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What Do We Do with Karl Barth?
My friend Luke Stamps has pointed out a number of times that rejecting a particular theological program purely on the basis of the author’s unethical behavior or problematic thinking about ethical issues smacks of Donatism. This teaching from the fourth and fifth centuries said that the sacraments administered and teachings pronounced by unethical ministers were invalid. In other words, the truthfulness and effectiveness of ministry, prayer, and the ordinances was tied directly by Donatists to the purity of the minister.

Something similar is at work in rejecting any theological conclusion or program simply based on unethical acts of the writer. What opponents to Donatism, including Augustine, realized is that truth is truth even when it is spoken by someone acting contrary to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. John uses Caiaphas to make a similar point in his Gospel; even Balaam’s donkey spoke blessing on Israel when his master wanted to utter a curse. Truth is truth no matter who or what the mouthpiece.

And the list could go on, from Zwingli to medieval popes and monks to Cyril to the Cappadocians to the “traditors” to Peter to David to Moses to Jacob to Abraham to Noah to Adam. Each of these spoke truth on at least one occasion in their life, the latter portion of the list even becoming authors of, or at least speakers of truth in, Holy Scripture. We would be left with very few theologians if the bar for their theology’s truthfulness was their own ability to remain above reproach.

We should not only look to God’s Word as the primary, ultimate source for our theology, but also as its primary, ultimate evaluator. It is not the life of the theologian that serves as the arbiter of whether or not her or his theology is correct, but rather Holy Scripture.
KarlBarth  theology  adultery 
october 2017 by jbertsche

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