Just Enough to Know … An Attempted Meme

In the light of the previous quotation from Rowan Williams, I was reminded of a friend of mine, a great preacher, who sometimes uses the rhetorical line in sermons: ‘I have been around long enough to know….’.  Studying theology is like that.  The deeper you get in the more you realise that you don’t know much at all and the less inclined you are to speak, or preach or teach.  But given that theology is about finding language ‘tells enough truth’, there is something appropriate about the idiom: ‘I know enough to say…’

Given that so much is learned through reading, I wonder how others might respond to the invitation to share thoughts in the following key:

‘I have read enough (insert name of book/theologian/etc) to know/believe/think that….’

Here are my starters for 10.  If you choose to pick up the idea, please leave a comment and I will update the post with all further contributions.

1.  I have read enough Barth to know that theology is basically a matter of Nachdenken, thinking after God.

2.  I have read enough Bonhoeffer to know that my inclination towards pacifism oversimplifies what are often profoundly complex issues.

3.  I have read enough Anabaptist history and theology to know that good theological ideas contain within them the seeds of self-destruction, that enthusiasm is not always a good thing, and that Christian pacifism can function has an important corrective to theological and political arrogance and eschatological fervour.  In short, I am re-reading Q.

4.  I have read enough contextual, practical theology to know that, when done badly, it becomes little more than social analysis wearing a pair of doctrinal earrings, or at its worst, what Stephen Pattison calls ‘staring up your own arse backwards’.  My solution would be to declare a moratorium on the use of questionnaires in theological research.

5.  I have read enough recent Baptist theological writing to believe that the recovery of the significance of the language and theology of ‘covenant’ has the potential both to shape the fortunes of a denomination (which we aren’t) and to contribute to wider ecumenical debates and relations.

And a few related to NT things.

6.  I have read enough Stanley Porter to know that I was mis-taught the meaning and function of Greek tenses.

7.  I have read enough Lou Martyn to believe that apocalyptic is really at the centre of Paul’s thought.

8.  I have read, listened to and sat in tutorial with N. T. Wright enough to know that he is at his best when talking about Pauline theology.  When it arrives, the big book on Paul will constitute his lasting contribution to the discipline.

9.  I have read enough Bultmann to agree with John Ashton’s brilliant summary: ‘…yet over them all Rudolf Bultmann, unmatched in learning, breadth and understanding, towers like a colossus.  Nevertheless, in spite of his pre-eminence, every answer that Bultmann gives to the really important questions he raises – is wrong … if one were to try and distil the essence of Bultmann’s achievement into a single word … the best word, I think, would be penetration – the peculiar ability to see John clearly and to see him whole.’ (Understanding the Fourth Gospel, 45).  Update: this is set something running – see Mike Bird’s response, and Jim West’s rejoinder.

10.  I have read enough NT scholarship: essays, articles, monographs, textbooks etc. etc. etc. to know that, in a simple phrase ‘less is more’, as the now departed C. F. D. Moule knew only too well.

Anyone else want to offer their thoughts?

Update: here are the offerings thus far

Andy Goodliff

Jim Gordon: best line so far ‘I have read enough Rick Warren’.