Evangelical and Historical-Critical Theology -- By: Eta Linnemann

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 14:2 (Spring 1997)
Article: Evangelical and Historical-Critical Theology
Author: Eta Linnemann

Evangelical and Historical-Critical Theology

Eta Linnemann

Lindenweg 22
H26789 Leer-Loga

I. The Foundations

1. The concept of “theology” is not used univocally but equivocally:

The word has a different sense in historical-critical theology than it has among evangelicals. We are accustomed to speaking of Bultmann’s theology, or Barth’s, or Moltmann’s, or Jüngel’s. But which of us would speak in the same sense of Spener’s theology, or Wesley’s, or Moody’s, or Spurgeon’s? Did the latter group somehow fail to make a theological contribution? Of course not. They did not, however, go about the construction of their own theology. That is, they did not construct a theology containing specific, subjective divergences from God’s Word, divergences of which they would have to be called the authors. It is only at the cost of a considerable independent divergence from God’s Word that one becomes the author of one’s own theology. The person who loyally subordinates his thinking to God’s revelation constructs no such theology. That person also faces no pressure to make a name for himself. For him it is enough if the Lord says to him, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

2. The roots of historical-critical theology:

There is nothing in historical-critical theology that has not already made its appearance in philosophy.1 Bacon (1561–1626),Hobbes (1588–1679),Descartes (1596–1650), and Hume (1711–1776) laid the foundations: inductive thought as the only source of knowledge, denial of revelation, monistic worldview, separation of faith and reason, and doubt as the foundation of knowledge. Hobbes and Hume established a thoroughgoing criticism of miracles; Spinoza (1632–1677) had already thought along similar lines, laying the basis for biblical criticism of

both Old and New Testaments. Lessing (1729–1781) invented the synoptic problem. Kant’s (1724–1804) critique of reason became the basis for historical-critical theology. Hegel (1770–1831) furnished the means for the process of demythologizing as effectively implemented a century later by Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976)-after the way was prepared by Martin Kähler (1835–1912).

Kierkegaard (1813–1855) served as executor of Kant’s philosophy in the theological realm. The melancholy Dane reduced faith to a leap that left rationality behind. He cemented the separation of faith and reason and laid the groundwork for theology’s departure from biblical moorings. It is, therefore, not surprising that he wished late in life for a reformer with the b...

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