Barth on theology-as-science

(KD §I.1 on Theologie als Wissenschaft)

Barth gives a definition of science which makes strong contrast with the way theology must work. This definition is six-fold, and is still fairly normative among modern sciences:
1) non-contradictory in its postulates ("formal consistency")
2) coherent with respect to its object ("inherent consistency")
3) testability/verifiability of postulates ("openness to control")
4) congruous with the possible ("antecedent credibility")
5) independent of prejudgment ("impartiality" or "accordance with sufficient reason")
6) axiomatically demonstrable ("formalisability")

Barth wants theology to be a science, but it cannot agree to these. The first is his basic problem: the resolvability of all paradoxes is simply not possible for theology in view of its object. And the problem here becomes that of objectivity.

I think part of the problem, also, is that Barth is writing of science in 1932. Which is ironic, considering that Heisenberg was working at Gottingen during the end of Barth's tenure there. But the objectivity principle that Barth takes to be critical to science is a major part of what breaks theology as a science on the terms of modern science. Barth speaks (correctly!) of theology as a science that is done from within the auspices of the church. And, as an objective science, theology then becomes this impossible possibility of speaking about God. But the reality of Christ is not a new reality, so much as the intensification of the old reality. The proper object of theology, done from within the people of God -- who have faith, therefore -- has always been the relationship between God and humanity. In Christ, God's faithfulness to this relationship is cemented permanently, in that God dwells in the relationship far more profoundly than was true of the covenants. And if the reality proper to theology is expanded to an understanding of the relationship between God and humanity, the impossibility and paradox become comprehensible as the subjectivity of faith. Our fingerprints, so to speak, are always on the object of our study.

This is a bit Copernican, and it has much the same effect on theology as science: what fails to resolve as an objective reality external to the observer becomes comprehensible in a new way as a reality to which the observer is inextricably internal. And I'm grinding down, so I'll chase that particular avenue down later.


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