Word and Faith
Word and Faith
The publisher has asked me for a few introductory remarks which would facilitate the Engish-speaking reader's approach to this volume of essays, and in answer to this request I would attempt a definition of my own position. That of course is not to be done by drawing a plan of past and present theological schools and persuasions and pointing my place in it. Labelling people by means of party names and slogans is certainly convenient, yet it seldom serves towards clarity. Rather, I would mention a few standpoints influencing my work, yet not as if they were my own special concerns but because I think that every evangelical theologian could claim to regard them as essential.
We can give expression to our own theological aim only by trying to say what it is that counts in present-day theological work as a whole. Our own theology must be nothing else but a contemporary attempt to answer for theology as such. Answering for something implies, as does the concept of witness, two things: staking our person, in dedication to the matter concerned. Hence it can never be a question of forcing our own theology on to others and making it a law to them, but only of offering our own limited and transitory services as the means of making others free to observe their theological responsibility for themselves.
Now it seems to me eminently important to expose ourselves to the tension between different factors which on a superficial view are at loggerheads with each other, and yet on proper consideration belong so inseparably together that to lose their togetherness would be to lose what theology itself stands for. The fact that the enduring of tensions is thereby required of the theologian as conditio sine qua non of his calling, should not appear strange to anyone.
To take our bearings from the theology of the Reformers and at the same time to take modern thought seriously seems to be incompatible, or possible only by means of sorry compromises. For me, however, my vocation as a theologian stands or fails with the opposite view. For we can be evangelical theologians neither without the Reformers' understanding of the Gospel nor without thinking within the field of present-day experience of reality. That is why my efforts move in both directions: they are concerned on the one hand with the interpretation of Reformation theology, above all the theology of Luther (cf.