Reformation Heritage and the Question of Sachkritik: Theological Criticism of the Bible
AbstractAlthough Bultmann responded favorably to Barth’s call for a return to a theological exegesis of Scripture in the tradition of the Reformers that moved beyond modern historicism without relapsing into premodern biblicism, he criticized Barth for not following through on the necessity of subjecting biblical texts to theological criticism according to the criterion of the Bible’s subject matter (Sachkritik). What accounts for their disagreement on this issue? At the root of their conflict over Sachkritik is the confessional difference between Lutherans and the Reformed. Whereas Luther was willing to criticize Scripture on the basis of the gospel, Calvin did not follow Luther in this respect. This article examines the differing understandings of Luther (and thus Bultmann) and Calvin (and thus Barth), arguing that Protestants today must decide what is the genuine legacy of the Reformation heritage regarding the proper understanding of biblical authority, since nothing less than the integrity of the Protestant church and its ministry is at stake.