In his essay on “Goethe (there’s that Grrr-tuh again), the First Father of the Third Age of the Church,” Matthew del Nevo speaks about the “whole Kingdom of God” as “a raising up, a transfiguration and glorification of humanity and the world.” This is accomplished through being lost in love, and in hope: “Hope lifts us. This is exactly what the Gospel is supposed to do, and what the Church is supposed to do for the poor: lift them up, raise mankind.”
Del Nevo introduces lines from Goethe’s Urworte. Orphisch. about hope: “This poem captures the spiritual nature of hope. We are caught in the traps of necessity, chance, destiny, and eros, but there is a way out. We are free if we have hope. Hope lifts us.” And so, Goethe:
Let these impediments, these walls of iron [of Ananke]
Stand in their wonted rocklike endurance:
But the repulsive gate shall be unlocked!
One being [hope] moves, light and untrammelled,
through curtains of clouds, rain and fog,
Lifting us up, giving us wings:
You know her well, she swarms through all zones,
And one beat of her wings leaves behind us eons.
It is this Goethe that so inspired Franz Rosenzweig, though FR’s German reading surely must have surpassed this particular English translation. I am re-thinking Goethe’s Christian-ness, persuaded to grapple with this by del Nevo’s stunning arguments that focus on the assertion of a link between Goethean thinking and Pentecostalism, and, quoting Gianni Vattimo, “secularity as the authentic destiny of Christianity.” There are references to the writings of Berdyaev and to the religionless Christianity of Bonhoeffer. Del Novo makes the challenging assertion,
Pentecostalism, for all its theological roots in the holiness movement, and for all its theological vagaries and reactions, is the Christianity of a secular world. And for those in a part of the world that is not secularized (and in a world that is fully mapped, where would that really be?), Pentecostalism will pull new believers out of their old beliefs, in the name of Jesus, and dispel all the old gods, witches, and demons. Christ will break the chains. The person set free, though, will be a more secular person, rather than, as one might expect, a more somehow religious person.
Here I see connections between Rosenzweig, Bonhoeffer, and so much that has been happening in “post-modern” Christianity, and what del Novo refers to as “the philosophy of redemptive speech thinking,” Rosenzweig’s “the new thinking.” Here is the point: wherever and whenever Christ-followers are doing the work he calls them to do, they are living and working within a set of relationships that resists all philosophical, theological, metaphysical and political critique–the work is as fundamental as the varieties of human needs yet it applies just as much to education and cultural development. It comes from the Spirit of God and produces good things for people. It is, in fact, a principle of incarnation and of restoration to the Creator’s intention. So, Bonhoeffer (Nachfolge, 221):
Er ist den Menschen gleich geworden, damit sie ihm gleich seien.
He became like humanity, that they should be like him.
Bonhoeffer follows with the biblical teaching on the Cross and Trinitarian communion-in-life. There one finds himself or herself while forgetting self; carrying the new image one looks not to his or her own life, but “only upon him whom he or she follows,” who then as one who follows after Christ also imitates God (as a beloved child; Ephesians 5:1; Nachfolge, 224). The very assertion means so much for us all.
Citations except for Bonhoeffer from: Matthew del Nevo, “Goethe, the First Father of the Third Age of the Church,” in Wayne Cristaudo and Frances Huessy, eds., The Cross and the Star: The Post-Nietzschean Christian and Jewish Thought of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy and Franz Rosenzweig (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), 243-275.