Welcome to The Karl Barth Society of Amherst, Massachusetts - a local chapter of the The Karl Barth Society of North America. This site is maintained by Chris TerryNelson. Please let me know how I can make this page a better resource for you. Email me, view my profile. You can also visit my new personal website, Disruptive Grace.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Saying Goodbye and Hello to Two Great Men of God

Today I learned from Matthew Palardy that Jaroslav Pelikan, the great historian of the church, has passed away at the age of 82 from lung cancer. You can read his obituary here.

Also, forgive me for not mentioning earlier the death of a man who "spoke truth to power," a preacher on behalf of the poor and oppressed: William Sloane Coffin. He died at the age of 81 last Month. His obituary is available here.

While I have not yet given full attention to these men and their life works, many colleagues and friends have driven me to at least know them a little.

Pelikan's history of church doctrine has been recommended to me over and over, and has apparently bypassed that of one of his role models: Adolf Van Harnack. Jaroslav devoted himself to the past 1900 years, while everyone else was busy debating the present (he called it his "minority report"). Whenever I've gone into bookshelves, I've been amazed by the prolific writing of this thinker. There always seemed to be a new book on the shelf by him! So thank you, Jaroslav, for your good work in the service of the church, and I hope we get to know each other better, as I'm sure we will at seminary.

Coffin's name first popped up as I was reading George Hunsinger's wonderful book of essays, Disruptive Grace. As an orthodox Christian with progressive political convictions, Coffin seems to have embodied the spirit of Hunsinger's two great heroes: Karl Barth and Martin Luther King, Jr. I find myself in a similar situation, wanting neither to truncate the Gospel of its power and its truth, its offensive and gracious work. William, I hope to be as courageous as you, to learn how to walk the talk as you did, and be willing to be a fool in a world so filled with violent wisdom.

May they both rest in peace in our Lord Jesus Christ until we meet in the air with Him.

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