According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Monday, March 30, 2015

Remembering an All-But-Forgotten, Extremely Influential Theologian: Christoph Blumhardt


Remembering an All-But-Forgotten, Extremely
Influential Theologian: Christoph Blumhardt

by Roger Olson
March 29, 2015

Much to their credit, a few historical theologians are trying to revive memory of German theologian-evangelist Christoph Blumhardt. My friend and co-author Christian Collins Winn (Bethel College, MN) is one of them. (He and I collaborated on our recently published book Reclaiming Pietism: Retrieving an Evangelical Tradition [Eerdmans, 2015].) In my opinion, however, Blumhardt is one of those great Christian thinkers and leaders who has been pushed to the deep background and only remembered (vaguely) by some as an influence on Karl Barth’s theology. However, even some books about Barth and his theology neglect to mention Blumhardt who deserves much more credit for helping launch theological renewal in the twentieth century.

Christoph (1842-1919) would consider it a disservice to himself not to mention his father Johann (1805-1880). The father was catapulted to fame in Germany and the Christian world by the story of his months-long exorcism of a demonic spirit possessing a young woman. Johann was a fairly ordinary Lutheran pastor in Southwestern Germany when she was brought to him by a friend. He did not consider himself an exorcist and had hardly given a thought to the subject of demon-possession but discerned that this young woman’s problem was supernatural. He was reluctant to engage in exorcism but agreed to pray for her. Eventually the demonic spirit left her and she was miraculously freed from spiritual bondage to evil. The elder Blumhardt went on to found a Christian retreat center for spiritual counseling, prayer and healing that became famous not only in Germany but also in Great Britain and America.

Christoph grew up in that atmosphere under the influence of his famous father and eventually took over his father’s ministry moving the retreat center to Bad Boll. It still exists although much changed. Now it is an ecumenical center for peace studies.

Christoph Blumhardt was a phenomenon in his own lifetime, much revered and criticized. He refused to fit into any traditional religious category and eventually surrendered his ministerial credentials in the state church under tremendous pressure from the tradition-bound hierarchy. Christoph was, like his father, a renowned exorcist and “faith healer.” (I prefer the term “divine healing evangelist” because in that tradition it is God who heals, not the person who prays. “Faith healing” is a journalistic term that does not do justice to that tradition’s beliefs.) People came from all over the world to Bad Boll to meet Blumhardt, hear him preach, receive spiritual counseling and advice from him and to be prayed for. He was widely regarded especially in Germany as a prophet, evangelist and political activist.

Blumhardt (from here on when I use that name I mean Christoph) picked up his personal motto from his father: “Jesus is victor!” This was the prophetic phrase declared by a woman present at the end of the famous exorcism carried out by his father over months. Blumhardt believed and taught that the future Kingdom of God is breaking into history through Jesus and the church. He believed and taught that miracles ought to be expected signs of this presence of the future. But he also believed socialism is the social order of the Kingdom of God and that Christians ought to model socialism in the church and state. He joined the Socialist party and became a member of parliament for a few years. He was also a universalist and pacifist. He believed that “Jesus is victor!” also means that God’s coming Kingdom through Jesus will eventually be all inclusive.

Barth gave Blumhardt credit for influencing his theology and social views. But Barth was not alone in being strongly influenced by Blumhardt. Scholars writing about Jürgen Moltmann almost always refer to two major influences on his thought—Barth and Bloch (Ernst). However, Moltmann himself credits Blumhardt with being the single most influential person on the development and direction of his theology. (See “The Hope for the Kingdom of God and Signs of Hope in the World: The Relevance of Blumhardt’s Theology Today” in Pneuma 26/1 (Spring, 2004). Donald G. Bloesch used Blumhardt’s motto “Jesus is Lord!” as the title of his little book on Barth’s theology and referred to Blumhardt many times in his writings.

My long time readers will already know how influenced I am by theologian Emil Brunner on whose Dogmatics I cut my “theological teeth” in seminary. Brunner dedicated Volume 3 of Dogmatics (The Christian Doctrine of the Church, Faith, and the Consummation) to Blumhardt: “This book is dedicated to Christoph Blumhardt. It was he, the prophetic witness to Jesus, who in the days of my youth by direct personal contact and, later, through men like Kutter and Ragaz, rooted me deep in the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit. I have always loved and honoured him as one of those in whom the divine light shone forth, and in gratitude I regard my theological work as the harvest of his sowing.”

What did Barth, Bloesch, Brunner and Moltmann have in common that they might have inherited from Blumhardt? The answer is obvious: their Christological concentration. But it is better expressed as their “concentration on Jesus.” Some people talk endlessly about “Christ” but rarely mention “Jesus.” The difference may seem subtle, but it’s not to a true Pietist. One can believe in and talk about “Christ” as (for example) “the New Being that appeared in Jesus” while pushing the living Jesus, our contemporary (as Kierkegaard put it), to the background. Blumhardt believed Jesus is alive and busy wherever God’s people invite and allow him to be busy—bringing in the Kingdom on earth among us. Barth, Bloesch, Brunner and Moltmann all developed Christocentric or “Jesus-centered” theologies that, like Blumhardt’s theology, were infused with Pietism without Quietism. (Yes, I know Barth was highly critical of Pietism, but I am convinced his critiques of Pietism were aimed at a particular German expression of Pietism in his time and place and not at Pietism in general. He was very appreciative of Zinzendorf, for example, calling him a modern father of the church.)

All four of those theologians drew from Blumhardt their Jesus-centered hermeneutic of Scripture that relativized the Bible as witness to revelation with “revelation” being Jesus. Brunner’s “I-Thou encounter” is usually traced back (as a concept) to Martin Buber and Ferdinand Ebner, but I recognize it as just as much or more influenced by Blumhardt. When I first encountered Brunner in seminary I detected a certain “spirit” or “ethos” that resonated with my Pentecostal-Pietist spiritual formation. I now realize that ingredient in Brunner’s theology was Blumhardt in him.

We need a rediscovery of Blumhardt in contemporary theology.


Notes to Water Based Green Infrastructure: Sustainability and Practices




"It's amazing what happens below our feet and all around us."
- anon


Even while I dreamed I prayed that what I saw was only fear and no foretelling,
for I saw the last known landscape destroyed for the sake 
of the objective, the soil bludgeoned, the rock blasted.
Those who had wanted to go home would never get there now.

- Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir [excerpt]




Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.


- Wendell Berry, What We Need Is Here




When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

- Wendell Berry, The Peace of Wild Things



* * * * * * * * * *


Water Based Green Infrastructure:
Sustainability and Practices


Why Natural Hydrology?

Healthy natural landscapes slows rainfall down, cools it, and filters it back into the ecosystem.

The purposes of water is used as energy to living ecosystems by carrying nutrients to the landscape as a balancing mechanism to living things. This occurs in two ways:

1 - Cycles of Depletion and Renewal

2 - Ground Water Flow Paths: Infiltration of the water into the land as it flows into the water table and back to land surfaces recharging the ground

But Urbanscapes have altered the natural conditions of water hydrology through several mechanisms:

  • gray infrastructure - ex: cement
  • stormwater management - ex: pavement
  • volume redirection - discharge
  • detention basins
  • restriction of distribution of natural deposits and nutrients 
  • outflow to streams and away from the land

Results Occur as:

  • flooding
  • air and water decline
  • environmental impact and decline
  • decaying roads
  • rising maintenance costs
  • loss of recreating social and community well-being

As a result we now have a crumbling gray infrastructure needing repair and maintenance. However, we also have the opportunity to replace, rebuild, replenish, and remodel living human communities back into synchronisation with the natural ecological cycles of the land.


Water Balancing Strategies
  • Treat water as a resource
  • Keep water local
  • Replicate natural hydrology by understanding it
  • Replicate natural hydrology by recreating it
  • Replicate natural hydrology by lessening the impact of urbanscaping

How?

  • By reducing runoff
  • By restoring infiltration to the maximum of biodiversity
  • By connecting people to water and to living things (biophelia)

*biophelia = a love of live and the living world; the affinity of human beings to be in productive relations with other human beings and nature itself.

What are our water consumption and waste options? To treat and re-use waste water onsite. This will reduce infrastructure and containment transportation.


Types of  Water Consumption and Waste Recycling Options:

  • Green Roofs which protect and cool building while providing sociological re-creation
  • Permeable Pavements to allow the water to be reabsorbed into the ground and travel as groundwaterthrough its various cycles of replenishment and nourishment
  • Creation of Bio-Retention ponds and drainage systems as healing gardens
  • Rainwater Harvesting and Re-Use
  • Waste Water Recycling and Re-Use

Types of Problems?

  • Cold weather challenges to porous pavements
  • Community promotion and marketing of green/blue infrastructure
  • Create tool sets to monitor sustainability targets


Tool Sets for Sustainability Targets

Sustainable Site Initiatives for Land Design and Development:

  • USGVC LEED Programs
  • Ecosystems Services
  • Human Health and Well-Being
  • Natural Biophelia Re-scaping of Land
  • Living Building Challenges (this has a higher rating system than the LEED standards)

Types of High Performance Green Buildings:

  • LEED - Gold certification
  • LEED - Platinum certification

Using rainwater redirection as a functional and artful component of the building or campus' landscape by opening up covering drainage pipes to the air and sun as a form of rain-scaping or rainwater gardens. Thus, re-shaping through artful re-creation water courses through rainwater harvesting and bioscaping to living landscapes.

Reasons for Geothermal Heating and Cooling:

  • To Obtain Energy Use Efficiencies
  • To Decrease of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • To Decrease Water Use (saves $$)


District Applications and Site Types

  • Green Streets Re-creation and Integration through visioning workshops to revitalize gray-scapes through sustainability projects.
  • Education and encouragement of the the community to become a transformative part of the process of terra-forming.
  • Integrating human use with a pedestrian focus into the project: walking, bicyclists, accessibility to the handicapped, etc.
  • Forming a participatory community process for community life strategies.
  • By soliciting artful natural landscaping from the public.
  • By maximizing public spaces for public usage within natural landscaping.





for further reading ~