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Our God Loves Justice

Our God Loves Justice: An Introduction to Helmut Gollwitzer

Author: 
W. Travis McMaken (Author)
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Description

Helmut Gollwitzer was a direct heir of the theological legacy of the great Protestant theologian Karl Barth. Yet, Gollwitzer’s work is perhaps least appreciated and studied, especially in English, of all of Barth’s immediate “descendants.” A Protestant theologian and member of the Confessing Church movement in World War II–era Germany, Gollwitzer studied under Karl Barth at the Universities of Bonn and Basle and was professor of Protestant theology at the University of Berlin. Deeply influenced by his mentor, Gollwitzer appropriated the methodological principles of Barth’s theology and developed in new and particularly contextual directions one of Barth’s most penetrating constructive insights in the doctrine of God. At the same time, Gollwitzer, more than any of Barth’s other interpreters, embraced and extended the sociopolitical impulses and implications within Barth’s theology. In this, Gollwitzer embodies a salient alternative for theological and political discourse, one especially needed in the American context of increasingly intertwined theological and political discourses. This volume, the first book-length study of Gollwitzer available in English, provides a helpful introduction to the life, theology, and political thought of this crucial theologian and public intellectual and makes clear Gollwitzer’s importance to the North American context.

ISBN: 
9781451482744
Price: 
$29.00
ISBN: 
9781506438528
Price: 
$29.00
Release date: 
November 1, 2017
Pages: 
240
Width: 
6
Height: 
9

Contents

1. Reading Helmut Gollwitzer in America

2. Grace upon Grace: Helmut Gollwitzer’s Life and Work

3. Gollwitzer’s Political Theology

4. Gollwitzer’s Theological Politics

5. Church and Confession

Appendix 1: Helmut Gollwitzer, “Must a Christian Be a Socialist?” (1972)

Appendix 2: Helmut Gollwitzer, “Why Am I, as a Christian, a Socialist? Theses” (1980)

Bibliography

Index

Reviews

Article in a recent Sojourners article where W. Travis McMaken discusses "Our God Loves Justice" and Helmut Gollwitzer's opposition to nuclear war.
Review in The Theology Corner
Review by Stephen D. Morrison

Endorsements

This is a must read for anyone interested in the intersection of theology and public life.

"This book could not be more timely. Helmut Gollwitzer's brilliant reflections on Christianity's implications for a world in crisis have been forgotten. In recovering Gollwitzer's life and witness, McMaken intervenes deftly into our own moment, offering contemporary believers an array of provocative insights into the most faithful way forward. This is a must read for anyone interested in the intersection of theology and public life."

Heath W. Carter | Valparaiso University

McMaken’s book is a must-read for anyone looking for allies and resources for a thoroughly theological political theology.

"In this timely work, McMaken revitalizes Helmut Gollwitzer’s theology for the North American context as an intervention in the alliance between the church and capitalism. He uncovers the politically liberative character of a theology that refuses to objectify God and draws on Gollwitzer's ecumenical socialism in order to call for taking the status confessionis within an idolatrous socioeconomic order. McMaken’s book is a must-read for anyone looking for allies and resources for a thoroughly theological political theology."

Hanna Reichel | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

McMaken’s lucid study of Gollwitzer’s life and work asks whether we have in fact registered the revolutionary power of justifying grace and the advent of the Kingdom of God.

"Helmut Gollwitzer’s provocative theological vision was forged amidst some of the most extraordinary events of the 20th century in Europe. His commitment to thinking the incomparable freedom, justice, and love of the God of the gospel made the radical politics of Christian living his inescapable concern. McMaken’s lucid study of Gollwitzer’s life and work asks whether we have in fact registered the revolutionary power of justifying grace and the advent of the Kingdom of God in our world of continuing alienation, exploitation and violence. If not now, then when?"

Philip G. Ziegler | University of Aberdeen

One of the most critical questions that Gollwitzer and McMaken pose for Christians today is whether they can continue to support capitalism and all the damage that it is doing to humanity and the earth.

"That a theologian might have been 'a socialist precisely because he was a Christian' has the potential to start a major conversation in the United States. Thanks to Travis McMaken, American readers can now gain a sense of the profound quality of this connection as embodied in the work of a theologian who is still relatively unknown on this side of the Atlantic. One of the most critical questions that Gollwitzer and McMaken pose for Christians today is whether they can continue to support capitalism and all the damage that it is doing to humanity and the earth."

Joerg Rieger | Vanderbilt University

This is a challenging and hopeful book that answers the questions my students are asking!

"Those who stand on the sidelines and proclaim what is wrong with white, Protestant Christianity in America today are a dime a dozen. W. Travis McMaken does something different and better. In this book, he introduces the highly influential yet sadly forgotten Protestant figure of Helmut Gollwitzer and makes a compelling case for why we must recover Gollwitzer’s dialectical and political theology now. The gift of this book is the wise and patient way it facilitates critical reflection on precisely why and how the church must participate in God’s radical kingdom work of transforming the social and political structures of our world. This is a challenging and hopeful book that answers the questions my students are asking!"

Shannon N. Smythe | Seattle Pacific University

Travis McMaken's succinct and profound introduction is the book we have been waiting for.

"The legacy of Christianity's acquiescence to, even endorsement of, the status quo, due in large part to the pernicious doctrine of the church’s apolitical spirituality, manifests itself in the church's lack of protest against a rapidly growing inequality. Those who do resist tend to bifurcate the political and the theological: many protesting Christians separate the earthly and heavenly cities and advocate a retreat into the alternative polis of the church; many of those who protest in the political sphere see religion as a significant reason we are in this mess in the first place and rely on contemporary political philosophy to find a solution. Helmut Gollwitzer shows us another way: a radical socialist politics rooted in the Christian tradition that does not abandon society but advocates for public justice and social transformation. The church today needs to learn from the courageous witness of Helmut Gollwitzer, and Travis McMaken's succinct and profound introduction to his thought is the book we have been waiting for."

David W. Congdon | University Press of Kansas

There is simply no better introduction to Helmut Gollwitzer.

"In this well researched and lively essay, Travis McMaken makes a strong case for why there can be no proper Christian theology that is apolitical, for why the gospel and capitalism are antithetical to one another, and for why the kind of democratic socialism championed by Helmut Gollwitzer represents a faithful and theologically-responsible embodiment of the gospel’s revolutionary orientation. There is simply no better introduction to this 'largely forgotten' and 'irregular' theologian’s life and work than this very timely book."

Jason Goroncy | Whitley College

Theology and church have much to learn from Gollwitzer today, and this book is an excellent place to begin.

"Helmut Gollwitzer was one of Karl Barth's very best students, and Barth tapped him to be his successor in Basel. In the Nazi period, he had stood up courageously against Hitler—along with Niemoeller and Bonhoeffer—for Christ and the gospel. After the war, he emerged as an outspoken voice in Berlin against anti-Semitism and for justice and peace. He was denied Barth’s chair, largely because of his radical politics, but he went on to become a powerful forerunner of liberation theologies in a Barthian key. Theology and church have much to learn from Gollwitzer today, and this book is an excellent place to begin."

George Hunsinger | Princeton Theological Seminary

What makes this book truly distinctive is its broader concern to show the deep, vital, and abiding consonance between theological reflection and socialist politics.

"In Our God Loves Justice, McMaken offers a compact and accessible introduction to Helmut Gollwitzer—an achievement in itself, and one that will be gratefully received in various quarters. Yet what makes this book truly distinctive is its broader concern to show the deep, vital, and abiding consonance between theological reflection and socialist politics, and the insistence that this consonance has profound importance for our troubled times. "

Paul Dafydd Jones | University of Virginia

This book is both deeply relevant and highly provocative.

"In this lucid volume, W. Travis McMaken does English-speaking readers of theology not one but two great services. First, he offers an illuminating and insightful sketch of the life and work of Helmut Gollwitzer, one of the most important yet seldom studied European Protestant theologians of the twentieth century. And second, he indicates why the venture of shedding light on the theology and politics of this particular thinker may bear crucial significance for Christians and churches in the present day. This book is both deeply relevant and highly provocative, posing a theological and political challenge that will encourage and unsettle in equal measure. Warmly recommended."

Paul T. Nimmo | University of Aberdeen

McMaken discovers Gollwitzer’s contextual theology, and especially his theological criticism of capitalism, as 'an instructive example of how the church might respond to the challenges' of the present situation.

"Helmut Gollwitzer, close disciple of Karl Barth, was one of the most influential political theologians in Germany in the second half of the 20th century. Against the backdrop of the ongoing crisis of world economy, McMaken discovers Gollwitzer’s contextual theology, and especially his theological criticism of capitalism, as 'an instructive example of how the church might respond to the challenges' of the present situation. Perhaps, Gollwitzer’s socialist inclinations, based on the concept of 'love in structures,' are more current today than ever before—especially in the United States. In face of 'the unholy alliance between capitalism, religion, and patriotism' there, as McMaken puts it, the author’s view may elicit controversial discussions. However, these discussions are urgent, necessary, and not without hope, because—in Gollwitzer’s words—'the wholly other God wants a wholly other society.'"

Andreas Pangritz | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn