Too often when I read contemporary theological books and essays, I am driven to the question: Is this the theological world? Are these shallow, trendy, half-informed, anti-theological posers -- who know little, understand less, and yet who speak endlessly -- are they the current state, or even the future, of what Karl Barth rightly described as the happy discipline of theology? These temporizing amateurs, who are they?
In Carlyle’s words, they are “ill-natured weaklings,” “unhappy souls” more ravenously hungry for notoriety than for truth. “They are not red-blooded men at all,” he said. “They are things only for writing articles.” They have yet to learn even the fundamentals of the theological craft, much less the content of Biblically-based thinking. They are fit only for writing articles that ought not be published, read, or studied, persons fit only for lecturing at conferences that ought not be attended; conferences that merely spawn more conferences of the same sort because conferences, like those who organize and attend them, reproduce after their own kind. Those organizers and attendees, again in Carlyle’s words, “are more to be pitied than blamed.” “I do not hate them,” he said, “I would only that stone walls and bars were constantly between us.” One brief letter from Goethe was worth more to him than all the article mongers in London and Edinburgh could produce in a generation.
When I look into the books and articles that emerge around me daily, I see there is no soul within them and, if no soul, no theology, at least not theology rightly so-called. Living souls know God. Indeed that is the very definition and description of a living soul -- it knows God. Knowing Him gives life -- is life -- to the soul. A living soul knows that metaphysical speculation and clever turns of phrase are things very different from the God it knows, loves, and worships. No one ever did, or ever could, know, love, and worship an uncaused cause, a thought thinking itself, or a mover unmoved. To the article mongers, the difference between these soul-starving metaphysical abstractions, on the one hand, and the articulate multi-Personal Spirit that spoke the universe into existence, on the other hand, is inconceivable and unwelcome. They do not want to be reminded that dead souls give rise to dead gods, and that dead gods cannot give life to dead souls.
I know firsthand it does no good to point out to them their life-wide and heart-deep lack. They respond only with bafflement and over-weaning offense. They do not know what you are talking about, and they are very angry with you for talking about it. To them, their offense trumps all contrary truth, which they label as hate. The desert wanderer, craving water, indeed dying of thirst, spits it out in disgust when a cool draught from the very river of life is offered them. Offer them medicine for their souls and they will wonder who you think you are. They take it for arrogance, not compassion.
Would it do any good to print their names here?
If I thought so, I’d do it.