Klaas Schilder (1890-1952): Eine Biografie, die bewegt

Kaum eine Biografie hat mich in letzter Zeit so angerührt wie die des hierzulande unbekannten Klaas Schilder (1890-1952). Cornelis Pronk hat für Banner of Truth eine eindrückliche vierteilige Serie geschrieben.

Hier ist eine eindrückliche Passage zu seinem Predigtdienst:

The aisles and steps to the pulpit were occupied, and KS (as he was known familiarly throughout the churches) noticed everyone in the congregation. Once when some were listening to him preach they heard him repeating a sentence. They asked him why he had done that. He told them that he had seen someone sitting over there (he gestured) turn to his wife and say something to her. Believing that he had asked her what the preacher had just said he repeated the point. The church in Rotterdam was full of the little people, and they hung onto every word. The Amen always came too soon for them. There were those who found him difficult to follow, especially when he played with words. Those who listened to his sermons reckoned him to be amongst the greatest preachers they had heard. He must have personally exegeted the entire Scripture in its original languages and had an opinion on it all. He had texts always at hand to quote, and he never wrote out a sermon. He had a piece of paper with a few notes, but he was always very ordered, coming to a fine conclusion. Small flashes punctuated the sermon which you never forgot. He never failed to point to the Christ of the Scriptures. His voice was strong but thick, and you had to listen to him carefully. Like most outstanding preachers he did not have a natural orator’s voice. He did voice exercises all his life. He preferred to preach in the afternoon or evening than Sunday mornings. In the pulpit he could be sensitive to such things as the clothes people might be wearing in church, and to the impression the congregation was making on him. He did not mix Articles of the day with his sermons to make them sound up-to-date, or in order try to get the interest of the young people, or to ‘make God relevant.’ His sermons often ended with a mighty symphony. His church services ran for two hours. He didn’t know what it was to preach a short sermon. Sometimes he spoke quickly to get everything said. He couldn’t get things done in less than a two hour service. For example, if he were dealing with a sin, he dealt with it comprehensively to destroy its power in the lives of the congregation. Professor Vollenhoven once came out of one of his services and said simply to someone, “That was powerful.” People were constrained to talk about his sermons afterwards. He became a channel for the word of God coming to the assembly. As he preached how he perspired; he couldn’t get through a sermon without a pitcher of water. He had to change his clothes after the service. His wife put them on a line to dry out for the evening service. In everything he did he was characterised by boundless enthusiasm.

Schilder promovierte zum Konzept der Paradoxie bei Kierkegaard und Barth. Er war ein Mensch von der Sorte, die nachts durcharbeiten:

…his doctoral dissertation which was on the concept of the paradox with special reference to Kieerkegaard and Barth. He studied from 1930 to 1933 in Erlangen, one of the older universities of Germany, and his thesis won the highest honour the university could give. They had not awarded that honour for a century. His writings were prodigious. There were evenings when he worked until dawn at his typewriter. Some saw him walking to the post-box very early in the morning. “An early start?” they said to him. “A late night,” said K.S. in his crumpled suit. 

Ebenso eindrücklich ist sein frühzeitiges beherztes Eintreten gegen den deutschen Nationalsozialismus. Es hat ihn während der deutschen Besetzung der Niederlande viel gekostet, u. a. den Ausschluss durch die eigene Kirchensynode!

Schilder had lived through one war. He was ordained in 1914 and had preached a sermon on the outbreak of the first World War on Matthew 18:7 “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offences cometh!” Now in May 1940 he chose the same text. He said, “May that text remain in the minds of all of us, for it will keep us from hiding behind the mass of people and evading our own individual responsibility.” Schilder had opposed the Nazis during the 1930’s how could he be different now that they were in control of the country? The Reformed pulpit must never get involved in politics, but it must lay out principles which are derived from God’s word. Schilder counselled his readers that the most important thing of all was not to deny their God. He said this sort of thing in his editorials: “Don’t preach every single Sunday about the differences between National Socialist doctrine and Reformed doctrine, yet when the occasion arises in the course of your ordinary work do not deliberately remain silent. For example, in preaching a sermon on the first commandment can you be silent? If we are forced to sell certain books we will refuse. We will do no harm to Nazis personally, but not overlook the difference between what they are as people and what they do as Dutch Nazis. So we will not use physical weapons but will not cease using spiritual weapons. We will continue to pray for the Jews and if they come to us confessing Christ we will not turn them away.” He also raised the vexed question about the legal position of the usurping Nazi government. He counselled keeping the Dutch Nazis at arm’s length, but respecting the German army personnel.

 Auch die Auseinandersetzung mit Schattenseiten fehlt nicht, denn davon gab es genügend.