Also worth noting is Samuel's discussion of the academic marginalization of theology, and his suggestion that in many ways this marginalization might be quite deserved:
I’m always astounded by astronomy, how vast the scale of their material is. It’s incredibly relativing [sic], and I think theologically healthy, to be reminded of the contours and scope of the universe. It also gives me some doubt about the parity between the contributions scientists and theologians in recent times have made. Could anyone claim that theology in the past hundred years has even helped and improved the church (never mind the “world”) on anything like the scale that science has improved our lives? I say this as one of the most anti-postivistic, die-hard-defender-of-the-humanities types around. Generally speaking, I tend to find that many theologians are actually not doing anything in their work that is recognizably knowledge-giving, insight-enhancing.
On the other hand, Jason offers some quotes from Barth on doing theology in the university, and I think the critique of the status of theology and religious studies is especially helpful (this quote is Jason's quote of Barth):
A faculty in the science of religion has no reason for existence whatsoever; for though it is true that knowledge of religious phenomena is indispensable to the historian, the psychologist, and the philosopher, it is also true that these scholars are all capable of acquiring and applying this knowledge themselves, without theological assistance. Or is the so-called ‘religious insight’ the property only of that rare historian or psychologist who is also a theologian? Is the secular scientist incapable of studying the documents of religion with the same love and the same wisdom? Palpably not.
I don't know if I have too much to say on all this, but the posts are worth reading through. I resonate with both the critique of theology amongst the sciences offered by Samuel, as well as the critique of certain sciences from the vantage point of theology offered by Jason. Barth's point on what today is known as "religious studies" is worth making- but it also needs to be recognized that we can't exactly implement his critique without a massive overhaul of numerous university disciplines... not only religious studies, but any that are defined by the phenomenon they claim to study rather than by their unique right and ability to study it. And I just don't see how something like that is really needed, as long as we recognize the relative status of the identity of something like "religious studies". It should also be remembered that Barth elsewhere discusses theology in terms of its object/subject of study, so he is willing to frame theology in terms of its reference as well as its methodological ability. But as a caution and a qualifier, I think, Barth's points are worthwhile. And they are certainly helpful in defending the place of theology in the university, if not for doing away with religious studies departments.
Samuel's discussion of theology in terms of its relative failure when compared to other sciences is worth reading as a goad to better work (and theology is not the only discipline he has criticized). The point pretty obviously isn't, I think, to offer a critique of the sort that K.L. Noll did this past summer. Theology certainly can present knowledge, and arguments against this claim are simply the other side of the Barthian coin- the scientist of religion that sees a science of religion as de-legitimizing theological work. Samuel's point, in contrast, is that theology often doesn't live up to its potential. And on this point, Barth would certainly have been in agreement.