Full Text for The End of the Historical-Critical Method (Text)

THE SPRINGFIELDER October 1974 Volume 38, Number 4 A Review Article The End of the Historical-Critical Method W HEN RIODERN 'THEOLOGY iiDOPTED the historical- critical methodology as its nzodus operalzdi in Scriptural study, it uncluestionably paid the price. It was thenceforth riding the tiger's back, with the danger of ending up inside. If cleverness with the text was to be the magical. formula, then let the sorcerer beware of his apprentice! It was capable of becoming the Frankenstein nlonster that turns on its creator. A notable little book has recently appeared in Germany which spells out these facts and then concludes with the flat judgment that the jig is up. Das I<~zdc der historisch-hritische~z Methode (Theol. Verlag Rolf Brockhaus, 1974, DRI 9.80, 95 pages) is the title Gerhard R4aier ventures to give his book-ventures, we say, because he dares thereby to take on a virtual army of opponents. His is a notable effort because it originates from a rather unlikely quarter in German theology, but one which, for that reason, cannot be I regarded lightly. 'CVith an earned doctorate in theology, G. Maier is part and parcel of Peter Beyerhaus' Albrecht-Bengel-Haus in Tue- bingen, a theological school with about 80 students. Beyerhaus is the Rehtor, or president, of the University of Tuebingen. Accord- ingly, what Maier is saying here is bound to get a wide hearing. Since that is not likely to come quickly on our shores, unless the book is translated, we shall try to recapitulate its content and chief accents hcrc at some length, elaborating freely here and there. The author has very relevant, tranchant judgments to render against a methodology that has troubled the theollogical waters for a long time-perhaps for too long a time! The church needs finally to leave this subject and move on with its God-mandated task of evangelizing the world. Maybe it can do so, once it again moves with assurance and confidence concerning the Biblical Word. R4aier compresses a wealth of material into a small package. But small packages sometimes bear big, valuable gems. In order to spell out plainly the basis for claiming "the end of the historical-critical method," Maier traces back in history-at least for our modern times-where the attack .on Scripture's integrity and divine character began. Johann Salon10 Semler's judgment on Holy Scripture, that it was to be dealt .with like any other book, marked the onset of an almost uninterrupted two-hundred-year chain of irrational attacks against and charges of. contradictions in the Holy Scriptures. The end result, states Maier, has been a general malaise, if not total break-down, in Christian theology. Working with historical-criticism's presuppositions, chiefly its anti-supernakiral stance aid the uncritical acceptance of extra-Biblical materials, it was inevitable that this method should have devastated the Bible's own witness. It cvas inevitable, granted the presuppositions, which denied the supernatural nature of the Biblical text and threw open the whole question of its aut11or.ity and meaning. With such ;I stance the location of the Wrord of God itself was ope11 and free: Where was it to be found? How was it to 11e I