Tuesday, 2 May 2006

Protestant critiques of scholasticism

“The situation is the same with Scholasticism as with the Roman Catholic church in general. Those who do not admire them, those who are not in danger of becoming scholastics themselves, simply have no inner right to pass judgment on them.”

—Karl Barth, The Theology of John Calvin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), p. 26.

6 Comments:

Matthew Anderson said...

I admire the scholastics plenty, but why is admiration a pre-requisite for passing judgement? Are they a special case, or do we have to take this approach with all thought-systems (i.e. satanism)? Or maybe I just don't understand what Barth means by "inner right." But I enjoy your blog immensely.

Ben Myers said...

G'day Matthew -- good to hear from you. This is a sort of hermeneutical rule for Barth: in order to understand a thinker, you must first learn to love him or her. Barth means that we should enter into the thought of other people so deeply and so sympathetically that we feel tempted to follow their own decisions -- only at this point have we really begun to understand them, so only at this point do we become qualified to pass judgment as well.

You've raised a very good point, though, about the limits of this approach. And I suppose Barth would also have acknowledged these limits -- for instance, he was sharply critical of Nazi ideology, but he never felt even a glimmer of sympathy or "admiration" for it. He simply felt that it was wicked, and above all stupid.

So maybe wickedness and stupidity would constitute the limits of a "hermeneutic of love"?

Deep Furrows said...

in order to understand a thinker, you must first learn to love him or her.
how Thomistic!

Matthew Anderson said...

Ben,

Thanks for the reply. I certainly agree with a "hermeneutics of charity." I'm just not sure that the best description for charity is entering into the worldview "so that we are tempted to follow their own decisions." It seems that if it is, the limits of "wickedness and stupidity" fall, since to dismiss them as such we would need to abandon the hermeneutic of charity. But as we are told to love our enemies, that option seems eminently undesirable.



G'day Matthew -- good to hear from you. This is a sort of hermeneutical rule for Barth: in order to understand a thinker, you must first learn to love him or her. Barth means that we should enter into the thought of other people so deeply and so sympathetically that we feel tempted to follow their own decisions -- only at this point have we really begun to understand them, so only at this point do we become qualified to pass judgment as well.

I think a better option is recharacterizing a "hermeneutics of love" so that it doesn't necessarily include the requirement that we admire the other or their ideas. Why is listening, asking questions, listening again, and giving them the benefit of the doubt not enough for a hermeneutic of charity? It seems I can do all that without entering into or being attracted to their ideas as deeply as Barth would like me to...

What fun! Thanks for the discussion! : )

Ben Myers said...

Good point, Matthew.

Matthew Anderson said...

Uh, sorry for including half of your post in mine. It was very late here when I wrote that......

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