Die evangelische Theologie 03

The outline of the following chapters is pretty neat. First, Barth discussed about the place of theology. Must it be within the boundaries of universitas litterarum, the search for and the teaching of knowledge in its unversality? Must we try to justify its position within the environment of other sciences? Barth answered: No. “The ‘place’ of theology, as understood here, will be determined by the impetus which it receives from within its own domain and from its own object. Its object – the philanthropic God Himself [love the phrase: philanthropic God, God who loves human] – is the law which must be the continual starting point of theology.” (p. 16) Theology includes the concept of the Logos. It is a logia, logic, or language bound to the theos. And the inescapable meaning of logos is “word”, and hence “the Word is not the only necessary determination of the place of theology, but it is undoubtedly the first.” (p. 16) The domain of theology is the Word of God. It confronts the Word and responds to it.

To be more precise, we need to take note of a definite group of human being which enjoyed a special, singular, and unique position in their relation to the Word of God. They are the witnesses of the Word. They are called to be its hearers, and appointed for its communication. These men are the biblical witnesses of the Word, the prophetic men of the Old Testament and the apostolic men of the New (p. 26). The more precise domain of theology is the Scriptures.

Moreover, when theology confronts the Word of God and its witnesses in the Scriptures, its place is very concretely in the community, not somewhere in empty space. They were encountered by the Word and respond to it. And now they became able, willing, and ready to receive it as secondary witnesses, and offering themselves to the service of the Word. If the prophets and the apostles were the primary witnesses, the community became its secondary witnesses (p. 37).

However, when we looked at these statements, we were bound to ask: “What power did we acknowledge? What is the power hidden within these assertions which establishes and illumines them? In other words, how does theology come to take and hold the place described by them – a place which seems to the onlooker to be situated in mid-air?” (p. 48) Barth asked further, “And do these assertions only apparently hover [in mid-air]?” (p. 52) In other words, must we deliver theology from its ‘mid-air’-ness?’ Or, is its ‘mid-air’-ness intrinsic to its nature? And why not? For, Barth continued, ‘mid-air’ could mean flowing, fresh, healthy air in contrast to all motionless and stagnant office air. Barth was talking about the Spirit. The community which lives from God’s Word. The witnesses who hear and transmit the Word. The history of Immanuel, the Word. All of these take place in the realm of that freely moved and moving air, the gentle or stormy wind, the divine spiratio and inspiratio. That is, the Spirit (p. 52-53).

The place of theology:

1. The Word

2. Which is primarily witnessed by the Biblical Witnesses (i.e., the Scriptures)

3. And is secondarily witnessed by the Community (i.e., the Church)

4. And which takes place in the realm of the Spirit.

Next, we will discuss each point in details.


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