. An evening program honoured Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his
biographer Eberhard Bethge, and included a trailer from the forthcoming film
documentary on Bonhoeffer being made by independent filmmaker Martin
Doblmeier. In plenary speeches, Rabbi Irving Greenberg and Professor Yaffa
Eliach shared the insights gained from their years of research and
In general, the new format gave the meeting greater focus and depth. It also
underscored the particular strength of this conference, which has always
been its interdisciplinary nature. The panel on the study of “ordinary
people”, for example, included a historian, a religious scholar, an expert
on the nursing profession, two scholars of Holocaust literature and gender
issues, and a social psychologist. The conversation generated by their
remarks showed that the questions that confront scholars in this field are
never “purely” historical or ethical; and, whatever the focus of our own
work, the research of those in other fields can offer new and important
pieces of the puzzle. The diverse nature of the panels and the increased
emphasis on discussion this year sparked ongoing conversations among
participants that continued outside the sessions. Next year’s conference, to
be held at Kean College in Union, New Jersey, will follow the traditional
format, but this new format for alternate years is to be welcomed. Among
other things, it illustrated that, when enough time is given to discourse,
scholarly meetings can be enjoyed as well as endured.
Victoria J.Barnett, Arlington, Virginia

3) Kirchliche Zeitgeschichte Conference
This year’s conference, under the leadership of Gerhard Ringshausen,
Lüneburg, and Dr Czembor, Poland, is to take place from September 15-19 in
Ustron, in southern Poland, not far from Kattowicz. The theme is : From
nationalist confrontation to European collaboration. The role of the
Churches in the paths of Germany and Poland, and will focus largely on the
Polish/German experience over the past hundred years. Details from Dr
Ringshausen, =

4a) Cynthia Sampson and John Paul Lederach (eds.). From the Ground
Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacemaking. Oxford
University Press, 2000, 316pp.

There has been a great increase in scholarly interest and writing on
the subject of peacemaking over the last two decades. Among the many
individuals and groups involved in peacemaking are the Mennonites, who
have consistently received much attention for their involvement in peace
activism from within their own community. In “From the Ground
Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacemaking”, the editors
Cynthia Sampson, a non-Mennonite scholar, and John Paul Lederach, a Mennonite
peacebuilding practitioner, have built on other well-known texts on
Mennonite peace work since the 1940s – for example, Leo Driedger’s
“Mennonites in Conflict” (1984), and Driedger’s work with Ron Kraybill,
“Mennonite Peacemaking: From Quietism to Activism” (1994) – and have
welcomed critical analysis from outside the Mennonite community. The
strength of “From the Ground Up” is found in its eclectic representation of
authorship, as the accounts of fourteen Mennonite peace workers are
analyzed and evaluated by four non-Mennonite scholars. With both the
authors and the editors coming from such diverse backgrounds, the common
pitfalls of both endo- and exo-denominational a priori presuppositions are
satisfactorily checked and challenged throughout the study. With that
sound methodological foundation, Sampson and Lederach’s chief query
asks: How is Mennonite faith connected to their contributions to
The Mennonite people have commonly been associated with peace and
nonresistance. While this association finds ample justification
throughout history (albeit with many exceptions) and in many Mennonite
communities today, the peace that has been attained has mostly been
accomplished through separation from ‘the world.’ Joseph Miller, Ron
Kraybill and John Lederach address this tendency in the history of the
Mennonite peace stance in the first part of the book, and reveal how the
‘in but not of the world’ theology of the Mennonites has undergone massive
alterations since the Second World War.
The negative experiences many Mennonites endured during wartime (many
North American Mennonites who refused the draft were ridiculed, harassed,
imprisoned and physically harmed) served as the catalyst for a
re-evaluation of their time-honored traditions of nonresistance and
nonconformity. Many came to realize that nonresistance, in its
traditional form, was more irresponsible than anything else, leading many
Mennonites to convert from their passive, secluded peace stance to
nonviolent social action and radical peacemaking. Now willing to pay the
‘ultimate sacrifice’ after joining the ‘corps’ in working toward bringing
peace to troubled areas, Mennonites were able to pour their energies into
positive social and structural change, and simultaneously quell the
wartime accusations of being free-loading cowards.
With the traditional Mennonite two-kingdom theology effectively
done away with (or at least radically revamped), new groups, mostly
emanating from the Mennonite Central Committee, began to organize and move
into all parts of the world. Miller informs us that, rather than arriving
in order to alleviate suffering after a great disaster or war (which was
the common approach of the MCC and Mennonite Disaster Service for some
time), these new groups of Mennonite peacebuilders, such as: the Christian
Peacemaking Teams; the Mennonite Conciliation Service; and the
International Conciliation Service; began to focus on the prevention of
violence and on empowering people to regain ownership of their respective
situations in troubled areas of the world.
The main section of the book is a collection of essays written by
Mennonite peacebuilders that have been actively engaged in this latter
approach to peacebuilding throughout the world. Areas of focus
include: South Africa (Ron Kraybill and Robert and Judy Herr); central
America (John Lederach and Mark Chupp); Ethiopia and Somalia (Lederach and
Bonnie Bergey); Northern Ireland (Joseph Liechty and Joseph
Campbell); Liberia (Barry Hart); Columbia (Ricardo Esquivia and Paul
Stucky); and Kathleen Kern’s essay on the Christian Peacemaking Teams “From
Haiti to Hebron.” In each of these cases, according to Lederach,
Mennonite peacebuilders have aimed to “offer true alternatives to the
life-destroying visions that currently govern our world” (p.44).
The four scholars that contribute to the critical analysis of the above
cases agree on many points, primarily in their praise of the uniqueness
and effectiveness of the Mennonite approach to peacemaking. Sally Merry
comments on the Mennonite focus on establishing grassroots connections
(which is believed to promote longevity in change) and on maintaining the
primary focus of serving God, which provides the criteria for success in
all peace work. Similarly, Christopher Mitchell observes the Mennonite
commitment to fostering local ownership of peacebuilding efforts, as they
strive to become “as near to insiders as they can while maintaining a
relevant deterrent role as outsiders” (p.225). In a very engaging and
deeply analytical essay, Marc Gopin places the Mennonite approach to
peacemaking in a broader context, comparing it to non-Christian conflict
resolution theories (p.243). He also praises their efforts, asserting
that the Mennonite history of martyrdom affords them a particularly deep
existential understanding of Otherness that underpins their approach to
and effectiveness in peacemaking.
Cynthia Sampson concludes the book with a case by case assessment
of the Mennonite peace projects outlined above. Here, Sampson focuses on
what she sees as the three central tenets of Mennonite peace
work: capacity building; framework setting; and ways of being. Sampson
agrees with Merry and Mitchell’s observations of Mennonites fostering
local ownership of peace initiatives, and credits the unique Mennonite
theology of humility and pervasive ethos of service for that
success. According to Sampson, this solid foundation accounts for why the
Mennonites, more often than not, proceed quietly, gently, respectfully and
non-competitively in their work.
And what binds this all together? Gopin concludes that Mennonite faith is
inextricably linked to both their vision for and execution of peacemaking
initiatives. Their strong traditional theology of service, strong
communal ties and powerful prayer networks and communal identity affords
the Mennonites the ideal combination for effective peacebuilding
(p.241). Indeed, all four critics unanimously praise the Mennonites for
continuity between theory (a theology of peace) and praxis, which can be
seen as successfully redeeming the numerous examples of wartime dissonance
between the two (many North American and nearly all German Mennonite men
of draft age chose to bear arms in the Second World War). The new form
of peacebuilding, which has replaced the passive nonresistance of old, has
furnished contemporary Mennonites with an “enormous transformative
potential for the future interactions of the global
community” (p.255). In this view, consistent cross-cultural sensitivity,
deep humility, communal support and a commitment to servanthood – seen in
the examples in this book – have contributed to the long-term
effectiveness of many Mennonite peace efforts around the world and to a
radical alternative to the immediacy and high profile focus that dominates
many peace initiatives today.
Steve Schroeder University of British Columbia

4b) Wolfgang Gerlach, And the Witnesses were silent. The Confessing Church
and the Persecution of the Jews. (translated and edited by Victoria
J.Barnett). Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press. 2000. 304pp
One of the most striking developments of the past five decades has been the
increase of concern for the victims of violence and persecution in the
public consciousness of most countries of the western world. The shock of
the Holocaust, perpetrated by the Nazis against the Jewish people, and
subsequent reflection on the enormity of these crimes, was undoubtedly a
major contributory factor. This shift in attitude has since developed in
three significant ways. First, geographically: today persecution of
individuals or groups, and violations of their human rights, anywhere in the
world arouses concern globally – a process greatly assisted by the advent of
modern technologies, especially television. Second, intentionally: this
awareness of a moral duty is no longer limited to one’s own kith and kin, or
nationality, or race, but is recognized as a universal obligation to all
women, men and children of every society. Third, this consensus is no longer
propagated solely by churches and synagogues as part of their system of
religious belief, but rather is acknowledged as an ethical imperative for
all on humanitarian grounds, based on such secular expressions as the United
Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, first published in 1948.
This process has also affected historians. Scholars writing about the events
of the Holocaust have increasingly adopted such a stance in line with this
presentist perception of the need and duty to uphold human rights in the
face of totalitarianism. They are therefore highly critical of the groups
commonly described as “bystanders”, i.e. those agencies and individuals who
at the time failed to take sufficient and effective measures to prevent, or
at least to deter, the persecutions and mass murders of so many innocent
Jewish victims. In recent years this approach has been notable in a number
of studies of the responses of the Christian churches to the impact of
National Socialism. In recent months, for example, no less than nine books
have appeared analyzing the policies of Pope Pius XII during the Holocaust,
the majority of which have found his conduct of affairs to be lacking in
courage to deal with this moral outrage.
On the Protestant side, this same approach is found in this well-researched
study by Wolfgang Gerlach, a pastor of the German Evangelical Rhineland
Church. After depicting the generally pejorative attitudes in the German
Evangelical Church towards the Jews, Gerlach takes particular issue with
those of his colleagues who, in the post-war period, had prided themselves
on their opposition to Nazism. This group, the Confessing Church, to be
sure, right from 1933 resolutely fought off the attempts of their rivals,
the so-called “German Christians”, to align the Evangelical Church with Nazi
ideology and practice. They were successful, at least in part, in defending
both the autonomy and doctrine of their church from pro-Nazi infiltration.
But on the subject of the Jews they were silent.
The Confessing Church’s most significant statement of theological
principles, the famous Barmen Declaration of 1934, made no mention of the
Jewish issue. And even the initial statement of the immediate post-war
period, the notable Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt of October 1945, did not
specify the Church’s failure to protest against the mass extermination of
the Jewish people at the hands of German perpetrators.
The Confessing Church, as a whole, and especially its leaders, were
conservative nationalists, who saw themselves as the true upholders of
Luther and his traditions. This included a virulent anti-Judaism on
theological grounds, following some of Luther’s most pernicious remarks late
in his career. Added to this, these men shared much of the social
antisemitism current in Germany in the 1920s, especially the dislike of the
Jews from eastern Europe, whose influence was widely believed to be morally
and nationally dangerous. Leaders like Otto Dibelius, one of the strongest
opponents of the “German Christians”, and later to serve as Bishop in Berlin
for twenty years after the war, or Martin Niemoeller, who was to suffer
nearly eight years of concentration camp incarceration, were nonetheless
unsympathetic to the Jews, even though they rather reluctantly accepted the
need to defend the interests of the Christians of Jewish origins.
But the fate of the few “non-aryan” Evangelical pastors showed how limited
was the support given by the Confessing Church, as can be seen in the events
in Hanover, where Bishop Marahrens notably failed to support his clergy when
they were driven out of office by Nazi pressure.
The result was that the Confessing Church had no theology to hand which
could have led them to mobilize assistance for the Nazis’ prime victims.
Even after the shocking events of the Crystal Night in 1938, there was no
significant paradigm shift. It was only long after the war that a more
positive pro-Jewish theological stance was adopted. At the time, these
churchmen were reluctant to become involved, or saw no obligation to those
not belonging to their faith. They also wanted to remain staunchly loyal to
their government in all secular matters. Many believed the Nazi propaganda
that the Jews deserved their fate.
Nevertheless there were individual and heroic incidences of defiance, such
as the extraordinary help given in Wuerttemberg to Jews who had had to go
underground. Max Kracauer and his wife, for example, were steered for
eighteen months through sixty-one “safe” houses, mainly Confessing Church
rectories, until the Americans arrived in 1945. Such expressions of
humanitarian solidarity, however, remained isolated.
In the aftermath, and especially after fifty years, it is impossible to
judge how far the atmosphere of apprehension and downright fear dictated the
caution and cowardice of the Confessing Church. But Gerlach supplies a
plethora of documentation which shows how far even these churchmen were
deluded in their thinking, and still at the end of the war were striving to
reconcile their theological and national loyalties. Unfortunately neither
left room for the Jews. Gerlach’s final verdict is bitingly critical:
The documents available establish that the Confessing Church regarded the
Jewish question as annoying and burdensome and treated it dilatorily. The
church’s protracted handling of the Jewish question encouraged the state’s
persecution of the Jews. The Confessing Church’s dogmatic solution to the
Jewish question in 1939 and 1940 fostered the Evangelical Chancery’s
rigorous solution in 1941 [to exclude the Jews from church fellowship] – and
ultimately, the Nazi state’s Final Solution. (p. 236)
The original German version of this study was first written in 1970, but was
refused publication in Germany on the grounds that it defamed so many of the
post-war church leaders and their “heroic” version of the German Church
Struggle against Nazism. Not until 1987 did it appear in Germany. This
English version has been excellently edited and translated by Victoria
Barnett, who is well known for her similarly fine services to Bethge’s
biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. But in the meantime, much of the material
has become familiar to English-speaking readers through Richard Gutteridge’s
scholarly treatment “Open thy mouth for the dumb! The German Evangelical
Church and the Jews, 1879-1950”, which appeared in Oxford in 1976. Ms
Barnett has appended a useful note on other sources, both in German and
English, which will be of help to those not familiar with the details of
this lamentable story.

4c) Andreas Pangritz, Karl Barth in the Theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
Grand Rapids, MI: Wm.B.Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000.
The nature of the relationship between Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer
has long been a subject of heated debate amongst theologians and Church
historians. No matter whether the interest is in the field of dogmatic
theology or political praxis, the precise scope of both mutuality and
disagreement between the two men has remained uncertain. Some have argued
that Bonhoeffer regarded Barth in much the same way that Barth regarded
Kierkegaard-as a necessary starting-point from whom it was necessary
nevertheless to diverge. Others have suggested that Barth continued to stand
as mentor for Bonhoeffer even after their celebrated dispute in October 1933
over Bonhoeffer’s exodus to England and their argument over the right
response to the so-called Aryan Paragraph. Clearly, there were differences
between the two, both theologically and politically. But do these
differences outweigh the numerous points of convergence? Is the most
significant aspect of their relationship defined by where they parted, or by
where they came together? And in what did Barth act as Bonhoeffer’s teacher,
and where was it the opposite? These are the questions raised by Andreas
Pangritz in this new monograph.
The principal question posed by Pangritz is what precisely Bonhoeffer meant
when he accused Barth-and, perhaps more pointedly, the Confessing Church
(especially as embodied by Hans Asmussen)-of a “positivism of revelation”.
This becomes especially pertinent when, in later stages of the book,
Pangritz notes that for the young Bonhoeffer in Berlin, revelatory
positivism was a virtue and not a vice of theological construction and one,
moreover, of which Barth did not possess enough! Much has been said about
this nebulous charge, and it remains the subject of intense controversy. Of
equal significance is whether Bonhoeffer thought that the Barthian
positivism of revelation heralded the end of the line of any fruitful
discussion between the two theologians, or whether in fact it was no more
than an argument within the same school. The substance of Pangritz’s book
strongly suggests the latter.
Pangritz begins his argument by locating Bonhoeffer’s accusation within the
context of his commitment to an ‘arcane discipline’, that is, a belief that
the mysteries of the Christian faith be kept pure. According to Bonhoeffer,
Barth’s dogmatic approach-which effectively entailed a ‘take it or leave it,
all or nothing’ attitude to doctrinal issues-was a violation of these
mysteries. Thus Bonhoeffer’s accusation was a warning ‘against the danger of
saying too much'(p.114) and in consequence profaning the mysteries. This was
especially true for the doctrines of the virgin birth and the Trinity which
Bonhoeffer wanted to rescue from credal formalization. And yet even in
prison when these accusations began to surface, the young Lutheran remained
deeply indebted to Barth’s theological endeavours. Moreover, Pangritz shows
that behind the polemical charges, stood a long-standing relationship
between the two men that was characterized by a constant ebb and flow of
agreement and disagreement. Thus, it is Pangritz’s conviction that, in order
to fully understand why the accusation of a ‘positivism of revelation’
occurred when it did, and on what theological grounds, it is necessary to
re-trace the pathway of the relationship that existed between Barth and
Bonhoeffer over the twenty years from 1924-5 until Bonhoeffer’s death.
Bonhoeffer’s first encounter with Barth’s theology was in 1924-25 when he
was a student of Harnack in Berlin. Pangritz explores Bonhoeffer’s earliest
writings to argue that in his seminar papers of this time, Bonhoeffer
substantially agrees with Barth, even to the extent of advocating a
Calvinistic incapax. It is only in his doctoral and habilitation
dissertations (Sanctorum Communio and Act and Being respectively) that
Bonhoeffer begins to express the typical Lutheran reservation against the
Extra Calvinisticum. There is a particular concern over the Barthian
approach to ethics. In Bonhoeffer’s view, Barth’s emphasis on the majesty of
God was a formalization of God’s freedom which threatened to veil the extent
to which ‘the Word became flesh and, in Christ, exists as community’ (p.28).
However, even here the critiques of Barth’s programme are contained within
the context of an excited enthusiasm for the Barthian intent. That the two
dissertations of 1927 and 1929 contain strong criticisms of Barth’s attempt
to valourise the sovereignty of God should thus not be taken as illustrative
of a fundamental dispute. Rather, Pangritz suggests that it was precisely
because Bonhoeffer felt so close to Barth that he explored the differences
between them so resolutely. Indeed, by a process of mediation and advocacy,
Bonhoeffer was attempting to explain Barth’s programme and render it
acceptable to a Berlin faculty that regarded it as both nonsensical and
profane. In Pangritz’s words, ‘Barth remains the standard’ for Bonhoeffer
This enthusiasm for Barth was strengthened, according to Pangritz, after the
first face-to-face meeting of the two in July 1931. Barth’s theological
revolution which prioritized the logos theou as the one true object of
theology was, for Bonhoeffer, a new way of reading Scripture-not a
post-World War One psychosis, but rather a genuine listening to the Word of
God that no one in Berlin was even attempting (pp.35-36). However, in spite
of these far-reaching agreements, Pangritz is at pains the stress that
fundamental differences opened up between Barth and his pupil, most notably
in the field of ethics. For Bonhoeffer, echoing his dissertations, Barth was
ethically too soft. Barth provided ethical parameters, but not ethical
principles or concrete foundations. Indeed, Pangritz notes that in his
search for a revelational base for ethical action, Bonhoeffer felt abandoned
by Barth.
Curiously, Pangritz shows that through the thirties, the Kirchenkampf served
to highlight both the agreements and the differences. While divergent on
matters of Church politics (and hence Bonhoeffer’s exodus to London), they
remained firmly together on the side of an unconditional opposition that was
embraced only reluctantly by the rest of the Confessing Church. Where they
differed theologically was again in the realm of ethics. As Bonhoeffer put
together his ideas for Nachfolge (Cost of Discipleship), he turned to the
Sermon on the Mount for ethical concreteness. Perhaps not surprisingly,
Pangritz notes that in this respect, ‘Barth did not take [Bonhoeffer] far
enough’ (p.53). On the other hand, what cannot be said of this divergence is
that it represented a confessional conflict between Lutheranism and
Calvinism along the lines of Bonhoeffer’s Act and Being. What was becoming
crucial for Bonhoeffer at this time was the recognition, in light of the
Barmen Declaration, that Lutherans and Reformed speak with one voice against
the Nazi tyranny.
As the war years progressed, Barth and Bonhoeffer found themselves even more
closely in tune with one another when it came to the need for resistance.
True, they differed in how they thought resistance should best be offered,
but of the need for it there was neither doubt nor quarrel. What is most
interesting about this is that both men were writing sections on ethics at
the same time during these years (Barth for his CD II/2, and Bonhoeffer for
his fragmentary Ethics) and that, unlike Bonhoeffer’s earlier reservations,
both were in substantial agreement. Pangritz considers that Bonhoeffer gave
practical demonstration of Barth’s call for tyrannicide (the Gifford
lectures of 1938, published as The Knowledge of God and the Service of God).
Further, Bonhoeffer seems clearly to have relied on both Barth’s 1919
Tambach lecture and Rechfertigung und Recht from 1938 to give clarity to his
own work on ethics (pp.63, 65). Thus, Pangritz can say with some confidence
that Bonhoeffer’s later accusation against Barth was in no sense a direct
continuation of previously-held disagreements. Their similarity of ethical
and political praxis in the war years suggests, rather, that the charge of
‘positivism of revelation’ was something quite novel in the relationship
between the two.
Having established with scholarly acumen the discontinuity between
Bonhoeffer’s early questions to Barth and the later accusation of positivism
of revelation, Pangritz closes his study with a consideration of the extent
to which the charge was indeed valid. He surmises that Bonhoeffer’s
accusation was provoked by his reading of Barth’s Church Dogmatics II/2, in
particular the doctrine of election. While in substantial agreement with
Barth’s so-called ‘triumph of grace’ (G.C. Berkouwer), Bonhoeffer was also
concerned that there was a ‘missionary consciousness’ (p.124) in Barth’s
thought that threatened to override God’s sovereign concern for the
‘religionless world’ and thus do an injustice to the biblical witness. In
particular, Pangritz finds evidence of this in Barth’s attitude towards
Israel. Had Barth been more prepared to acknowledge the integrity of
Israel’s independent existence, he would also have given more hermeneutical
weight to the world without God. Conversely, Barth’s unwillingness to see
the religionless world ‘come of age’ as having autonomous integrity is
mirrored in his negative characterization of Israel. Pangritz has perhaps
been unduly harsh on Barth at this point, but the significance of the
differences between Barth and Bonhoeffer on this issue is nonetheless made
The upshot, however, is that the Bonhoefferian critique was not the German
theologian’s definitive summation of Barth’s doctrinal agenda, even if it
was, by virtue of his martyrdom, his own last word. Pangritz makes clear in
the last section of the book that even if the charge of ‘revelatory
positivism’ can be upheld, it was not, at least for Bonhoeffer, an accurate
picture of Barth’s overall theology. Indeed, when one looks at his Humanity
of God lecture and his ‘doctrine of lights’ (CD IV/3), there are substantial
points of contact between Barth and Bonhoeffer’s notion of the religionless
world that emerge in Barth’s later works. In these loci, the togetherness of
God and humanity is stressed, and allowance is made for true words about God
to be found even outside the Church (p.135). Perhaps here, we see an
indication of Barth now being taught by his old pupil.
Thus, Pangritz’s conclusion is that the differences between the two men over
a late and undefined accusation by one of them must not be taken as evidence
of a complete break, nor as proof that their relationship had always been
stormy. Rather, when taken as a whole, the remarkable partnership that
developed between Barth and Bonhoeffer must be regarded as one of the most
fruitful dialogues in modern theological history-and, moreover, one from
which there is still much for the Church of the 21st Century to learn. Mark
Lindsay, University of Western Australia

5) Journal articles:
a) Richard Steigmann-Gall, Apostasy or religiosity? The cultural meanings of
the Protestant vote for Hitler. in Social History, Vol 25, no 3, October
This sprightly essay looks at the reasons why Protestants in Germany should
have voted for Hitler, especially in 1933. Steigmann-Gall argues that
previous attempts to classify Nazi voters by occupation, class origin or
gender are inadequate, but that the ethos of Protestantism in the previous
decades made this group particularly likely to be supporters of Hitler. He
does not however give any explanation as to why a significant opposition
movement within the Church arose so quickly and refused to be intimidated.
Nor does he attempt to give any weight to theology.
b) Shun-Hing Chan, Nationalism and religious Protest in Hong Kong Protestant
churches, in Religion, State and Society, Vol 28, no. 4, December 2000, p

A survey of the relationship between politics and religion in post-colonial
Hong Kong in the period 1998-2000
c) Mario Giovanelli, The 1984 Covenant between the Republic of Italy and the
Vatican: a retrospective analysis after 15 years, in Journal of Church and
State, Vol 42, no. 3, Summer 2000, p. 529ff. Reviews the present state of –
cordial – relations between these former opponents.
d) Gerhard and Renate-Maria Besier, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Request in
recognition as a Corporation under Public Laws in Germany: Background,
Current Status and Empirical Aspects, in Journal of Church and State, Vol
43, no. 1, Winter 2001, pp35-48
A brief but helpful account of the long history of prejudice and persecution
by the dominant elements in Germany of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which
continue to defame them and deny them public law status. The authors present
a favourable report on the J.Ws in Germany.

With every best wish
John Conway