Barmen Declaration, The. Arthur Cochrane, trans., in: The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, vol.I, ed. Julius Bodensieck; (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1965), pp. 190-94. The joint statement of the German Evangelical Church (Lutheran, Reformed, and United) pastors who met in Barmen (today part of Wuppertal), Germany, May 29-31, 1934, in resistance against Hitler and the attempt of the Nazi 'German Christians' to conform the church to the state. Art. 2 concludes: "We reject the false doctrine as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords" (p. 192). In 1935 the "confessing church" called Dietrich Bonhoeffer as director of its seminary at Finkenwalde (See 'Bonhoeffer,' below). The Declaration was drafted by Karl Barth, Hans Asmussen, et al.
Barna, George. The Frog in the Kettle: What Christians Need to Know About Life in the Year 2000 (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1990); Without a Vision, the People Perish (Glendale, CA.: Barna Research, 1991); What Americans Believe (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1991); The Barna Report 1994-95:Virtual America (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1994). The founder and president of the Barna Research Group, Barna seeks to serve the evangelistic outreach of the church through a better understanding of the culture and its effect upon the church. One of his most disturbing discoveries is the increasing percentage both of the general population and of evangelical Christians who believe "there is no such thing as absolute truth." In 1991 the percentages were 66% and 53%, respectively. By 1994 the percentages had climbed to 71% and 62%. The younger the respondents, the more likely they have been to deny the notion of absolute truth.
In Frog in the Kettle Barna warns that "most Christians do not perceive the church to be in the midst of the most severe struggle it has faced in centuries" (p. 123); and concludes that: "A glaring weakness within today's Church is the lack of widespread relationships within, and the divisions between churches, denominations and parachurch ministries." He exhorts Christians from different backgrounds to "put aside their differences, find their areas of commonality, and develop an agenda for powerful cooperative ministry within America…dedicated to restoring the Christian character of American society" (p. 227).
Barth, Karl. The Humanity of God (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1960). Barth (1886-1968), the Swiss Reformed pastor who first became famous for Der Romerbrief, a commentary on Romans published in 1919, is widely considered the most influential Protestant theologian of this century. He was the primary formulator of the Barmen Declaration, the statement of the Confessing Church in opposition to Hitler's National Socialism, in 1934. He taught as a prof. of theology at Basle from 1935-1962, and devoted his career to the development of his monumental Church Dogmatics, One of Barth's central themes was the Transcendence of God, and the futility of human reason to understand Him. Barth opposed all attempts to accommodate the church to culture, calling instead for a proclamation of the gospel on its own terms, in its native power and uniqueness. In a famous debate with Emil Brunner in the 1930s, Barth argued that since the Fall, the image of God has been completely lost, and there is no longer any "point of contact" between man and God. There is no place for "natural theology," and man is totally dependent upon God's revelation.
In The Humanity of God Barth explains his view of how Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and other liberals went too far in accommodating the Christian message to culture: (1) Their "openness to the world" led to a "loss of zeal" for the gospel; (2) They "ascribed normative character to the ideas of [their] environment [culture];" (3) Then "fatal errors blew in, were admitted, and made themselves at home" (p. 19). Barth testifies both to the sinfulness surrounding all human endeavors, including those of the 'highest culture,' but also to the goodness of creation: "Certainly culture testifies clearly in history and in the present to the fact that man is not good but rather a downright monster. But even if one were in this respect the most melancholy skeptic, one could not—say that culture speaks only of the evil in man. What is culture in itself except the attempt of man to be man and thus to hold the good gift of his humanity in honor and to put it to work?" (p. 54).
Bauman, Zygmunt. Modernity and the Holocaust (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989). In A Passion for Truth, A. McGrath cites this as a source for interpreting postmodernism as a reaction to "the trauma of the Holocaust," which shattered "the pretensions and delusions of modernity" (p. 180).
Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death (New York, NY: The Free Press, 1973). Becker (1924-1974), a professor in the department of political science, sociology and anthropology at Simon Fraser U. in Canada, won the Pulitzer Prize for this book in 1974. His thesis was that man's innate fear of death is the principal motivation of human activity, and that this fact raises questions which science cannot answer. He builds on the work of Otto Rank, "in the tradition of Pascal, Kierkegaard, and Chesterton," and argues that: "religion solves the problem of death" by offering "the possibility of victory" and by solving "the problem of human dignity" (p. 203). "Finally, religion alone gives hope, because it holds open the dimension of the unknown and the unknowable, the fantastic mystery of creation…--and in doing so, it relieves the absurdity of earthly life…" (pp. 203-204).
Bellah, Robert N., et al. Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditional World (New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1970); Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, rev. ed. (Berkeley, CA: U. California Press, 1985, 1996). Dr. Bellah is a prof. of sociology at U. California, Berkeley. He and his fellow sociologists have analyzed postmodern American culture from the perspective of an unrestrained "individualism" which they fear: "may have grown cancerous," and "may be threatening the survival of freedom itself" (p. xlii). Inspired by the enduring insights of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, and borrowing his term, "habits of the heart," the authors investigate those voluntary habits of character which develop through religious conviction, and which form the basis for a political community.
Bellah and his colleagues prescribe a return to our cultural roots in order to rebuild community: "individualism alone does not allow persons to understand their… interdependence with others…[There-fore] Americans have turned to other cultural traditions, particularly… the biblical and civic republican understandings of life. These two traditions have served the nation well when united action to address common problems has been called for" (p. ix). This does not mean a rejection of individualism: "American individualism is not to be rejected but [spiritually] transformed by reconnecting it to the public realm" (p. 248). They assert that: "The tension between private interest and the public good is never completely resolved in any society. But in a free republic, it is the task of the citizen, whether ruler or ruled, to cultivate civic virtue in order to mitigate the tension and render it manageable" (p. 270). In conclusion they warn that the American emphasis upon economic interests may lead to totalitarian control: "when economics is the main model for our common life, we are more and more tempted to put ourselves in the hands of the manager and the expert. If society is shattered into as many special interests as there are individuals, then, as Tocqueville foresaw, there is only the schoolmaster state left to take care of us and keep us from one another's throats" (p. 271).
Benko, Stephen. Pagan Rome and the Early Christians (Bloomington, IN.: Indiana University Press, 1984). There may be some significant parallels between the attitude of Rome to the early Christians, and that of America toward Christians today. Professor of History at CSU, Fresno, Benko argues that Christians were persecuted by a pluralistic and otherwise tolerant Roman Empire because they posed a real threat to "the prevailing social order" (pp. 4, 12). "The real objection against Christianity for the pagans was not that the Christians were monotheists…but that they made doctrinal statements concerning divine matters. This is the point at which [the emperor] really draws the line. He calls the claim of the Christians to exclusive possession of the truth 'arrogant and irresponsible' behavior" (p. 58).
Bennett, William J. The Index of Leading Cultural Indicators (Washington, D.C.: The Heritage Foundation, 1993); The De-Valuing of America: The fight for our culture and our children (Colorado Springs, CO.: Focus on the Family, 1992). Bennett, former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, U.S. Secretary of Education, and Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, holds a doctorate in political philosophy from the U. Texas and a law degree from Harvard. The 'Index' attempts to serve as "an assessment of the moral, social, and behavioral condition of modern American society" by analyzing statistics for "19 social indicators" from 1960-1990. Bennett found: "a 560 percent increase in violent crime; more than a 400 percent increase in illegitimate births; a quadrupling in divorce rates; a tripling of the percentage of children living in single-parent homes; more than a 200 percent increase in the teenage suicide rate; and a drop of almost 80 points in the S.A.T. scores" (p. i). In the second book Bennett contends that a "liberal elite" in the media and in academia has undermined reason and virtue, and that "conservatives" have a moral duty to get involved. But he warns against "cynicism" and "fretfulness," and calls for an "operational optimism," based on the principle that: "It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness" (p. 260).
Berger, Peter. The Sacred Canopy: Elements in the Sociology of Religion (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969); Invitation to Sociology (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963); The Homeless Mind: Modernization and Consciousness (New York: Vintage, 1973); A Far Glory: The Quest for Faith in an Age of Credulity (New York: The Free Press, 1992). Berger, an evangelical Christian sociologist, warned in The Sacred Canopy that the church faces a "plausibility crisis" when it no longer functions as a distinct, visible, alternative community in society. The reason is that the "truth" of the Christian proclamation only makes sense in the alternative social structure of relationships in which that truth is lived out and "actualized" (pp. 127-153).
In A Far Glory Berger warned about the futility of liberalism's attempt to accommodate the Christian faith to a relativistic pluralist culture: "The various efforts by Christians to accommodate to the wisdom of the world in this situation becomes a difficult, frantic and more than a little ridiculous affair. Each time that one has, after an enormous effort, managed to adjust the faith to the prevailing culture, that culture turns around and changes…" (p. 10). He continued: "The wisdom of the world today always has a sociological address. In consequence, every accommodation to it on the part of Christians will be 'relevant' in one very specific social setting (usually determined by class), and 'irrelevant' in another" (p. 12). Jim Leffel, another evangelical scholar, writing in The Death of Truth, ed. by Dennis McCallum, identifies Berger as a "postmodern" based on Berger's "sociology of knowledge," i.e. his belief that people and their thinking are the product of culture. Leffel cites the following passage from Berger's Invitation (p. 117): "A thought of any kind is grounded in society… The individual, then, derives his worldview socially in very much the same way that he derives his roles and his identity. In other words, his emotions and his self-interpretation like his actions are predefined for him by society, and so is his cognitive approach to the universe that surrounds him" (p. 34).
Blankenhorn, David. Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem. (New York: Harper Collins, 1995). Founder and president of the Institute for American Values, Blankenhorn reports: "Tonight, about 40 percent of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live. Before they reach the age of eighteen, more than half of our nation’s children are likely to spend at least a significant portion of their childhoods living apart from their fathers" (p. 1). The "disaster," he says, is the breakdown of "collective well-being" in an increasing "me-first egotism that is hostile … to any societal goal or larger moral purpose" (p. 4). Blankenhorn concludes that: "every child deserves a father and unwed childrearing is wrong" (p. 232), and calls for a renewed social vision and commitment to fathers as providers and protectors.
Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students. (New York: Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 1987). Late professor of Philosophy and Social Thought at the University of Chicago, Bloom asserted that: "all primary education for more than fifty years has dedicated itself to inculcating…relativism" (p. 26), and asked: "But when there are no shared goals or vision of the public good, is the social contract any longer possible?" (p. 27). He lamented the loss of the Bible in American culture: "In the U.S., practically speaking, the Bible was the only common culture…the very model for a vision of the order of the whole of things, as well as the key to the rest of Western art" (p. 58). In the "spiritual void," Bloom asserted that "rock music" had become "the youth culture" (p. 75), and divorce "America's most urgent social problem" (p. 119).
At the heart of things Bloom found a "moral revolution" in the "value relativism" and "nihilism" deriving from Nietzsche's "death of God" and the denial of moral absolutes, as propagated by Sigmund Freud and Max Weber (pp. 141-149). He agreed with Alexis de Tocqueville that: "The great democratic danger…is [an] enslavement to public opinion" which disdains tradition and destroys truth (pp. 246-247). Bloom concludes by remembering the Athenians "came together and told wonderful stories about the meaning of their longing," and by calling for a similar community today: "the real community… the community of those who seek the truth" (pp. 381-382).
Bloom, Harold. The American Religion (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). A renowned literary critic, prof. of humanities at Yale U. and prof. of English at N.Y.U., Dr. Bloom identifies himself as "an unbelieving Jew of strong Gnostic tendencies" (p. 30); "a Gnostic without hope…[who is] fascinated by the American Gnosis that will not abandon hope" (p. 257). Bloom finds the essence of the American Religion in Gnosticism, a mystical knowledge of God, an experiential emphasis upon individual knowledge of the God within one's deepest self. He detects the origin of American religion in the camp revival at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in 1801, but finds the same emphasis in the LDS and Southern Baptists: "Mormons and Southern Baptists call themselves Christians, but like most Americans they are closer to ancient Gnostics than to early Christians" (p. 22). Later Bloom concludes: "What I find crucial here is the emergence of a pragmatic, experiential faith that called itself Christianity while possessing features very unlike European or earlier American doctrinal formulations" (p. 64); "The conversion from death to life was purely emotional and individual; it seemed always to exclude a social dimension… What was missing in all this quite private luminosity was simply most of historic Christianity… Hidden in this process is a sense that depravity is only a lack of saving knowledge" (p. 65).
Bloom's study may be compared with Will Herberg's classic, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, since both works conclude that much of American religion is pervaded with "self-idolatry" (p. 43). However, for the gnostic Bloom, following in the path of Ralph Waldo Emerson (pp. 22-25; 259-260), self-worship is not a bad thing: "I hasten to add that I am celebrating, not deploring, when I make [this] observation" (p. 65); cf.: "The God of the American Religion is an experiential God, so radically within our own being as to become a virtual identity with what is most authentic…in the self" (p. 259). Bloom states that "much of what this book describes can be found also in Americanized Catholicism and Judaism, as well as in most mainline Protestantism," and concludes: "much of American religiosity clearly lacks spiritual content" (p. 258); "we think we are Christian, but we are not" (p. 37); "we are post-Protestant, and we live a persuasive redefinition of Christianity… A blend of ancient heresies and 19th c. stresses, the Amer. Religion moves towards the 21st c. with an unrestrained triumphalism, easily convertible into our political vagaries" (p. 45).
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship, rev. ed.; trans. R.H. Fuller (New York: Macmillan, 1937/1963); Life Together, trans. John Doberstein (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1938/1954). Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a Lutheran pastor, theologian, and author, was active in the Confessing Synod of Barmen and in the resistance (Abwehr) which attempted to assassinate Hitler. He also helped to smuggle Jews into Switzerland. This led to his imprisonment and execution. These two books were written while he directed an underground seminary in Germany after his teaching privileges were annulled by the Nazis in 1936.
In The Cost of Discipleship, first published in 1937, he warned against "cheap grace," which he defined as: "the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…grace without discipleship" (p. 47). He exhorted Christians to live out their "secular calling" as "strangers and aliens in a foreign land," seeking to "overcome evil with good," and guarding both against "revolution" and "false submission" (pp. 292-303). "Above all, [true Christians] pray for all in authority, for that is their greatest service" (p. 303). There are some ominous passages in The Cost of Discipleship in which Bonhoeffer reflects on the final terminus of the spiritual war: "The older the world grows, the more heated becomes the conflict between Christ and Antichrist, and the more thorough the efforts of the world to get rid of the Christians…When the Christian community has been deprived of its last inch of space on the earth, the end will be near" (pp. 299-300).
Bonhoeffer emphasized the life of Christians "in community." In his doctoral dissertation, Sanctorum Communio, finished in 1927, he had asserted: "the church is Christ existing in his community." However, he also warned against isolation from the world of unbelief. In Life Together he warned: "It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies… So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work" (p. 17).
As a pacifist who believed that violence was morally indefensible, Bonhoeffer also believed that inaction in the face of the concentration camps was spiritually suicidal. Early in the war he concluded: "The Christians in Germany will face the terrible alternative of either willing the defeat of their nation in order that Christian civilization may survive, or willing the victory of their nation and thereby destroying our civilization. I know which of these alternatives I must choose." In July, 1939, five weeks after his friends had arranged to bring him back to the U.S., Bonhoeffer returned to Germany. "I will have no right to participate in the reconstruction after the war," he said, "if I do not share the trials of this time with my people."
Borg, Marcus J. Jesus: A New Vision: Spirit, Culture, and the Life of Discipleship (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987); Conflict, Holiness and Politics in the Teaching of Jesus (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1984). An assoc. prof. of religious studies at Oregon State U. and an active participant in the Jesus Seminar, Borg does identify himself as a Christian, and testifies to a pilgrimage or "journey" in his life, from "unbelief" to "the birth of belief, still embryonic but growing." In Jesus: A New Vision his thesis has two parts: first, the essential "cultural significance" of Jesus in the past; second, the continuing cultural significance of Jesus today. He begins: "The historical Jesus is of interest for many reasons. Not least of these is his towering cultural significance in the nearly 2,000 years since his death… for over a 1000 years…he dominated the culture of the West: its religion and devotion, its art, music, and architecture, its intellectual thought and ethical norms, even its politics" (p. 1).
For Borg, the heart of Jesus' message was a call away from self-centeredness to God-centeredness and "life in the Spirit," which "does not simply draw one away from culture… it creates a new community, an alternative community or alternative culture" (p. 194). Borg asserts that Jesus "issued a call for a relationship with God that would lead to a new ethos and thus to a new politics… [not] organized around the security of the self and its world…[but] grounded in Spirit" (pp. 183-84). Borg concludes: "We as Christians are called to become the church in a culture whose values are largely alien to the Christian message, to be once again the church of the catacombs" (p. 200).
Bork, Robert H. Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline. (New York: Regan Books/Harper Collins, 1996). Bork (b. 1927), a professor of law at Yale 1962-1973 and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge 1982-1987, was denied Senate confirmation in his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1987. In this compelling volume he contends that "rootless hedonism and unconfined individualism" can only be held in check by the benevolent constraints of "religion, morality, law, hard work, and the fear of want" (p. 8). He asserts that as American culture continues to reject religious authority and common moral principles, the existence of our democratic society is at stake: "Despotism may govern without faith, but liberty cannot" (p. 272).
Bork contends that: "The strongest force seeking to destroy traditional religions is feminism," and that: "If religion is being altered internally by the forces of feminism and left-wing ideology, it is simultaneously being marginalized in our public life by the hostility of the intellectual class…the federal judiciary…and the national press…" (pp. 288-89). Bork warns that: "Multiculturalism is barbarism, and it is bringing us to a barbarous epoch" (p. 313). He envisions four scenarios which could reverse this dissolution: "religious revival; the revival of public discourse about morality; a cataclysmic war; or a deep economic depression" (p. 336).
Bruce, Steve. The Rise and Fall of the New Christian Right (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988); A House Divided: Protestantism, Schism, and Secularization (London: Routledge, 1990).
Budziszewski, J. Written on the Heart: The Case of Natural Law (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 1997). Associate prof. in the departments of government and philosophy at the U. Texas, Dr. Budziszewski makes a persuasive contemporary argument for the classical understanding of natural law as that form of general revelation which is called "the law of conscience, written on the heart, which, like the law of Moses, tells us what sin is but does not give us power to escape it (Romans 2:14-15)" (pp. 180-181). He presents the current study as a work of "political philosophy" (p. 15), which is basically supportive of St. Thomas and of C.S. Lewis's "amateur" interpretation of St. Thomas in The Abolition of Man (pp. 190-192).
Of particular interest is the author's persuasive treatment of objections to natural law. He argues that conscience applies universally only to the most basic and fundamental principles such as "Good should be pursued and evil avoided" and "Love your neighbor" (pp. 61-62). Moral truths derived from these basic precepts are subject both to exceptions in unique situations requiring careful judgment (p. 62), and also to perversion, when conscience is corrupted by " passion, evil habit, evil disposition, vicious custom, or evil persuasion" (pp. 72-73). The relevance of natural law in the postmodern context is explained both as a bridge for communicating with unbelievers in the area of "apologetics" (p. 184), and as a Biblically based perspective for ethics, since unlike "most modern ethical thinking… natural law theory assumes that the problem is [not cognitive but] mainly volitional" (p. 185).
In this regard, Budziszewski finds postmodern man to be in solidarity with pre-modern man, since the whole human race lives in the "psychological condition of 'denial'" of our accountability to God (pp. 183-185). It is the result of "original sin" that: "We do no want God to be God; each of us wants to be his own little god" (p. 69). Nevertheless, the author finds a unique role for natural law in the postmodern context, for two reasons. First, he finds postmodern man to represent "the new sort of pagan" who disbelieves in conscience: "with a head filled with false sophistication that tells him that right and wrong are invented by culture and are different everywhere, the new sort of pagan mistrusts his own conscience… [Consequently] speaking with the new sort of pagan is much harder than speaking with the old… Not only that, the false sophistication that bewitches him has wormed its way into certain parts of the church itself" (p. 181; cf. pp. 174-175). Second, he finds postmodern political philosophy in serious trouble, with the breakdown of the traditional tension between "the cult of the individual and the cult of the state." "We can no longer rely on a balance of errors," he concludes: "From now on, nothing less than truth will suffice" (p. 195).
Burtness, James. Shaping the Future: The Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985). A professor of systematic theology at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN., Dr. Burtness asserts the relevance of Bonhoeffer for the church today. Bonhoeffer's vision of the church compelled involvement in the world, and guarded against isolation or escape. In this, Burtness says, Bonhoeffer shared the vision of the early church: "The early Christians, living in the light of the apocalypse of Messiah's coming, considered perfection versus imperfection under the categories of time [as opposed to space]. The Jewish and Christian hope is not for the flight of the soul, at death, to an invisible world of eternal reality. It is instead eschatological, looking not so much 'above' in space as 'ahead' in time, when God's new heaven and new earth will be realized in their fullness" (p. 185). In A Peculiar People R. Clapp cites this source as a "crystalliz[ing]" influence upon his own views (p. 246, n. 16).