on March 16, 2009
Eta Linnemann studied under Germany's elite biblical scholars--Rudolph Bultmann and Ernst Fuchs, Friedrich Gogarten and Gerhard Ebeling. She passed the exacting hurdles which grant entrance into academia, ultimately becoming an professor of New Testament at Philipps University in Marburg. Along the way she published books and articles espousing the "historical-critical" methodology she'd been taught. In Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, c. 1990), she announces her repudiation of that methodology--which she now insists is an atheistic ideology or "theology"--and sorrows for the damage it's done to the Church of Jesus Christ.
She also laments the young people historical criticism has harmed: "We have put generation after generation of believing Christian young people, who were willing and eager to serve God, through this fire, sacrificing them to the Moloch of an atheistic theology. The result has been generation after generation of misguided guides" (p. 117). In her introduction, which reads much like an impassioned manifesto, Linnemann declares: "My 'No!' to the historical theology stems from my 'Yes!' to my wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to the glorious redemption he accomplished for me on Golgotha" (p. 17). Furthermore, "on the basis of various observations, discoveries, and a resulting self-awareness, I was forced to conclude two things I did not wish: (1) no 'truth' could emerge from this 'scientific work on the biblical text' and (2) such labor does not serve the proclamation of the gospel" (p. 17).
On a personal level, her lifelong immersion in biblical studies, following the "historical-critical methodology," resulted in a "profound disillusionment" which led her into a variety of "addictions" (TV and alcohol). Graciously, God brought some believers into her life who cared for her, prayed with her, and helped her find the living Lord. In time, "By God's grace and love I entrusted my life to Jesus" (p. 18). That surrender resulted in a deliverance from her addictions and an entrance into the life she'd long longed for. It was as if she emerged from the fog into the sunshine. "I was able to recognize sin clearly as sin rather than merely make excuses for it as was my previous habit. I can still remember the delicious joy I felt when for the first time black was once more black and white was once more white; the two ceased to pool together as indistinguishable gray" (p. 18).
Concurrently she discovered the integrity and supernatural inspiration of God's Word--"I recognized, first mentally, but then in a vital, experiential way, that Holy Scripture is inspired" (p. 20). Quite a revelation for a German university New Testament professor! Eyes opened by miracles taking place even today, her "scientific" biases against biblical miracles quickly dissolved. She also found Christ's atoning work for sin on Calvary freed her from her own sins. In view of all this, "That is why I say 'No!' to the historical-critical theology: I regard everything that I taught and wrote before I entrusted my life to Jesus as refuse" (p. 20). She has tossed into the trash, with the emotional zeal of a new convert, all the books and articles she earlier wrote--and she urges all who have them on their shelves to do likewise! She turned her life over to God's guidance and went to teach in a Bible college in Indonesia, hoping her biblical studies could contribute to spreading the Faith and furthering Christ's King¬dom.
In the first chapter, she evaluates the modern university and its impact on biblical studies. In her judgment, universities since the Enlightenment have been atheistic in their assumptions and pagan in their functions. Thus any education which hopes to be truly Christian "can be established only by conscious dissociation from the modern European university and its history" (p. 49). That dissociation must be radical! Simply gathering Christian teachers and students together will not suffice. Beginning classes with prayer may be pius, but not efficacious. "The content of the activities must be fundamentally transformed from the ground up. Entire areas of intellectual inquiry must be grounded in God's Word" (p. 49). The Bible must be brought to the heart of every academic discipline. She writes as an advocate, it would seem, of Bible colleges--or at least Christian colleges completely suffused with Scripture.
For only the Bible is forever relevant to man's endeavors. In a profound sense, Linnemann takes Luther's adamant sola scriptura principle with utter seriousness. In fact, the Bible is more "modern" than the illusions which were judged "up-to-date" two decades ago! The "modern man" of the French Revolution, worshipping the goddess Reason, seems curiously antiquated compared with father Abraham! For Linnemann it's back to the Bible if we're to deal with what's to come.
Having critiqued the university scene, she then discusses, in Part Two, "God's Word and Historical-Critical Theology." Here she insists that biblical scholars, seeking to be respectable and "scientific," have deserted their true calling. "The Bible is no longer esteemed as God's word in the way it is handled. It is taken for granted that the words of the Bible and God's words are not identical" (p. 83). "Using grotesque literary methods" which would be shoveled aside in other disciplines, university researchers capriciously label "inauthentic" (i.e. non-Pauline) such canonical books as the pastoral letters, Ephesians and Colossians or dismember the Pentateuch with variations on Wellhausen's scheme.
At the heart of this endeavor, lies a "faith in theology," a "fundamental presupposition" which dictates all that follows: "that the final authority regarding what is true is the trained, professionally informed, regimented critical intellect. That is, holy Scripture is subordinated to reason" (p. 107). Such a presupposition clearly leaves God the Holy Spirit, both as inspirer and interpreter of the text, out of the inquiry. So it's time we call it what it is: "Historical-critical theology is heresy" (p. 124). Though usually guarded and gracious regarding individuals, lamenting rather than lambasting their errors, Linnemann leaves no doubt that she considers her former mentor, Rudolph Bultmann, utterly heretical!
What Linnemann urges is a "theology of faith" rather than a "faith in theology." Only when we're surrendered to the Word of God, open to its truth, submissive to its instructions, can we rightly read it. Consequently, "Questions are solved on one's knees, not through ransacking commentaries" (p. 112). Certainly it helps to study carefully, to master the original languages, etc. but a "theologian does not, by virtue of his academic study, occupy the judge's bench. God does" (p. 113).
For her, Scripture is verbally (though not mechanically) inspired, inerrant "not only in the area of faith and life but also in all other areas" (p. 147). How interesting to find a onetime "higher critic" ending up a virtual Fundamentalist!