At the end of 2016, Trinity College’s Joan F W Munro Professor of Historical Theology, and Deputy Dean of the Theological School, The Revd Professor Mark Lindsay, journeyed to Princeton Theological Seminary to conduct research on Markus Barth (son of Swiss theologian Karl Barth). He reflects on a theologian deeply engaged with politics and faith.
Despite having visited Princeton Seminary regularly for the past 10 years, Professor Lindsay was grateful to be able to spend two and half months living in Princeton focusing on his research.
It is at Princeton where much of the Karl Barth and the Barth family archival material is stored in the Centre for Barth Studies, which holds the largest academic collection of Barth materials.
After spending the past few decades researching Karl Barth, Professor Lindsay became interested in the work of his son Markus and his own theological and political philosophies.
‘Like his father, Markus [1915-1994] was a very politically aware and engaged theologian. One of the first things he ever wrote publicly was a 1937 letter to the Basler Nachrichten newspaper protesting against the Gestapo, [the Nazis’ secret police], basically telling them to stop doing what they were doing, which was fairly brave,’ says Professor Lindsay.
He explains that Markus stayed actively engaged with different conflicts throughout his life including being a vocal critic of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, what he believed to be the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and the Apartheid movement in South Africa.
It is this critical theological and political engagement that needs to be encouraged within contemporary public discourse among theological scholars in Australia argues Professor Lindsay.
‘How do we as theologians speak into public policy debates? How do we speak in the public arena in a way that is informed by our faith, but that is also not populist?’
He posits that this interaction is demonstrated by the work of people such as Karl and Markus Barth.
‘For them, there was no separation between theology, faith and political engagement. You cannot be faithfully engaged without also being politically engaged, and I’m excited about what possibilities that might open for us as a theological school here at Trinity College.’
In addition, to his work as lecturer and Deputy Dean of the Theological School, Professor Lindsay is also leading the discussion for the upcoming seminar Preparing for Trinity Sunday.
He believes Trinity Sunday is a critical reminder for Christians of the unique way in which God is understood and worshipped within Christianity.
‘Trinity Sunday helps us understand the God to whom we have been united, having first been saved or redeemed or rescued by Christ, and so is also a reminder of who we now are. Yes, Christmas and Easter are the big red letter occasions in the Church, but Trinity Sunday should also be a red-letter occasion because it reminds us of the intrinsic, eternal nature of the God who did this for us.’
Professor Lindsay joined the Trinity College Theological School in January 2015, after working for seven years as the University of Divinity's Director of Research. Professor Lindsay is widely published, with an international reputation for his work on the theologies of Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He is currently writing a book on the doctrine of election, and another book on the theology of Markus Barth.
Preparing for Trinity Sunday is an opportunity, for clergy and lay people, to consider the Trinitarian understanding of God, and what it means for us in our contemporary world. To register for the seminar held at 2-4pm on 20 May at the Old Warden’s Lodge please follow the link.