Anselm and the progress to KD (and SCIENCE!)

Much is made of the progress from the prolegomenon to Christian Dogmatics (CD) through Anselm's Fides quaerens intellectum (FQI) to the Church Dogmatics (KD). And so much of that is interpretation of the new Anselmian direction, to the tune of "FQI shapes KD." This seems silly to me, given my study of earlier Barth materials. The way I would map it, Barth simply became more comfortable with Catholic and Patristic sources through his time at Munster and Bonn. If you look at the CD, or read the foreword to FQI, Barth started writing a profoundly Anselmian dogmatics the first time around. And he and most of his colleagues were profoundly dissatisfied with it. And so Barth wrote the Anselm book first, and then the prolegomenon to dogmatics. If you look at CD, most of the organization is retained as it is reworked into KD. The overarching ideas about theology in Barth's mind don't change that much. And if you read CD, and then FQI, so much of the Anselmian content comes through in a more clearly elucidated form. FQI was a work he needed to have "under his belt," so to speak, and out of the way, in order to write the dogmatics correctly.

It is certainly true that what Barth learned from his Anselm studies shaped his philosophy of Theologie-als-Wissenschaft, and mostly in the direction of understanding the limitations of a science when understood with respect to the proper material of theology. Theology must be a science, for three reasons which Barth gives in KD §1.1 (11):

1) the necessary solidarity and humility that theology retains in its knowledge of itself as one human concern for truth among others;
2) the persistent disputation of non-Christian notions of scentific "certainty" as a member of that community of human concerns for truth; and
3) the persistent refusal to separate itself from the idea of science just because it differs from the dominant non-Christian understanding of science.

It is quite clear that science is subordinated to its object. This is true in two basic ways. The first is basic to all sciences. It is always necessary that the formal methods of a science be appropriate to the material content of its object. Foucault becomes slightly relevant here, in his discussion of discursive formations and enunciative modalities, but mostly this can be demonstrated by any paradigm shift. New disciplines regularly develop out of older ones, as new objects are distinguished. Methodological shift happens as the disjunction between objects grows. As the basic questions are answered in ways appropriate to the new object, a new discipline emerges whose methods will be different from the old because of the shift in basic assumptions.

The second reason for subordination of the science to its object moves this observation from the general to the particular case. Theology, as a science, cannot simply co-opt the methods appropriate to the object of any other discipline. "If theology allows itself to be called, or calls itself, a science, it cannot in so doing accept the obligation of submission to standards valid for other sciences." (10) And yet the trouble here is that it cannot therefore consider itself exempt from its nature as a science. Theology is only "a stop-gap in a disordered cosmos," and does not participate itself in the order of that cosmos. (ibid.) I have called this the nature of theological science as a modeling language. "The only way which theology has of proving its scientific character is to devote itself to the task of knowledge as determined by its actual theme and thus to show what it means by true science." (ibid.) Only people faithfully engaged in the discipline of theology can determine what methods are appropriate to the object, the "actual theme," of the discipline of theology.

This is where the discussion of the sixfold definition from Monday's post should be going. And, along Kuhn's development of the paradigm shift, we are perhaps in a period where our perception of the object of this discipline is shifting. The goal of a modeling language is to better approximate the reality described, and no modeling language has any business being fixed in stone. Barth himself is laying claim to better modeling, as are Rahner and Pannenberg. And it is good to keep in mind that Barth isn't comfortable with "systematic theology" as an encompassing whole. He wants cognate theological sciences, and starts by defining three: fundamental, practical, and doctrinal. And they overlap, for Barth, as three circles whose centers are each within the other two. There is no master circle, no center of theology. (4) The image to the right is my attempt at an illustration of this using the CMYK gamut. The question is never which color is right. The question to the church is whether the gamut expressed in its theology is true to the reality of God in Christ. Dogmatics is no master discipline. In fact, on this analogy, you could break theology into cognate sciences that express the gamut using RGB. The question of faithfulness is the important question, and to the extent that theology is a science, it is the church's self-examination of its own utterances for exactly this faithfulness. Are we modeling the reality well? Could we model it better? Where are we wrong? Always, always back to ground truth. Always back to God in Christ, and the action of God. For which the analogy gives us the Anselmian caveat: the gamut is a representation of the human perception of truth. Credo ut intelligam. Intellection follows faith, or it gets lost. Faith is our contact with ground truth, because faith is God's action determining our existence. We can theorize on the basis of our understanding, and there is joy to be had in that search for understanding, but it must always be fides quaerens intellectum.


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