On Not Reading Barth – Or, Academic Fundamentalism

Heinrich Barth.
This is not the Barth you are looking for. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know… my response is going to get me some guffaws from some of my friends. Before you read what I have to say, read the original post here.

via On Not Reading Barth: my measly resistance | WIT.

How dare an academic institution want to you read and engage a well known scholar of the 20th century. How.dare.them.

This is my analogy.

I had never read James Cone, but I knew Cone was a text loved by several professors and friends. Perhaps I should have simply not read him. I mean, I was the token white guy reading James Cone. I knew I was expected as a social/empire critic to read Cone. But I didn’t want to because I wanted to be different. I could have just listened to what Glenn Beck said about Cone – or Rodney who is a fan of Cone. And I knew there were areas I’d disagree with Cone. So why even read it? If the institution wanted me to read it, I simply wasn’t.

Except I did. I read Cone and Cone is fan-freakin-awesome… even if I didn’t agree with him always, found him someone ‘too much’ and will never likely read him again. But I didn’t dismiss him because people wanted me to read him.

I can and will say the same thing about Calvin and Augustine. I sought to resist reading these darlings of Christianity, but in the end, my resistance was silly.

To refuse to read a text because of the assumptions and forces around it is Academic Fundamentalism. To limit your experience because of some contrived feelings is fundamentalism. How dare you be challenged!

To refuse to read Barth for the reasons listed in the article is sorta like John Piper refusing to read Rob Bell.

There… no you take a seat Rodney.

Now, on the other hand, if an institution is saying you must believe everything Barth wrote, or formulate your theology such as he, well… (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t) then that is another issue. To dismiss him is not a credit to yourself, and some form of resistance, but a sincere mistake.

And…. #boom

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10 Replies to “On Not Reading Barth – Or, Academic Fundamentalism”

  1. It’s more like academic hipsterism (hipstery?). A refusal to read what is considered “popular.” After all, some prefer to just read theologians “you’ve probably never heard of.”

  2. I was also confused by the original author’s post. What if I decided not to read feminist theologians’ writings? Am I then a bigot? Then how can one get away with not reading one of the most famous theologians of the 20th century, simply because he is a white man? Odd…

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