“For the Freedom of the Gospel”

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Barth responded to Hitler’s assumption of power by demonstratively stepping up his theological work: He increased his weekly workload at the University of Bonn to fourteen hours of teaching. He found it imperative that precisely now only entirely earnest theological work could be a meaningful activity. Rather than giving way to the superior power of politics, this meant continuing to work on the Word of God steadfastly.

With his theological work, he denied National Socialism’s claim to totality in every respect and stressed the primacy of Protestant freedom. This was the sense in which he understood his sensational treatise “Theologische Existenz heute!”, which warned against every misuse of theology by principally political interests.

Barth therefore also disapproved of the Young Reformation Movement’s formation of its own list of candidates to run against the German Christians in the church elections Hitler had set for July. Both sides, he thought, were misusing the Gospel in a political struggle instead of continuing to preach the Gospel steadfastly.

At first glance, the poster pictured here appears to be inconsistent with this line of thought: Barth announced a public lecture scheduled deliberately on the eve of the church elections, July 22, 1933.

Rather than having allowed himself to be roped in politically at the last minute, he was logically pursuing the course he followed in his lecture: For the sake of the freedom of the Gospel, he said, one cannot cast one’s vote for these two lists of candidates, namely neither for the German Christians nor for their opponents, the list of candidates of “Gospel and Church!”. Both were too far right for the Social Democrat, both were similarly removed from genuine theological life (Theologische Existenz).

He was therefore running on a third list of candidates, “For the Freedom of the Gospel”, which had formed at short notice and did not aspire to an ecclesio-political compromise, but rather intended to make the Gospel’s significance in doctrine and life to limit the state the standard. This list of candidates actually received ten percent of the vote in Bonn. Barth was elected to his congregation’s church council.

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  • © Reproduction German Resistance Memorial Center(5090)

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