God, Revelation & Authority Vol. 1, Chapter 12

Posted: February 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

The rise of “scientism” (i.e., the belief that science is the only objective judge of truth) dethroned theology and even philosophy as the queen and king of the sciences respectively.  Henry lays a great deal of fault at Thomas Aquinas’ feet.  The great Catholic theologian argued that the secular sciences would prepare people for theology but instead they have actually helped anesthetize people to it.   This is what led influential theologian Karl Barth to cast a pox on both science and philosophy. 

So where does that leave the relationship between theology and science? Henry writes,

Do we accept as definitive the modern notion of science established independently of theology—and if so, would it in any way be an asset for the theology of revelation to acquire scientific credentials on this basis? If to rank theology alongside the other human enterprises implies from the outset that in each realm upon which it impinges theology must conform its content to what philosophers, historians or psychologists are saying at the moment, then would not theology by certifying its scientific legitimacy in this way be merely signing its own death warrant?

Henry asserts that Karl Barth fell into this trap while simultaneous claiming he had avoided it altogether.  Barth refused to accept science as an appropriate means to adjudicate the claims of divine revelation because it is a purely human, and therefore, finite construct but, at the same time, Barth dismissed the possibility of Scripture containing clear revelation because of the standards of enlightenment science! Can we, however, wholly extricate ourselves from the ways of thinking that dominate our own culture?

This appears to be a complicated problem but, again, we must return to the power of an almighty God to cut through the fog and make Himself known clearly.  If God has so acted then is it appropriate to expect that such revelation will be a clear and coherent system of thought?  Yet, does it not follow that God, as God and we as finite creatures, would not fully understand the ways of the divine? Thus, is theology not a science but one that recognizes its limits?

Henry concludes the chapter by stating,

Evangelical theology is a humble, critical and joyous science. Its humility springs from two fundamental truths: the church’s confession that “now we know in part” and do not yet possess a “theology of glory,” and the fact that in God’s service the church nonetheless proclaims not ruminations on the propriety or impropriety of his will but a divine Word. In its role of critic it judges any rival view of reality and life that would derail the Word of God, and by Scripture judges its own commitment and proclamation lest God’s Word be violated among friends. The joyfulness of evangelical theology flows from its foundation in the sovereignly free Creator and Lord of all, whose Word is yea and amen, and from the unending gratitude for God’s good news elicited from sinful man in his otherwise dread predicament. But evangelical theology is, moreover, a rational science. There is no biblical warrant for grounding the modesty of theology, as Barth would have it, in its supposed “human ano-logy” to the Logos as a thoroughly dialectical and merely fallible witness. Its modesty is nurtured rather by the fact that evangelical theology dare harbor one and only one presupposition: the living and personal God intelligibly known in his revelation. As ecclesiastical and academic disciplines, biblical and systematic theology lack finality insofar as they are finite schematizations of the content of Scripture. The content of Scripture on the basis of divine revelation is, on the other hand, not only implicitly systematic but also profoundly self-consistent. The theology of revelation has no reason for hesitancy in characterizing itself as science; it is neither vulnerable to perpetual revision as is merely empirical inquiry, nor is it consigned to ongoing contravention as is philosophical theorizing.

Amen!

Tomorrow, we will look at the methods and criteria of theology.

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