Wednesday 19 October 2005

The theologian as believing unbeliever

“And the biblical theologian must recognize that unbelief is not just out there, but as contemporary man, it is within himself. Faith is too often a form of repressed unbelief. No longer, if ever, is the biblical theologian or preacher an ‘answer-box’; in many ways he is unbeliever—in hope.... Luther’s simul iustus ac peccator in our time must mean first of all the willingness to demonstrate in one’s own person, not the ready answer of the biblical or theological paraphrase, but the struggle of how to become a believer in the midst of one’s own unbelief.”

—J. Christiaan Beker, “Biblical Theology Today,” in New Theology No. 6 (London: Macmillan, 1969), p. 33.


tchittom said...

Hi Ben. In my opinion, this is exactly the reason why modern theology and theologians are not formally taught in evangelical seminaries. In order to understand modern theology, you have to...well...I have called it quite crudely in other circles "swallow the atheist." You have to do exactly what your post is talking about here, and that is really confusing to many people. I can definitely see why evangelical faculty (with trustees above them) are not keen on making students more critical of their own faith.

Ben Myers said...

Good point, Thom. And although this kind of attitude is understandable, it's really inexcusable as well, since it tries to freeze theology somewhere back in the past.

The American evangelical Donald Bloesch once said that many conservative evangelicals were still pre-critical in their approach to the Bible, pre-Kantian in their approach to philosophy, and pre-Barthian in their approach to theology. In other words, they are simply "pre-modern"! -- and this means they are unable to understand or to speak to the present.

tchittom said...

Yes, and this is not to belittle the real difficulty, if not the "tragedy" of accepting the critical into your faith-life. There isn't really a going back, and one is never really comfortable again afterward, hopeful, yes, but never comfortable.

tchittom said...
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Ben Myers said...

I think you're right that the acceptance of a critical standpoint removes "comfort". And I think this is as it should be, too, since faith is, by its very nature, a struggle: "to believe is to struggle, to struggle against the appearance of things" (H. Bavinck). A faith that is magically preserved from every possible doubt and conflict has already ceased to be true faith.

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