Israel As Light To The Nations: A Review Article -- By: Mark W. Karlberg

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 28:2 (Jun 1985)
Article: Israel As Light To The Nations: A Review Article
Author: Mark W. Karlberg

Israel As Light To The Nations: A Review Article

Mark W. Karlberg*

For those interested in the relationship between the OT and NT, Paul M. van Buren in the second volume of his projected four-volume systematic theology1 takes a new look at an old issue in the history of doctrine. As an ardent spokesman for ecumenical pluralism van Buren seeks to (re)construct Jewish-Christian relations on the foundation of an enlightened understanding of the nature of human experience and religious language. The religion department of Temple University, of which van Buren was a senior member, has been a leading voice in promoting inter-faith dialogue. (The Journal of Ecumenical Studies is published by the University.) Although evangelical theology and modern theology are worlds apart, much may be gained through serious interaction with the various forms of modern thought. Radical theologians like van Buren can be of service in provoking today’s evangelicals to fresh consideration of traditionally-held Christian doctrines and in providing a meaningful context in which they can articulate and reaffirm the Biblical basis for those historic doctrines of the faith.

Van Buren’s study of historical theology began with his doctoral work under Karl Barth on the topic of Calvin’s Christology.2 From a Barthian perspective on the “biblical testimony to God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ” van Buren set out by means of linguistic analysis to elucidate the meaning of the Christian message for secular man in a subsequent, controversial book.3 At this stage in van Buren’s theological quest an attempt was made to isolate the existential meaning of “God-language” in ancient thought. Critical of the Bultmannian school, van Buren urged a thorough revision of our understanding of the function and meaning of religious language itself.

The theological “left” has urged us to think through Christian faith in the light of the critique of modern thought. Again, “Amen”; but we would take this demand seriously. It will not do simply to translate the difficult word “God” into some highly or subtly qualified phrase such as our “ultimate concern,” or worse, “transcendent reality,” or even, “the ground and end of all things.” These expressions are masquerading as empirical name tags, and they are used as though they referred to

*Mark Karlberg is part-time instructor in theology at Chesapeake Theological Seminary in Maryland.

something, but they lead us right back into the problem of ancient thought, or they put us in...

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