Happy Birthday, Franz Bibfeldt

Today marks the imagined 115th birthday of Franz Bibfeldt, legendary (yea — mythical, even) twentieth-century theologian and subject of Martin E. Marty and Jerald C. Brauer’s forthcoming collection The Unrelieved Paradox: Studies in the Theology of Franz Bibfeldt, 18th, or Perhaps 19th, Anniversary Revised Edition.

According to Marty (who is arguably the world’s foremost living expert on Bibfeldt),

Franz Bibfeldt was born in the early morning hours of November 1, 1897, at Sage-Hast bei Groszenkneten, Oldenburg, Niedersachsen, Germany, and was baptized later the same day. His birth was one day premature, since he was conceived on February 2 after a Candlemas party. His father, Friedrich Bibfeldt, happened to be home that day and evening at a time when he was traveling to represent Friedrich Naumann during the latter’s efforts to establish the Nationalsoziale Verein. This meant that his father was a Protestant Christian, a liberal, a Democrat, and a non-Marxian socialist — certainly the proper background for the future theologian. 

The baptism was performed on the birthdate, November 1, because that was All Saints’ Day, dedicated to ‘‘all the apostles, martyrs, confessors and all the just and perfect who are at rest.’’ Franz’s parents did not want to offend any of the saints, hence their effort to please all of them by choosing this date for their son’s christening. This willingness to please everybody was a personality trait the parents passed on to their son, and it served him well in his chosen calling.

Franz Bibfeldt, as imagined by artist David Morgan.

As a birthday gift to this famously flexible theologian, we’ve created a new Facebook fan page in his honor, where, as we wait eagerly for the release of the new edition of The Unrelieved Paradox over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting occasional quotes and images from the book and providing a forum for Bibfeldt’s many ardent fans to share their appreciation.

The book is also available to preorder now on our website (and elsewhere). It includes a new preface by Martin Marty (“Not a classic!” he says); previously unpublished essays by William Schweiker, Jean-Luc Marion, James T. Robinson, and Arthur Callaham; recent toasts to Bibfeldt by Ian Gerdon and Emanuelle Burton; and new artwork by David Morgan.

For a sneak peek at the book’s table of contents and its distinguished contributors, read on.


The Unrelieved Paradox
The Unrelieved Paradox
  • Editor’s Preface to the Second Edition
    Reinder Van Til
  • Preface
    Jerald C. Brauer and Martin E. Marty
  • The Unrelieved Paradox: Not a Classic!
    Martin E. Marty

I. The Quest for the Historical Bibfeldt

  • Franz Bibfeldt: Theologian for Our Time
    Martin E. Marty
  • Franz Bibfeldt’s Bicentennial Legacy
    Robert M. Grant
  • A Letter from Franz Bibfeldt
    Jerald C. Brauer
  • The Quest for the Historical Bibfeldt
    David Ousley
  • The Quest for the Historical Bibfeldt
    Joseph L. Price

II. Bibfeldt’s Postmodern Theology

  • Franz Bibfeldt: The Breakdown of Consciousness and the Origins of the Quadrilateral Mind
    Robin W. Lovin
  • Letters from the Front: The Hilda Braunschweiger- Bibfeldt Correspondence
    Jill Raitt
  • The Braunschweiger-Bibfeldts: The Metaphysical Incarnation of Wo/man
    Mark Toulouse and Rebekah Miles
  • The Politically Correct Fundamentalism of Franz Bibfeldt
    R. Scott Appleby
  • Franz Bibfeldt and Dispensationalism
    Stephen R. Spencer
  • Franz Bibfeldt and the Future of Political Theology
    Robin W. Lovin
  • A Faith for Franz
    Sam Portaro

III. The Pastoral Theology of Franz Bibfeldt

  • Ministry to and with the Dead: The Pastoral Theology of Franz Bibfeldt
    Otto Dreydoppel, Jr.
  • The Bibfeldt Hustle, or Saturday Night Plague: Some Recent Theories of Pastoral Care
    Mark Miller-McLemore
  • An Exegesis of Franz Bibfeldt’s Food Context of Pastoral Care
    L. Dale Richesin
  • THE UNRELIEVED PARADOX: The Proto-Ecological Theology of Franz Bibfeldt and/or The Massive Derailment of Twentieth-Century Thought
    Robin Peterson and Steven Bouma-Prediger

IV. Culture and Art in Bibfeldt

  • There’s No Business: Franz Bibfeldt and the Place of Religion in Show Business
    Glenn Holland
  • The Man Who Isn’t There: Some Notes on the Quest for the Historical Bibfeldt
    Dennis L. Landon
  • Images of Bibfeldt
    David Morgan

V. Landmarks and Landmines in Bibfeldt Scholarship

  • Landmarks and Landmines in Bibfeldt Scholarship
    Robin W. Lovin
  • Franz Bibfeldt: The Life, and Scholarship on the Life: Summary Abstract
    Richard Rosengarten
  • A Partial Franz Bibfeldt Bibliography


  • Primeval Document
    Martin E. Marty
  • The Bibfeldtian Origins of the Pseudo-Thomistic Literature
    Todd D. Whitmore
  • Franz Bibfeldt and the Uses of the Doctoral Exams
    Ellen K. Wondra
  • Both This World and the Next: A Sermon
    Robin D. Mattison
  • The Door’s Theologian of the Year, 1994
  • A Gallery of Bibfeldt Admirers
  • Bibfeldt and the Media
  • Toasts to Bibfeldt
    Jerald C. Brauer, Langdon Gilkey, Joseph Bessler-Northcutt, Ian Gerdon, Emanuelle Burton
  • Proofs of the Existence of Franz Bibfeldt
  • By Way of Response
    Martin E. Marty
  • Bonum Absconditus: Franz Bibfeldt’s Theological Ethics
    William Schweiker
  • This Is Not Funny! From the Quest for the Historical Bibfeldt to Bibfeldt with/without Being
    Jean-Luc Marion
  • It’s Not Easy Being Purple: Franz Bibfeldt and the Quest for a Religious Middle
    Arthur A. Callaham
  • The Argument from Barking Dogs: Ruminations on Bibfeldt and the Theology of Subaltern Species
    James T. Robinson
  • Mod on the Quad: The Story behind the Story behind Jesus
    David Morgan

Click to preorder The Unrelieved Paradox or to wish Franz Bibfeldt a happy birthday on the Facebook fan page created in his honor.