Review of Brevard S. Childs, Biblical Theology in Crisis (The Westminster Press, 1970).
W. H. Marshner
Vol. V. No. 9
“The strain of using orthodox Biblical language for the constructive part of theology, but at the same time approaching the Bible with all the assumptions of Liberalism, proved in the end to cause an impossible tension” (p. 103). B. S. Childs, professor of Old Testament at Yale and a major figure in Protestant biblical scholarship, has exploded a theological bomb in this work. The sentence might serve both as the author’s epitaph on several Protestant theologies and as his prediction of doom for analogous projects mushrooming in contemporary Catholicism. It brushes aside the pious nonsense that “historical criticism” will provide the Church with a deeper understanding of God’s word. The author shows that it will do no such thing. He goes hunting for an exegetical method that will. In the process, he rediscovers the central significance of the whole canon as the context for each of its constituent parts. At one blow he overturns a misunderstanding of the “literal” sense which has plagued Protestantism since the eighteenth century and re-establishes the unity of Scripture on the theological level — where it belongs.
Serious questions remain, especially for the Catholic reader, and Childs’ exposition is often less than clear. But it is not too much to say that this book, if heeded, will produce a full scale revolution in Protestant exegesis and a full scale counter-revolution in Catholic.