Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Meet My New Favorite Theologian

"...Christian scholarship has an obligation to truth, that is, to God. Only by the careful pursuit and acquisition of truth can we begin to execute our calling faithfully and effectively. Theologians and their students must shun the naive ferocity of those who hold to opinions that cannot stand up to careful scrutiny. Do not mistake their vicious passion for intellectual virtue or courage. It is not. It is the anguished outrage of those who have been unfaithful to their commission as apostles for truth, a commission that requires fidelity to things as they are, not to things as we would like them to be. Like Nero, those theologians spend their time fiddling with the evidence while the real world, and its questions and concerns, burns down around them. But, they themselves do not worry because they believe their asbestos dogmatism will protect them, even if it does not protect the world. In truth, however, it will protect neither. That is because Christian theologizing is, or ought to be, a 'reality game.' The morality of scholarship demands a willingness to face the truth, even when it says that some of our most cherished beliefs are raw fiction. Without courage to face the truth and the freedom to do so, neither Christian scholars nor the students they instruct will ever stand in the vanguard of academic pursuit. They lack the intellectual virtue and wherewithal to do so."—Michael Bauman, "Peer Pressure, Confessionalism and the Corruption of Judgment: Why Theologians Can't Think Straight"

I like this quote, even though it is a generalization. "...those who hold to opinions that cannot stand up to careful scrutiny" can apply to anyone, even myself. I believe it was the physicist Richard Feynman who said, "It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Although we cannot verify theological statements by laboratory experiment, the same principle applies. The difference between good theology and bad theology is known by testing against the background of history and logical coherence (just to name two criteria). I should hope that all theologians would hold truth above their pet theologies and accept whatever correction they need.

No comments: