Solitude

Experiment: What if Barth’s Evangelical Theology was not written only for theologians?

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology
(Eerdmans, 1963), ch. 10, “Solitude.”

—–

Case 1.

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology“As a rule, the Christian artist will have to put up with pursuing his subject in a certain isolation, not only in the so-called ‘world,’ but also in the Church.”

“We might think, above all, of the especially pathetic figure of the Christian artist in his solitude — his solitary pathway and the uncanny isolation, which, due to the priestly halo which he is still thought to wear, continue to characterize him. He remains a stranger among all the men of his urban or rural community… scarcely anyone can offer him a helping hand in the labor demanded of him…”

“Such isolation is hard to bear because fundamentally it seems not to correspond to the essence of Christian art. Indeed, to assume a vocational post in some remote place from which the public is all but excluded seems strikingly to contradict the character of Christian art… The object of Christian art is the most radical change in the situation of all humanity…”

“However, all that a Christian artist may here and now know and undertake is art produced by a human. As such, it can be neither paradisiac (for we are no longer there), nor perfected (for we are not yet there), nor by any means divine (for we will never be gods). Christian art can be only art not as from God but as from a human artist, that is, by a human artist who is a pilgrim. Christian art comes from a laborer who, although still blinded, is already enlightened with sight through the grace of God, but who nevertheless does not yet view the glory of the coming universal revelation… A Christian artist will stick to the fact that his problem and task can only be the art of a pilgrim, not the other.”

“Often enough the Christian artist will experience visible proofs or justifications for his feeling that he stands alone in his calling. He alone seems involved in the wonderment, concern and commitment that make an artist a Christian. Even in the community of artists and, worst of all, among all too many of his fellow Christians, a Christian artist seems to stand and persevere alone… Inside and outside the walls of the Church, he will, in fact, often enough cast about in vain for companions who are also filled with wonder, who are also concerned and committed. Instead of finding support, he will often receive the painful impression that innumerable Christians and non-Christians apparently find it quite easy to withdraw more or less unscathed from the shock that makes one a Christian artist.”

“How, then, can he ever be sure of his own faith? Are not his faith, his existence as a Christian artist, and art, as such, called into question by this solitude—however much they are guaranteed by the Word of God and the testimony of the Holy Spirit?”

“The real cause, however, for the loneliness of the Christian artist is the special seeing that is invariably demanded of him. What leads him again and again into solitude is precisely the special character of a faith seeking understanding… How should very many ever be willing to make the turn of 180 degrees that is required, not just once, but every day anew? How should very many be able to question and reply, not from their own viewpoint, but from the perspective of the Word of Christ revealed… If the results of the Christian artist’s work are not to be trivialities, he dare not feel sorry about the pain and cost of enduring a continuous solitude.”

“Although Christian art is no enemy to humanity, at its core it is a critical, in fact a revolutionary affair, because, as long as it has not been shackled, it recognizes the new man in the new cosmos.”

—–

Case 2.

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology audio book“As a rule, the Christian historian of science will have to put up with pursuing his subject in a certain isolation, not only in the so-called ‘world,’ but also in the Church.”

“We might think, above all, of the especially pathetic figure of the Christian historian of science in his solitude — his solitary pathway and the uncanny isolation, which, due to the priestly halo which either the historian or the scientist is still thought to wear, continue to characterize him. He remains a stranger among all the men of his urban or rural community… scarcely anyone can offer him a helping hand in the labor demanded of him…”

“Such isolation is hard to bear because fundamentally it seems not to correspond to the essence of Christianity. Indeed, to assume a vocational post in some remote place from which the public is all but excluded seems strikingly to contradict the character of Christianity… The object of Christian history is the most radical change in the situation of all humanity…”

“However, all that a Christian historian of science may here and now know and undertake is history produced by a human. As such, it can be neither paradisiac (for we are no longer there), nor perfected (for we are not yet there), nor by any means divine (for we will never be gods). Christian history of science can be only a history as written not by God but by a human, that is, by a human historian of science who is a pilgrim. Christian history of science comes from a laborer who, although still blinded, is already enlightened with sight through the grace of God, but who nevertheless does not yet view the glory of the coming universal revelation… A Christian historian of science will stick to the fact that his problem and task can only be a history by a pilgrim, not the other.”

“Often enough the Christian historian of science will experience visible proofs or justifications for his feeling that he stands alone in his calling. He alone seems involved in the wonderment, concern and commitment that make a historian of science a Christian. Even in the community of historians, and in the community of scientists, and, worst of all, among all too many of his fellow Christians, the Christian historian of science seems to stand and persevere alone… Inside and outside the walls of the Church, he will, in fact, often enough cast about in vain for companions who are also filled with wonder, who are also concerned and committed. Instead of finding support, he will often receive the painful impression that innumerable Christians and non-Christians apparently find it quite easy to withdraw more or less unscathed from the shock that makes one a Christian historian of science.”

“How, then, can he ever be sure of his own faith? Are not his faith, his existence as a Christian historian of science, and history and science, as such, called into question by this solitude—however much they are guaranteed by the Word of God and the testimony of the Holy Spirit?”

“The real cause, however, for the loneliness of the Christian historian of science is the special seeing that is invariably demanded of him. What leads him again and again into solitude is precisely the special character of a faith seeking understanding… How should very many ever be willing to make the turn of 180 degrees that is required, not just once, but every day anew? How should very many be able to question and reply, not from their own viewpoint, but from the perspective of the Word of Christ revealed… If the results of the Christian historian of science’s work are not to be trivialities, he dare not feel sorry about the pain and cost of enduring a continuous solitude.”

“Although Christian history of science is no enemy to humanity, at its core it is a critical, in fact a revolutionary affair, because, as long as it has not been shackled, it recognizes the new man in the new cosmos.”

—–

Case 3.

Karl Barth, The Making of Evangelical TheologyInsert vocation as indicated above, substituting for “theologian” (original text).

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