One of the joys of editing a wide range of new books in theology and related disciplines is the regular discovery of interesting connections. I’m just now completing a proofread of a new monograph on Revivalism and Social Christianity: The Prophetic Faith of Henri Nick and André Trocmé (Pickwick Publications) by Christophe Chalamet. I first learned about Trocmé in seminary, and what I learned then is what is best known about him—his involvement in the hiding and protection of Jews during the German occupation of France in the Second World War. But I also read John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus, which in chapter 3, “The Implications of the Jubilee,” leans heavily on Trocmé’s 1961 Jésus-Christ et la révolution non-violente, and so I was at least aware of Trocmé’s status as a scholar as well as the famous pastor of Le Chambon-sur-Ligne.
Christophe Chalamet’s wonderful book about Nick and Trocmé lays out in detail their connection to the movement in French Protestantism known as the Christianisme social, which was the French equivalent of the American “social gospel” movement. Both movements sought to go beyond individual conversion and piety to focus on building the kingdom of God on earth. In reading about Trocmé and his predecessors in the Christianisme social, I was intrigued to learn of the influence of Anglo-American revivalism (the influence of Pearsall, Finney, and Moody is noted), as is the religious pacifism of the era (e.g., Trocmé’s involvement in IFoR, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation). I learned that Trocmé actually attended a gathering of IFoR at the German Pietist center in Bad Boll. I first learned about Bad Boll and the influential ministry of the Blumhardts when I edited, several years ago, the dissertation of Christian Collins Winn, which was on the influence of the Blumhardts on Karl Barth (see “Jesus Is Victor!”: The Significance of the Blumhardts for the Theology of Karl Barth).
Chalamet’s work, focused as it is on the life and work of Nick and Trocmé, shows just how interesting, diverse, and international the pre-WWII world of European “social Christianity” really was, and I suppose how devastating WWII was on the same. At least in America, the effort to hold together personal conversion/holiness with radical social concern still eludes much of contemporary Christianity.