Amazement

November 22, 2013

"At the beginning of all theological perception, research, and thought — and also of every theological statement — stands a quite specific amazement. Its lack in even the best theologian will threaten the heart of the entire enterprise, while even bad theologians are not a lost cause in their service and their duty, as long as they are still capable of amazement. Amazement occurs when we happen upon a spiritual or natural phenomenon that we have not yet encountered, that we are not used to, that is initially unfamiliar, strange, and new. It is a phenomenon that we do not know how to begin to integrate into the realm of what we believe to be possible, and about its origin and essence we can only ask, until further information is available.

"The amazement that overcomes us when we get involved with theology, however, is of a different kind. To be sure, it also brings astonishment and forces us to learn, but in this case there can be no talk of one day learning all there is to know, of the unusual ever seeming usual and the new becoming old hat, of the foreign ever becoming domesticated. Here, progress in study can only mean that the stopping short and questioning in this regard to the object of study will increase, and far from ever in some sense letting us go, this amazement will more and more gain the upper hand. If we ever really experience this amazement, we will become, once and for all time, totally amazed human beings." (Karl Barth, Einführing in die evangelische Theologie [Zurich: EVZ Verlag, 1962], with thanks to Westminster John Knox Press)

No matter where we are on the theological spectrum — anywhere or nowhere at all — we can't help but live in amazement at the world we face. What amazes you? If it's driving you to write and you're looking for a publisher, please contact us.