A Little Something…

…to help us get in the right mood for the 2010 KBBC (which begins tomorrow!). Thanks to conference participant Andy Rowell for bringing this passage to mind at the right moment. Bold is mine; italics are original to the text.

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.3.2, 881.
In the light of what we have already said, it is surely clear that before the end of all things there is no age whose work cannot be taken up again and continued and improved. Together with the whole ministry of the community, the critical scholarship of theology itself stands in constant need of criticism, correction and reform. For the same reason, it is inevitable that in constant self-testing it should be involved in continual warfare not so much with individual errorists as with the countless evil spirits of false or semi-false theology. To be sure, its weapons are those of "righteousness on the right hand and on the left" ( 2 Cor. 6.7), yet there can be no doubt as to the conflict. Always there must be serious questioning, analysis, argumentation, construction, discussion and therefore directly or indirectly, and preferably only indirectly, polemics. From time to time, though not all the time, a little of the notorious rabies theologorum [ed: theological madness] is thus in place.
The long paragraph continues, however, on a more positive note:
This does not alter the fact, however, that in itself and as such theology is supremely positive and peaceable, that it fosters peace, and that it is thus to be pursued soberly, good-humouredly, without any nervous excitement, and particularly without too much petty, self-opinionated bickering. It is to be noted further that it is a modest undertaking which like missionary work can only aim to serve rather than to dominate by rendering a certain limited and transitory assistance to the cause of the community and therefore of all Christians and the world as a whole. It is to be noted further that when it is conceived and executed correctly and resolutely, yet also freely and modestly, theology is a singularly beautiful and joyful science (cf. C.D., II, 1, p. 656 f.), so that it is only willingly and cheerfully or not at all that we can be theologians.


Anonymous said…
I'm sure someone has pointed this out before, but the Barth/Brunner pic always brings to mind the showdown slide before beginning a match in Mortal Combat.
Andy Rowell said…
I looked it up and it seems "rabies theologorum" is better translated "the fury of theologians" not "theological madness" despite the Latin translation from the Digital Karl Barth Library. Melanchthon first used the phrase. I would translate the whole sentence this way:
"Here [in polemics]--from time to time, though not all the time--a little of the notorious rabies theologorum [ed: fury of the theologians] is quite appropriate."
The German:
Hier wird - nicht dauernd, aber gelegentlich - ein Modicum der berüchtigten rabies theologorum durchaus am Platze sein.

I would also change the translation "without nervous excitement" [ohne Krampf und Aufregung] to "without raving lack of composure."

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