Monday, 1 October 2007

On the quirkiness of theologians

It was very nice to spend some time with Alister McGrath while he was here in Brisbane today. We were talking about the personal quirkiness of theologians, and McGrath related this splendid anecdote about Eberhard Jüngel:

One day, while Jüngel was giving a lecture to his students, he broke off mid-sentence and started writing something down. The students waited patiently – and Jüngel continued writing silently. This went on for some time. When the students finally became restless, Jüngel looked up and said: “Well, if you had a thought this good, you would write it down too!”

6 Comments:

Maximus Daniel said...

I was just sharing the other night how I love apocryphal stories about professors so much. Thanks ben.

JBH said...

Ben,

I think quirky stories of professors would be a great meme.

Ben said...

I've been a lurker of your website as your interest in Karl Barth has caught my attention. I am a big fan of Alister McGrath and have found his writings very helpful in integrating my pursuit of a natural science (PhD student in chemistry) with my Christian faith.

McGrath draws heavily on Barth in his A Scientific Theology project. As a total amateur in matters of theology, I have a hard time discerning where McGrath agrees with Barth and where he is critical of Barth. As best I can tell, McGrath shares Barth's insistence on the primacy of revelation and that we cannot make a priori statements about the nature of the Divine. However, McGrath seems to criticize Barth's hesitancy to dialogue with the natural sciences.

As I said, I'm an amateur when it comes to Theology, but I'm trying my best. Thanks for any help and clarification.

Ben Myers said...

Hi Ben -- good to hear from you. McGrath's relationship to Barth is interesting (incidentally, Barth was the first theologian McGrath ever read -- it was Barth who turned him towards theology in the first place).

In a nutshell, I think McGrath's whole "scientific theology" arose from an attempt to do natural theology in a new "Barthian" way. And, of course, the major influence behind the "scientific theology" is T. F. Torrance -- McGrath's whole approach could be viewed as a development of Torrance's Barthian engagement with science.

The reason this approach to natural theology could be called "Barthian" is that Torrance and McGrath aren't trying to move from nature to some abstract "divine being" -- instead, they're trying to start with the Christian understanding of God, and to interpret nature from this specific perspective. So this approach is (for instance) the exact opposite of Intelligent Design, where you start with nature and then try to find something called "God".

JBH said...

Ben,

I think quirky stories of professors would be a great meme.

Ben said...

I've been a lurker of your website as your interest in Karl Barth has caught my attention. I am a big fan of Alister McGrath and have found his writings very helpful in integrating my pursuit of a natural science (PhD student in chemistry) with my Christian faith.

McGrath draws heavily on Barth in his A Scientific Theology project. As a total amateur in matters of theology, I have a hard time discerning where McGrath agrees with Barth and where he is critical of Barth. As best I can tell, McGrath shares Barth's insistence on the primacy of revelation and that we cannot make a priori statements about the nature of the Divine. However, McGrath seems to criticize Barth's hesitancy to dialogue with the natural sciences.

As I said, I'm an amateur when it comes to Theology, but I'm trying my best. Thanks for any help and clarification.

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