Dan Migliore on What it Means to “Witness”

One important word in broadly Barthian discourse is “witness.” Hauerwas even uses it, although I happen to disagree with how he does so (cf. the contribution of Doerge and Siggelkow from the last KBBC). But it has been an increasingly contested question as to what exactly such a notion entails. Migliore discusses the church’s ask of proclamation, and then goes into different aspects of what proclamation is about. As part of that discussion he does a bit of an analytic exercise on the language of “witness” and what it means to be a witness. This is nothing like a final account of the matter, but it does lay some important foundation pieces.

Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, 276.
Several features of the act of witness stand out. First, the witness is sword to tell the truth. Second, faithful witnesses draw attention not to themselves but to someone or some event distinct from themselves. Third, the need of witnesses arises from the fact that what they tell us is quite different from a general truth that can be known in advance or that is universally accessible. Witnesses attest particular events. Fourth, the act of witness is self-involving. It requires personal participation, commitment, and courage. Fifth, because the truth is often resisted, the commitment of the witness in its most solemn form may become a commitment unto death. The link between witness and risk-taking is preserved in the New Testament word martus, “martyr.” While not in itself proof that a witness speaks the truth, commitment and risk-taking distinguish what a witness does from detached observation or passive transmission of information.



Great quote. I've enjoyed the posts from Migliore. The way he frames the self-involving character of witness is balanced and sensible. On the one hand, the witness has an existential relationship to the message, so it isn't just relating information "objectively." On the other hand, there is a distinction between the witness' self involvement and the veracity of the message. That's important too. Some modern theologians blur that distinction.
Mike said…
I especially like his third point (though I always like Dr. Migliore's points): "the need of witnesses arises from the fact that what they tell us is quite different from a general truth that can be known in advance or that is universally accessible." A conversation with a coworker only this morning has reminded me that the Christian life is not a self-evident truth to many (most?) people by any stretch of the imagination. Thanks for lifting up this quote.

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