“In the political sphere the Christian community can draw attention to its gospel only indirectly, as reflected in its political decisions, and these decisions can be made intelligible and brought to victory not because they are based on Christian premises but only because they are politically better and more calculated to preserve and develop the common life. They can only witness to Christian truths…” (292)
Through the course of this essay, Barth has developed a fairly strong doctrine of the political nature of the church at the center of the kingdom. The church is called to witness to the entire kingdom which includes even the realm of the state. But many, on these assumptions, have then proceeded to establish “Christian” political parties and Barth objects to this on the grounds that it creates a number of strange contradictions. What of Christians who don’t go along with the Christian party? Isn’t the church as the community of God’s people already a political force in the world?
In place of the Christian party, Barth writes:
“In the political sphere Christians can only bring in their Christianity anonymously. They can break through this anonymity only by waging a political battle for the church and by so doing they will inevitably bring discredit and disgrace on the Christian name. In the authentically political questions which affect the development of the civil community Christians can only reply in the form of decisions which could be the decisions of any other citizens, and they must frankly hope that they may become the decisions of all other citizens regardless of their religious profession.” (292)
Barth goes on to insist that as the gospel is preached effectively within the church and the church is faithful to her calling this will have a far reaching impact on the broader culture. But Christians who are faithful in the political arena will be so, Barth insists, as they act “anonymously.”
“There will be no lack of individual Christians who will enter the political arena anonymously, that is, in the only way they can appear on the political scene, and who will act in accordance with the Christian approach and will thereby prove themselves unassuming witnesses of the gospel of Christ, which can alone bring salvation in the political sphere no less than elsewhere.” (295)
As I mentioned in the original post where I mentioned this, I find Barth to be refreshingly helpful in large part in his discussions of politics and the role of the church as a polis in its own right, and I share his concerns about “Christian” political parties. But I’m not sure I understand what he means here, and it sounds unsatisfying at the very least.
These quotations are taken from Karl Barth: Theologian of Freedom ed. by Glifford Green