Evaluating Theologians

I have been off the blogosphere for too long. This is my welcome back party.

I currently am in a theology survey class. One observation I have made: People at Denver Seminary do NOT like Karl Barth. This is disheartening for me, as many of you know of my man-crush towards Barth. And I have been trying to narrow down the reasons for the dislike. Here is my list: 1) Karl Barth does not believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible word of God and 2) Karl Barth opposes natural theology. That’s it. It seems as if nobody can get past those two points. They are so fixated on these that even if Barth says something profound that we all need to hear and we can all benefit from, they will refuse to entertain the thought. Thus, I am pondering how we should evaluate theologians. It seems as if the criteria we use is centered around specific doctrinal positions. This is fine and dandy until we realize that Barth’s situation or Gregory the Great’s situation or Anselm’s situation is greatly different from 21st century America (or more specifically, evangelicalism). We can criticize Barth all we want, but we must not discount that Barth was trying to ward of the state church’s support of the Nazi regime. The Nazi party was using natural theology and the Bible to support their plot to exterminate the Jews and create the utopian Aryan state. OF COURSE Barth would deny these things in light of this situation. But why do we judge him so harshly? I think that theologians should not be judged by specific doctrinal stances but rather their engagement with theology, the Bible, church history, the church, and the culture in which he/she resides. Our views of certain theologians may shift dramatically or maybe just a bit. Regardless, I think theological methodology more accurately portrays theologians rather than their stances.

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One Response to Evaluating Theologians

  1. Eli says:

    I’ve found that most people who dislike Barth have never read him, or misunderstand everything he’s attacking. They miss that the whole point he’s making is that you cannot get to the god of the bible by looking at the world around you, only revelation, only Christology can convey the word of God.

    Barth is a bit of a man crush for me as well. And I think your criterion for evaluating theologians is beneficial as well as generous. ANd I think Barth should be looked at contextually whether agreed with or not, he’s a powerful source of theology, and demands that we look at Christ to know God.

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