Friday, January 6, 2012

The Freedom of Theology

This about sums it up. And it always will:
"When a man becomes involved in theological science, its object does not allow him to set himself apart from it or to claim independence and autarchic self-sufficiency. He has become involved in theology, even if his reasons for such involvement may have been very superficial, or indeed, utterly childish. Certainly, he never knew beforehand what a risk he was taking, and he will certainly never fully grasp this risk. But at any rate he has taken this step. He is a theologian because he finds himself confronted by this object. His heart is much too stubborn and fearful, and his little head much too weak, but he cannot merely dally or skirmish with this object. The consequences can no longer be avoided. This object disturbs him - and not merely from afar, the way a lightning flash on the horizon might disturb one. This object seeks him out and finds him precisely where he stands, and it is just there that this object has already sought him and found him. It met, encountered, and challenged him. It invaded, surprised, and captured him. It assumed control over him. As to himself, the light "dawned" on him, and he was ushered up from the audience to the stage. What he is supposed to do with this object has become wholly subordinate to the other question about how he must act now that this object obviously intended to have, and already has had, something to do with him. Before he knows anything at all, he finds himself known and consequently aroused and summoned to knowledge. He is summoned to re-search because he finds himself searched, to thinking and reflection because he hears someone speak to him long before he can even stammer, much less utter a coherent sentence. In short, he finds himself freed to be concerned with this object long before he can even reflect on the fact that there is such a freedom, and before he has made even an initial, hesitant, and unskilled use of it. He did not take part in this liberation, but what happened was that he was made a direct participant in this freedom."

- Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology, 75-76.


Matt Frost said...

This makes such a beautiful bookend with CD I.1 and his discussion of scientific theology. The words "Copernican revolution" are overused, certainly, but this is exactly the sort of thing Kant refers to under that name: the realization that I am inside the system of relationships I study, and my pretense of objective observation of that system is hypocrisy. If I want the math to line up correctly, in theology as much as astronomy, I must account for the fact that the object of my study has to do with me. Leaving this involvement, this subjectivity, out of the equations produces model after model that cannot work.

Anonymous said...

Kait, can you say more about the 'always will' in the preface to this quote?
- David CLD

Anonymous said...

What a great passage! Reading Barth for the first time reminds me of reading Heidegger for the first time...there seems to be something fundamentally unsettling and disorienting about what they're trying to communicate. That's just been my experience of beginning to read them, but I wonder if anyone else has made any connections between Barth and Heidegger.

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