Karl Barth's Evangelical Theology: An Introduction is a series of lectures that he delivered in a "swan song" tour within the United States. While it deals with the nature and content of theology, it also includes a razor-sharp interrogation of the nature and identity of the theologian. For Barth, the theologian observes and grapples with a unique object (who, in one sense, is never object but Subject) that is unlike any other object of observation:
"When a man becomes involved in theological science, its object does not allow him to set himself apart from it or to claim independence and autarchic self-sufficiency. He has become involved in theology, even if his reasons for such involvement may have been very superficial, or, indeed, utterly childish. Certainly, he never knew beforehand what a risk he was taking, and he will certainly never fully grasp this risk. But at any rate he has taken this step. He is a theologian because he finds himself confronted by this object. His heart is much too stubborn and fearful, and his little head much too weak, but he cannot merely dally or skirmish with this object. The consequences can no longer be avoided. This object disturbs him-and not merely from afar, the way a lightning flash on the horizon might disturb one. This object seeks him out and finds him precisely where he Stands, and it is just there that this object has already sought and found him. It met, encountered, and challenged him. It invaded, surprised, and captured him. It assumed control over him. As to himself, the light "dawned" on him, and he was ushered up from the audience to the stage. What he is supposed to do with this object has become wholly subordinate to the other question about how he must act now that this object obviously intended to have, and already has had, something to do with him. Before he knows anything at all, he finds himself known and consequently aroused and summoned to knowledge. He is summoned to re-search because he finds himself searched, to thinking and reflection because he becomes aware that someone thinks of him, to speech because he hears someone speak to him long before he can even stammer, much less utter a coherent sentence. In short, he finds himself freed to be concerned with this object long before he can even reflect on the fact that there is such a freedom, and before he has made even an initial, hesitant, and unskilled use of it. He did not take part in this liberation, but what happened was that he was made a direct participant in this freedom."
- Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology, 75-76.
Thanks to Kait Dugan, and her post, which initially brought this section of Evangelical Theology to my attention.