Posts Tagged ‘science’

Barth opens his Church Dogmatics by making pronouncements concerning the nature of theology as “science”.  This is not the normal language that I personally am accustomed to and wonder what others think of this?  He regards theology in its own right as a unique science that does “not have to justify itself” to the other sciences and in fact declares, “As regards method, it has nothing to learn from them” (CD I.1 p.8).  So it is a science according to Barth, but has nothing to learn methodologically from them?

While I understand the former (and agree); what do we make of the latter?  Are the two bound up in one another?  Granted, Barth speaks from a European context wherein the theological faculty actually functioned within the university system and the churches were largely nationalized…as differentiated from my own western experience of private Bible colleges and seminaries and a plethora of utterly (legally-mandated) state-separated churches.  He elaborates that if “theology allows itself to be called, or calls itself, a science, it cannot in so doing accept the obligation of submission to standards valid for other sciences” (p.10).  This must be so, according to Barth, because the world is not ordered in a sufficient manner that the sciences can properly account for things in such without themselves in some manner accounting for the theological content of the disorder of the cosmos.

He provides three “practical reasons” for his assertion of theology as science: 1) it admits to its humanity rather than exalting itself above all else that is “science” recognizing that it is always still a “human concern for truth” (p.11); 2) “it makes a necessary protest against a general concept of science which is admittedly pagan” (p.11); and 3) it becomes a confession in “the forgiveness of sins” and therefore a confession that the Church refuses to cut the world off from salvation.

So in what sense can those of us who live us the Church in a society which has largely adopted already a separatist life apart from the world and science respond to what Barth has proposed?  Was he only speaking to his context or does he still have something to say to us in our private churches and schools?  Does theology still belong rightly to the sciences?  In what way and to what extent?

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