Barth: theses on church and state

Selected from Barth’s theses on church and state at the end of his 1928/1929 Münster lectures on ethics:

I.2. The church is not an order of creation. It is an order of grace relating to sin. It is not to be confused with ... the lost state of innocence. Nor, according to Revelation 21:22, will there any longer be a church in the consummation.

II.2. The state, too, is not an order of creation. Even more palpably than the church, it is an order of grace relating to sin. It is particularly an order of the patience of God which finds its limit and end in the eternal consummation. ...

II.5. As a human work, and therefore in all its reality, the state too, and even more palpably than the church, has a share in the corruption in which man, far from forgiving sin, with cunning and force pursues his own ends in the struggle for existence. The dignity of the individual state, and the respect that is owed and paid it, can for the following reasons be called service of the neighbor only in an improper sense:
    a. because each individual state ... orders the common life of man and man on the assumption that the right of each must be protected ...;

    b. because the decisive means of existence of each individual state in relation to its members ... is brute force;

    c. because each individual state ... is only one among others in relation to which it relies more or less on the right of might to maintain its existence. ...
III.2. There is no equality of rank between church and state but a superiority in favor of the church. ... The temple is prior to the home and above it. State and church coinhere. ...

III.4. The church, to the extent that it acts as such, renounces not only the appeal to the individual instinct of self-preservation and the assertion of the distinction between right and wrong, and not only the use of external compulsion within or force without, but fundamentally also the setting up and upholding of any rigid rule of law. ...

III.6. The church acknowledges and promotes the state insofar as service of the neighbor, which is the purpose of the state, is necessarily included in its own message of reconciliation and is thus its own concern. ...

III.8. The state for its part cannot be tied in principle to any specific form of the church.

—Karl Barth, “Theses on Church and State,” Ethics, trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (New York: The Seabury Press, 1981), 517-521.

Comments

Freder1ck said…
Wow! This is pretty amazing, although I think the antipathy to establishing law is a bit much... Fred