Thy Kingdom Come: A Blumhardt Reader
trans. and ed. Vernard Eller. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980. 179 pages.
The Blumhardts—John Christoph (1805-1880) and his son Christoph Frederick (1842-1919) are not well known in the English speaking world. The reason may be that the younger Blumhardt died at the end of World War I, and since there was much bitterness in the English-speaking world against Germany at that time, the contribution of the Blumhardts to Christian thought was not immediately recognized.
The Blumhardts had a significant influence on such eminent theologians as Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Oscar Cullmann, in spite of the fact that their work was more pastoral than theological. At Bad Boll hundreds of people experienced inner and outer healing in an institution established by the elder Blumhardt, designed to bring health to the entire person. Physical healing, however, was not the primary goal of the spiritual retreat center, Bad Boll, for as the younger Blumhardt put it, “To be cleansed is more important than to be healed.”
In this volume of 179 pages, we are introduced to the Christian thought of the Blumhardts. The first 100 pages are excerpts of sermons translated from the German by Dr. Vernard Eller, who is known in Christian circles for several well-written books, such as The Simple Life and The Outward Bound. The second half of the book are translations of sermons done by Dr. John Regehr, of MBBC, who wrote his doctoral dissertation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, on The Preaching of Christoph Blumhardt. As source material for his dissertation in the field of preaching, Regehr translated 31 talks and sermons of the younger Blumhardt. The sermons themselves were not included in the dissertation and 16 of them appear here for the first time in published form. We offer our congratulations.
This reviewer was somewhat baffled by both the content and the form of these sermons of yesteryear. Nevertheless, one cannot help but stand in awe of such spiritual giants as Johann and Christoph Blumhardt, who, as the Christian Century puts it, “looked at the decline of the ethical as a guiding principle of political life, and spent long and inventive lives grappling with the results.”
Whether in fact the writings of the Blumhardts will take their place alongside the letters of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, may be too early to say, but a sick society that cries for healing certainly has a place for the spiritual insights and (above all) the practice of these Greats.