Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Theologians vs. Eyewitnesses to the Word

In Chapter 3 of Evangelical Theology: An Introduction, Karl Barth clarifies how evangelical theology is related to the biblical witnesses to the Word of God.
The position of theology, ..., can in no wise be exalted above that of the biblical witnesses. The post-Biblical theologian may, no doubt, possess a better astronomy, geography, zoology, psychology, physiology, and so on than these biblical witnesses possessed; but as for the Word of God, he is not justified in comporting himself in relationship to those witnesses as though he knows more about the Word than they. He is neither a president of a seminary, not the Chairman of the Board of some Christian Institute of Advanced Theological Studies, who might claim some authority over the prophets and apostles. He cannot grant or refuse them a hearing as though they were colleagues on the faculty. Still less is he a high-school teacher authorized to look over their shoulder benevolently or crossly, to correct their notebooks, or to give them good, average, or bad marks. Even the smallest, strangest, simplest, or obscurest among the biblical witnesses has an incomparable advantage over even the most pious, scholarly, and sagacious latter-day theologian.
You can read the full passage in context here. This is third lecture in a series of five he gave at University of Chicago and Princeton Theological Seminary towards the end of his career. I don't think some of his audience would have been too enamoured with such a view.

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