F.W. Marquardt, Theological Audacities. Selected Essays, ed. by Andreas Pangritz & Paul Chung


Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt, Theological Audacities: Selected Essays, edited by Andreas Pangritz & Paul S. Chung; translated by Don McCord, H. Martin Rumscheidt, and Paul S. Chung, Princeton Theological Monograph Series (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2010), xiv + 264 p., $31.00 (ISBN 9781606089439).

Initially, Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt (1928-2002) became well-known by two studies in which he interpreted the (then already older and deceased, respectively) Karl Barth in such a way that he invited him, as it were, to cross the boundaries of his own theology: Die Entdeckung des Judentums für die christliche Theologie (1967) and Theologie und Sozialismus (1972). Both books provoked much criticism (‘Überinterpretation!’, was the reproach time and again), but at the same time they were both driven by a positive engagement: the first one by a warm sympathy for living Judaism, including the new Jewish state of Israel, which was exceptional for a German theologian (cf. Essay No. 5: “When Will You Restore Thy Kingdom for Israel?”), the second one by Marquardt’s intense connection with his leftist students as a Berlin pastor (cf. Essay No. 8: “The Idol Totters: The General Attack from the Epistle to the Romans”).

After his appointment in 1976 as successor of Helmut Gollwitzer to the Berlin chair (Free University), Marquardt paid much more attention to the implications of the first theme than to those of the other one: his Dogmatics in seven volumes is totally dominated by the question of thinking through Christian doctrine in such a way that Jews should no longer have any reason to fear it.

In that programme, Marquardt passed through many decisive turns. First, in the second half of the seventies, he was very much impressed by the discovery of the so-called Holocaust theology in especially the American Jewish community, vis-à-vis which he was ashamed that this had not come from the side of Christian theologians in Germany, and he was convinced that the latter had to take it as an occasion to rethink the whole foundation of their faith and their theology. Thereupon, in the eighties, he began to participate in a practice of reading Talmudic texts together with Jewish partners at the German ‘Kirchentag’ (cf. Essay No. 4: “Why the Talmud Interests me as a Christian”), a practice that invited him to take seriously the Halachic tradition in a way that was unusual for him, in view of his background in dialogue with more liberal voices such as of Martin Buber (cf. Essay No. 3: “Martin Buber as a Socialist Zionist”).

In the United States, the socialist Marquardt attracted attention in the seventies by the excellent anthology of George Hunsinger (Karl Barth and Radical Politics, Philadelphia: Westminster 1976), a resource which is not mentioned by Pangritz, if I am not mistaken). A Christian theology after the Shoah has actually been developed in that country, particularlynby Paul van Buren, who can be seen as compeer of Marquardt in many respects. Nevertheless, it may be regarded as very useful that now also texts of the German master himself are available for the English-speaking world.

The compiler, Andreas Pangritz, presently professor of Systematic (Protestant) Theology at the University of Bonn—the chair of Karl Barth in the early thirties!—and Director of the Ecumenical Institute at the same university, cooperated very closely with Marquardt. He unites both lines, the Judaist and the Socialist one (as we can also see in the congress minutes, edited by him, “Biblische Radikalitäten”. Judentum, Sozialismus und Recht in der Theologie Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardts, which appeared in the same year 2010 in Würzburg: Ergon). This conjunction is visible in the short biography of Marquardt (“A Theological-Biographical Sketch”), which is taken up at the end of this anthology, and which Pangritz wrote for a German publishing house (Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste, 2003), which is not very accessible, but an enterprise for which social engagement is characteristic. It is very visible in the division of the volume in two parts: I. The God of Israel and Christian Theology after the Shoah, and II. Attempts at Understanding Karl Barth—although one may doubt whether the inner connection of the two parts will be convincing to all readers.

The nine essays of this volume under review are not to be found in the extensive volumes of the Dogmatics, but chiefly in two volumes that accompany the Dogmatics, which contain shorter writings that appeared during Marquardt’s life. The first one, Verwegenheiten. Theologische Stücke aus Berlin (München: Chr. Kaiser 1981)—a title that corresponds with this present English anthology, Audacities,—appeared at the beginning of the project of his Dogmatics and can be read as a summary of the insights that were obtained so far. Impressive is the fundamental argument that the Jewish ‘No’ does not have to be understood as a defijiciency, but rather as a help that has to be taken very seriously by Christian theology (Essay No. 1: “Enemies for our Sake: The Jewish No and Christian Theology”). The second volume, Auf einem Schul-weg. Kleinere christlich-jüdische Lehreinheiten (Berlin: Orient & Okzident 1999) is edited by a group of theologians which were more or less Marquardt’s last students, and it is characterized more by a positive assessment of many aspects of Judaism than by criticism of current Christian theology.

Pangritz received important assistance for this English publication from H. Martin Rumscheidt, a nestor and attentive ally of Marquardt from the beginning, and from Paul Chung (St. Paul, Minnesota), who is a warrant for the efffort to save for present missiological contexts some of the intentions that lay behind former socialism.

Rinse Reeling Brouwer

Protestant Theological University (Netherlands)

About the author

R.H. Reeling Brouwer

Plaats een reactie