The Sign of Pompous Obscurity -- By: Roy L. Aldrich

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 128:509 (Jan 1971)
Article: The Sign of Pompous Obscurity
Author: Roy L. Aldrich

The Sign of Pompous Obscurity

Roy L. Aldrich

[Roy L. Aldrich, Former President of Detroit Bible College, Detroit, Michigan.]

“The language of truth is simple and unadorned,” said Seneca. On the other hand, the language of error is complex, pompous, and obscure. The Bible warns against the false scholarship and obtuse verbiage of unbelief: “Be careful that nobody spoils your faith through intellectualism or high-sounding nonsense. Such stuff is at best founded on man’s ideas of the nature of the world and disregards Christ” (Col 2:8, Phillips’ translation—see also Eph 5:6; Col 2:4; Rom 16:17–18; 2 Pet 2:1, 3). This characteristic of error will be accentuated by the false teachers of the last days: “For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh” (2 Pet 2:18a). In the words of Williams’ translation, they are “uttering arrogant nonsense.” Jude writes: “And their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage” (Jude 16b). The contexts in 2 Peter and Jude indicate a special reference to the last days.

The examples of obscurity that follow are from the most popular schools of modern unorthodoxy all the way from the more neoorthodox to the “death of God” theologians. Not all the authors quoted are equally obscure and some write sections that are lucid. However, the obscurity occurs in connection with the most important doctrines and is aptly described by Phillips’ rendering of part of Colossians 2:8 as “high-sounding nonsense.”

Karl Barth

Karl Barth is well known as the father of modern neoorthodoxy. His system largely superseded the optimistic modernism of the early

part of this century. In Europe his theology is being supplanted by other systems—most of them more radical. In America neoorthodoxy has developed several varieties with the trend toward the more radical departures such as represented by Paul Tillich, Nels F. S. Ferré, and the death-of-God theologians. Nevertheless, in America the mainstream of unorthodoxy is still neoorthodox and existential.

Barth’s monumental writings contain much that sounds orthodox and not all that he says is bad or obscure. However, his seeming orthodoxy s...

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