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Thursday, 14 January 2010

New ventures in new directions

On finishing Al Hirsch's 'The Forgotten Ways' (which I highly recommend) I was quite awe-struck by a quote from Karl Barth in his final chapter. It comes from Barth's 1959 letter to a pastor in the German Democratic Republic who was anxious about the fate of the church under communism. His comments about the need for the church to look for new ventures in new directions seems highly relevant for mission in post-Christendom, postmodern culture.

No, the church’s existence does not always have to possess the same form in the future that it possessed in the past as though this were the only possible pattern.

No, the continuance and victory of the cause of God which the Christian Church is to serve with her witness, is not unconditionally linked with the forms of existence which it has had until now.

Yes, the hour may strike, and perhaps has already struck when God, to our discomfiture, but to his glory and for the salvation of mankind, will put an end to this mode of existence because it lacks integrity.

Yes, it could be our duty to free ourselves inwardly from our dependency on that mode of existence even while it still lasts. Indeed, on the assumption that it may one day entirely disappear, we should look about us for new ventures in new directions.

Yes, as the Church of God we may depend on it that if only we are attentive, God will show us such new ways as we can hardly anticipate now. And as the people who are bound to God, we may even now claim unconquerably security for ourselves through him. For his name is above all names…

[Letter to a Pastor in the German Democratic Republic, in How to Serve God in a Marxist Land (New York: Association Press, 1959) pp.45-80]

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