11 December 2008

Theology in the twenty-first century

Yesterday was the fortieth anniversary of the death of Karl Barth, arguably the greatest Protestant theologian of the twentieth century. Since his death, there has grown up an enormous ‘Barth studies’ industry among systematic theologians. Precisely what Barth himself would have made of that is summed up nicely in the following: ‘The angels laugh at old Karl. They laugh at him because he tries to grasp the truth about God in a book of Dogmatics. . . . and they laugh about the men who write so much about Karl Barth instead of writing about the things he is trying to write about. Truly, the angels laugh.’

As it happens, I started reading David Ford’s Christian Wisdom: Desiring God and Learning in Love last night. In his introduction, he offers a list of twelve theses outlining the main elements of what theology should be like today:
  1. God is the One who blesses and loves in wisdom.
  2. Theology is done for God’s sake and for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
  3. Prayer is the beginning, accompaniment and end of theology: Come, Holy Spirit! Hallelujah! and Maranatha!
  4. Study of scripture is at the heart of theology.
  5. Describing reality in the light of God is a basic theological discipline.
  6. Theology hopes in and seeks God’s purposes while immersed in the contingencies, complexities and ambiguities of creation and history.
  7. Theological wisdom seeks to do justice to many contexts, levels, voices, moods, genres, systems and responsibilities.
  8. Theology is practised collegially, in conversation and, best of all, in friendship; and, through the communion of saints, it is simultaneously premodern, modern and postmodern.
  9. Theology is a broker of the arts, humanities, sciences and common sense for the sake of a wisdom that affirms, critiques and transforms each of them.
  10. Our religious and secular world needs theology with religious studies in its schools and universities.
  11. Conversation around scriptures is at the heart of interfaith relations.
  12. Theology is for all who desire to think about God and about reality in relation to God.
I think ‘old Karl’ would have approved.

1 comment:

nonesomodest said...

I can sign up wholeheartedly to all of these!