Thursday, January 21, 2010

John Piper's disillusionment with theological scholarship

In John Piper's talk at a symposium, The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor, in Chicago, he gave this critique of the theological academy, largely based on his experience doing a doctorate at the University of Munich.

I was disillusioned by such scholarship.

  • Driven by the need for peer approval.
  • Using technical jargon that only insiders understand and that often conceals ambiguity.
  • A speculative focus in object and methodology (Formgeschichte, Traditionsgeschichte, andRedaktionsgeschichte, and Sachkritik) that gave rise to scholarly articles which began in the mode ofWahrscheinlichkeit and by the end had been transformed into the mode of Sicherheit by the waving of the wand of scholarly consensus.
  • Using linguistic skills to create vagueness and conceal superficiality.
  • Not pressing the question of meaning until it yields the riches of theological truth.
  • Not having the smell of heaven or hell, nor seeming to care much about lostness.
  • Not letting exultation into their explanations, and therefore not being able to show the reality of things that cannot be illumined except in the light of exultation.
  • Not seeing the incoherence between the infinite value of the object of the study and the naturalistic nature of their study. The whole atmosphere seemed unplugged from the majesty of the object.

I wonder if this is also what Karl Barth would have said?

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