Modern Academia and Carl Barth

There is no doubt at all that those who rule in the halls of liberal academia are "honest" in their dogmas and views regarding what they teach in the institutes of higher learning. The bottom line is not one's academic credentials and background as interesting as that may be. The bottom line is the age old question that Pilate asked rhetorically, "What is truth?".

Is the Old Testament account of creation and the history that follows merely a "story" or a "saga" or a "poem" as Barth describes the Genesis account and the history of Israel that follows? The implication of such a description and interpretation of Genesis and the Torah as such leads to the conclusion that the account is merely of "theological value" rather than true "historical value". If the account is merely of theological value then the reader is left to his own imagination as to the meaning and interpretation of the record. However the fact is that the Genesis record is in fact both historically accurate and theologically accurate.

Those who seem to embrace the "poetic and saga view" of the account want to label a "historically accurate view" as an unworthy "literalistic" and "fundamentalist" approach. However in defense of the literal history approach, this is the approach of the Protestant reformers, the apostles of Christ, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself.

From here we could begin a discussion regarding where Barth's and Neo-orthodoxy's approach to scripture is lacking and weak, but that would involve more than we might want to engage in. I will however state that this neo-orthodox approach has never been the approach of either the Protestant reformers, the pioneers of the Adventist movement through Ellen White, or the present-day generation of Adventists who fill the pews and pay the salaries of those who teach in the Adventist parochial school system. If left to run its course this approach to education will eventually undermine the very basis upon which evangelical Christianity and Seventh-day Adventism is built.

Standing back from the issues of this discussion, one must ask ones self "what is the fruit of each of these schools of biblical interpretation?" Who are the folks going door to door with the word of the gospel to win souls to Christ and his truth? Who is reaching out to lost souls in this world with radio, television, the internet, and printed tracts proclaiming Jesus Christ as Lord, creator, law-giver, redeemer, atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world, mediator in heaven, savior from both the penalty and the power of sin, and soon coming King? Is it the neo-orthodox intelligentsia, the Abelardian theologians, or is it the "literalist" and the "fundamentalist" such as H.M.S Richards, Ellen White, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther? Most of those in academia would label them as "hokey" and lacking in "higher" education sophistication, including lower and higher biblical criticism. If left to the intelligentsia who are driven to poke holes in the belief systems of orthodox conservative Christianity, the church of Christ would be left with nothing but a mere Christian moralism and social gospel. This is what happened to the Presbyterian church and the Calvinist congregationalist churches in which I was nurtured before becoming an evangelical Seventh-day Adventist. The main-line Protestant denominations with a few exceptions have been undermined by those who have taught a non-literalist / non-fundamentalist approach to the Christian faith and these organizations are now merely a shell of what they were when they had a more dogmatic approach to the faith. The prevailing emphasis is now upon the "social gospel" and ecumenism without any formal doctrinal foundation. There are very few Luthers in academia who will arise before the world and declare,

"Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason (for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves) I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God . Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen."

Luther would not have embraced the neo-orthodox persuasion nor any of the other modernist schools of biblical interpretation and neither would have the founders of the Adventist movement. They would be labeled as "literalists". Sure the pioneers of Adventism had some rather unorthodox opinions, but the solution to the doctrinal problems in Adventism is not to liberalize our approach to scripture but rather to wrestle with the scripture itself rather than impose a view that is foreign to "sola scriptura". Adventists and the teachers in Adventist schools must see scripture as Christ Himself did. "The scriptures cannot be broken". and "You do err not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God".

I am aware that Barth heroically attempted to salvage a higher view of scripture from the low view to which the liberalism of the theologians of his day had descended. But in so doing he did not go far enough and attempted to harmonize the "scientific" and "philosophic" arguments of the day with Reformed theology which cannot be done. I like the statement of Ellen White to the effect that when the "Book of nature" seems to conflict with the "Book of the word of God", one must by faith trust the worthiness of the word of God above the Book of Nature. Why can we believe this? Because the conclusions of scientific research into events which occurred in the past are mere extrapolations and not empirically provable. God was there in the past and He miraculously preserved an authoritative account of history and He is telling us exactly what happened at the creation and at the flood and at the conquest of Canaan. Bible history is not a "heroic epic" or a "saga" but a historically accurate salvation history of the human race since the "beginning" of creation of the universe and the "foundation of the world".

Bill Diehl Jr., editor