emergency homiletic

I just finished reading Karl Barth's Emergency Homiletic, 1932-1933: A Summons to Prophetic Witness at the Dawn of the Third Reich by Angela Dienhart Hancock. A very interesting, careful study of the homiletics class that Barth taught in the midst of a chaotic year in Germany for the nation and for the church. Lots here for students of preaching and of history to engage. The class itself was an act of resistance with Barth stepping onto the homiletical turf of his colleague whose sympathies lay with the rise of National Socialism and Hitler. Hancock points out the significant inadequacies in the published version of the student notes from these classes ("Homiletics") with the appendix pleading for a new text of that book. Of the student notes from Barth's preaching class, Hancock writes:

"The notes that were left behind do not reveal some kind of timeless universal homiletical blueprint we might label 'Barthian' and then discard. Instead, they offer a glimpse at a self-consciously contextual, dialectical, theological, and temporary homiletic forged in the midst of political and personal turmoil.

There are, of course, vast differences between the advanced democracies of the twenty-first century and the Germany of the early 1930s, but those charged with preaching the gospel today in many parts of the world know something of what a partisan and media-saturated environment is like. We know something of economic turmoil. We know something of the pathos that rails against enemies, foreign and domestic. We know something of a church that longs for full pews and public influence. Surely Karl Barth's efforts to teach young people to preach in a time of political, ecclesiastical, academic, rhetorical, and homiletical turmoil have continuing relevance for everyone who walks into a seminary classroom or steps into a pulpit today." (p. 327)

After reading the story of Barth's preaching class in Bonn I could not agree more. It leads me to believe that the form of preaching that I have been drawn to is also an emergency homiletic intended to speak a crucial word in a time when the church is threatened with communal amnesia and the resulting loss of its peculiar identity as a baptised people.

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