Real Theologians Read Chick-Lit

barthI’m still slowly but surely working my way through Karl Barth’s Evangelical Theology. I came across a fascinating section the other day in which he talks about the possibility of over-eating in a theological sense. Interesting, I thought. What does that mean? Here he is in his own words:

“In the relationship of man to God’s work and word there may exist not only an unhealthy under-nourishment but an equally unhealthy overeating . . . as a novice, he has devoted himself to theology with the incomparable exclusiveness of a first love; and now he lives not only as a theologian in everything, but even entirely as a theologian alone, to the elimination of everything else. He has no basic interest in the newspapers, novels, art, history, sport; and so he reveals that basically he has no interest in any man. He is interested in his theological work and in his theological concern . . . Not only are there students and professors of theology who go beyond their calling, but also preachers who live hermetically sealed off within their congregations. They associate with other men only in an hyper-theological way. A dangerous business! . . . Concentrated theological work is a good thing, or even the best thing, but exclusive theological existence is not a good thing. Such existence, in which a man actually plays the role of a God unconcerned about his creation, must sooner or later inevitably lead to doubt, in fact radical doubt.”

So, perhaps reading a chick-lit is a step too far (but maybe not!?), but Barth is right. A theologian who has no interest in his fellow-man or culture is really no theologian at all, because he is disinterested in the creator’s creation. I think Barth would go so far as to say a failure to engage with culture is not just anaemic theology; it’s just not theology properly defined and conceived. So, there’s some theological justification to listening to the Ashes while I work!


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