Sunday, September 04, 2005

Albert Schweitzer

Jim West writes as follows:

"Albert Schweitzer died on this day in 1965. Schweitzer was one of the most gifted persons in Western history.  His abilities in historical Jesus studies, medicine, and music were simply amazing.  His Quest of the Historical Jesus is required reading for anyone who studies the subject and his books on Bach are insightful and uplifting."

I almost never agree with Jim (he is, after all, a Bultmannian), but he gets this right. Schweitzer's legacy and vision remain unsurpassed. I often find myself reading portions of Quest just to drink in the rhythm of the prose. Let's make the following a quote for the day:

"As of old Jacob wrestled with the angel, so modern theology wrestles with Jesus and will not let him go until he bless it -- that is, until he will consent to serve it and will suffer himself to be drawn by the modern spirit into the midst of our time and civilization. But when the day breaks, the wrestler must let him go. He will not cross the ford with us. Jesus of Nazareth will not suffer himself to be modernized.

"The mistake was to suppose that Jesus could come to mean more to our time by entering into it as a man like ourselves. That is not possible. First because such a Jesus never existed. Secondly because, although historical knowledge can no doubt introduce greater clearness into an existing spiritual life, it cannot call spiritual life into existence. History can destroy the present; it can reconcile the present with the past; can even to a certain extent transport the present into the past; but to contribute to the making of the present is not given unto it.

"For that reason, it is a good thing that the true historical Jesus should overthrow the modern Jesus, should rise up against the modern spirit and send upon earth not peace but a sword. He was not a teacher, not a casuist; he was an imperious ruler...He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, he came to those men who knew him not. he speaks to us the same word: "Follow thou me!" and sets us to the tasks which he has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey him, whether they be wise or simple, he will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in his fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who he is."

(Quest, pp 312, 399, 403)


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