"The biblical witness to God's revelation
leads to a response and participation in Christ.
This means in turn that epistemology is insufficient without ontology,
both in terms of the transformation of the believer,
and ultimately of the whole created order,
as the Incarnation makes knowledge of God
an engagement with being itself."
The words come from Karl barth and Hans Urs Von Balthasar, by Stephen Wigley. This is a rich and demanding study of the mutual respect and contested differences between two of the greatest theologians of the 20th Century.
Listening to Radio 4 last night on the way down from Aberdeen, there was a discussion about the appointment of the new BBC Science Correspondent whose remit is to make the leading edges of scientific knowledge and discovery "accessible". There was considerable worry that accessible means dumbed down, and that to popularise is to distort by simplification to the point where knowledge itself is dangerously reduced and pre-packaged.
The same holds for theology. By all means popularise, make accessible, eliminate needless jargon, be inclusive in writing, teaching and learning. But do not deprive key intellectual disciplines of the discourse needed for precision, necessary nuance, development of ideas, explorations of complexity and contested concepts. In other words, not all theology can or should be "accessible" if by that we expect to grasp, understand and integrate what we read on its first reading. If there are words we don't easily recognise, concepts that perplex and puzzle, sentence structures that force us to slow down, read again, and, bless us, think -then don't assume bad writing, or abstracted thought, or ideas under-developed or overworked. It may be that we are being educated, drawn out towards truth and insight beyond our comfort zones. Both Barth and Von Balthasar are such theologians, thinkers and intellectual mentors - if we have the patience and respect, to sit at their feet.