Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Karl Barth And Coined Words

From Dr. Jim West:

Like every other theologian worth his salt, Karl Barth made up words when he needed to express a concept for which one did not exist. Paul did it, of course, and so did many of the other biblical writers. And Barth, too, wasn't afraid so to do.

In 1933 while corresponding with Dietrich Bonhoeffer about the "Arian Paragraph", Barth described the attitude of some Confessing Christians (those who disagreed with the racism of the Nazi's) and their hesitancy in speaking out about the German Christians (that is, Christians who belonged to the Nazi Party) with one of his own invented words- "Mundtotmachung".

"Making the mouth dead"... Isn't that a beautiful descriptor? "Mundtotmachung" is exactly what happens when Christians now refuse to, or fail to, oppose what is wrong in government or society. Thank you Karl, for one of the most intriguing words- and useful. Now, whenever someone acts the toady, we can succinctly say that they have succumbed to "Mundtotmachung".

-Leave it to Barth to come up with such a descriptive term. For those who don't know Barth is considered one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century.

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