Archive for January, 2010

Upcoming Book Events

01/31/2010

I’m going to be doing a book profile on Clayton Crockett’s work Interstices of the Sublime. This is by far the most important work on the interface of radical theology and psychoanalytic theory (Freud, Lacan, Kristeva, Zizek). I’ll probably start in a week or so. I’m also looking to do a review of Altizer’s work Genesis and Apocalypse later on this spring.

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Deleuze and Dice

01/30/2010

Today I read Chapter 4 of Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. Here are some highlights.

“It is not illegitimate, therefore, to summarise in this way the movement of philosophy from Plato to Fichte or Hegel by way of Descartes, whatever the diversity of the initial hypotheses or the final apodicticities. There is at least something in common: namely, the point of departure found in a ‘hypothesis’ or proposition of consciousness affected by a coefficient of uncertainty (as with Cartesian doubt) and the point of arrival found in an eminently moral apodicticity or imperative (Plato’s One-Good, the non-deceiving God of the Cartesian Cogito, Leibniz’s principle of the best of all possible worlds, Kant’s categorical imperative, Fichte’s Self, Hegel’s ‘Science’). However, while this procedure maximally approximates the real movement of thought, it also maximally betrays and distorts this movement: this conjoint hypotheticism and moralism, this scientlstlc hypotheticism and this rationalist moralism, render unrecognisable what they approximate” (Difference and Repetition, 197).

Deleuze opposes this movement from the hypothetical to the apodictic and offers us instead a movement from the problematical to the question. To what benefit? He acknowledges that both the apodictic and the question are both related to imperatives, but a difference exists between the hypothetical and the problematical, insofar as the hypothetical is an illegitimate reduction of the problem to mere propositions of consciousness and to representations of knowledge. Let’s return to the difference between the apodictic and the question. Questions help us explore the connection between problems and imperatives from which they emerge. “Problems or Ideas emanate from imperatives of adventure or from events which appear in the form of question” (Difference and Repetition, 197). He then offers a helpful illustration of these relations by comparing it to a throw of the dice. The dots on the dice represent the singular points, the dice represents questions, the throw is the imperative, and finally the problematic combinations are the ideas. What are ideas? Ideas are pure multiplicities that “animate and describe the disjoint exercise of the faculties from a transcendental of view (Difference and Repetition, 194). He then exhorts us to affirm chance in and of itself.

“The throw of the dice carries out the calculation of problems, the determination of differential elements or the distribution of singular points which constitute a structure” (Difference and Repetition, 198).

He goes on to say:

“The imperative are those of being, while every question is ontological and distributes ‘that which is’ among problems. Ontology is the dice throw, the chaosmos from which the cosmos emerges” (Difference and Repetition, 199).

Female Sexuation, God, and Cum

01/30/2010

This post is a response to an earlier question posed by Eric. In Seminar XX, Lacan tries to map out a notion of God that is a “third party in the business of human love” (Book XX, 70). He pokes fun at theologians who he claims have been doing just fine in their discipline even without needing God to exist, and then states that he must deal with God’s existence because psychoanalysis demands that we understand how to position ourselves relative to the Other. Understanding female sexuation is not an easy task, but I’ll try my best to sketch a rough outline. Lacan describes the upper portion of the graph with these two formulas:

~Ex~Φx
~VxΦx

The first line should read there does not exist a speaking subject who is not subject to the law of castration. The second line reads not all of the subject is subject to the law of castration. How can we make sense of these two statements? First off, I should clarify that castration is the alienation the subject experiences by being subjected to the rules of language. The feminine subject (again anyone can occupy such a position, biological sex is not a precondition) is different than the masculine subject insofar as each female subject is a singularity. On the masculine side, every masculine subject is subjected to the law of castration. However, on the feminine side, part of the female resists castration. That is to say something of her subjectivity is preserved despite her alienation into the Symbolic. This can help us make since of Lacan’s seemingly absurd statement “[t]here’s no such thing as Woman, Woman with a capital W indicating the universal” (Book XX, 72). She exists only as a singularity.

If we try to understand feminine jouissance (French for excessive enjoyment, almost where pleasure and pain converge) we can begin making since of the privileged way in which the female subject can relate to the Other. If we substitute jouissance for the phallic function, it reads both that there is not any jouissance that is not phallic jouissance, and that not all of the woman’s jouissance is phallic jouissance. First, I need to define phallic jouissance. Fink describes phallic jouissance as, “[m]an’s pleasures are limited to those allowed by the play of the signifier itself – to what Lacan calls phallic jouissance, and to what similarly be called symbolic jouissance” (The Lacanian Subject, 106). For the female subject, Lacan entertained the idea that some jouissance is actually beyond language.

Now we get to the mystics. Lacan said, “all sorts of decent souls around Charcot and others were trying to do, was to reduce mysticism to question of cum. If you look closely, that’s not it at all. Doesn’t this jouissance one experiences and yet knows nothing about put on the path of ex-sistence? Any why not interpret one face of the Other, the God face, as based on feminine jouissance?” (Book XX, 77). The mystic has a rapturous experience in which the subject feels as if they lose part of their subjectivity. She experiences a sense of self-transcendence. She can never articulate such an experience. Here, we see where negative theology comes into play. The mystic doesn’t know what happened, but she sure as hell knows that whatever we’re attempting to say about it doesn’t do justice to the actual experience of God’s overwhelming presence. Lacan understood that the feminine subject had to recognize her subjection to the Symbolic (hence phallic jouissance) while simultaneously deriving jouissance from the Other jouissance. The female subject has to inhabit such a space between phallic jouissance and Other jouissance, jouissance beyond the Symbolic.

“It is insofar as her jouissance is radically Other that woman has more of a relationship to God than anything that could have been said in speculation in antiquity following the pathway of that which is manifestly articulated only as the good of man” (Book XX, 83).

(Side note, I apologize for the absurdity of the title of this blog post, but I’m having difficulty imagining another opportunity when God and cum can appear in the same title)

Reassessing the Purpose of This Blog

01/28/2010

It’s been over half a year since my initial post where I charted the mission of this blog. In retrospect, I can say that I’m pretty happy with what I’ve accomplished. I’ve attracted some insightful readers, and I’ve tried to strike a healthy balance between philosophy, theology, and psychoanalysis. Unfortunately, I’m starting to question the general direction of this blog. For one, my posts on psychoanalysis tend to receive no attention. This is possibly due to my lack of clarity or perhaps the readers of this blog are more interested in philosophy and theology, which is fine. However, I’m going to continue posting on psychoanalysis (especially Lacanian) considering that this is what I’m actually studying in graduate school. Also, given my New Year’s resolution to read Church Dogmatics plus the stress of working 35 hours and graduate school, my blog posts as of late have been hijacked by Barth. While I intend to continue posting on Barth, I never had the intention for this blog to be remotely Barthian. To correct for this excess, I’ve decided that I will attempt to finish Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition along with Logic of Sense in the next month. After I complete my studies on Deleuze I should move onto Hardt and Negri (however, at some point I do intend to return to Deleuze to read his collaborative works with Guatarri). I also have on my plate Lacan’s Four Fundamentals and Seminar III (which focuses on psychosis). In my initial post, I stated that I wanted to put Deleuze and Lacan in conversation with theology because it’s clear that theologians have squeezed about all they possibly can from deconstruction, I stand by this statement. Hopefully, I’ll be able to incorporate some Agamben as well in the near future.

Barth on Necessity and Suffering

01/28/2010

“Jesus had to go up to Jerusalem. But the high priests, too, and the scribes and the people, had to do as they did in the only too genuine succession of tradition. The disciples had to leave Him, Peter had to deny Him, Judas had to betray Him. Not even here does this necessity imply the slightest excuse. Man unveils himself here as really and finally guilty. But that this did happen, that man really and finally revealed himself as guilty before God by killing God, had to happen thus and not otherwise in the event in which God asserted His real lordship” (CD, I/2, 92).

I found this quote to be interesting for a couple of reasons. He does a good job of finding a middle way between two common positions. One the one hand we have the anemic Calvinist reading where people sit around and wonder, “my God if Judas had to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver to fulfill Scriptures in Zechariah can we really hold him responsible?” Basically, Judas’ agency is in question and hence the person wonders if he is ultimately accountable for his actions. Barth says no. Judas does not get off that easy. I’ve always had difficulty stomaching both interpretations, but I find Barth’s to be more palatable insofar as it resists reading the whole Judas-Jesus relationship perversely. Although there are multiple ways to understand Judas and Jesus’ relationship, I think we should be more cautious to condemn Jesus as Ruskin points out here. The issue of sovereignty obviously is at play here. I tend to think that Jesus chose Judas as a follower because he believed in him. He took a risk that all friends must take. This is making me re-think posting that paper I wrote on the Oedipus complex and the cross because I dedicated a substantial portion of it arguing for a different interpretation of Judas’ relationship with Jesus. I’ll have to return that in a later post as it requires too much explanation.

My friend once brought up the point that what ultimately separates Peter and Judas was that Peter believed that he was worthy of forgiveness, hell he messed up so much in the gospels I’m sure he was used to asking for it.

Unfortunately, on the next page Barth goes on to call synagogues petrified. Yay for ecumenism.

“Only here, because here God Himself goes right into this darkness in which man has to stand and move before Him, and He does not let the extreme bitterness of His wrath and of death touch sinful man, but – and this is the mystery of New Testament – experiences and bears it for Himself…The New Testament answer to the problem of suffering – and it alone is the answer to the sharply put query in the Old Testament – is to the effect that One has died for all” (CD I/2, 108-109).

This is really fascinating. According to Barth, the Hebrew Bible is a record of people struggling with the problem of suffering and the experience of God-forsakenness (e.g. Psalmists, Job). After the New Testament, the riddle has been solved. God the Son has absorbed God the Father’s wrath and taken away the sins of the world. God the Son is the scapegoat. He goes to the depths of hell for us so we don’t have to. I’ll admit I’m not completely clear on Barth’s doctrine of reconciliation, but I suppose I’ll be able to report back about that next Fall.

Barth on Revelation, Christology, and the Historical Jesus

01/26/2010

Today I was playing catch-up on Church Dogmatics as this weekend was dominated by reading for school. Anyway, I’m excited about the beginning second part of Volume I of Church Dogmatics as it focuses on the incarnation. However, I’m not looking forward to the final 400 pages that focuses on ecclesiology. Church talk always bores me so much. I understand he was a pastoral theologian. Oh well, I’ll trudge my way through it. Here are some gems I found in today’s reading

“If we would or could merely be aware without wanting to understand, merely let ourselves be told without also telling ourselves be told without also telling ourselves what had been told, merely have faith without knowledge, it certainly would not be God’s revelation with which we had to do. If it were, such a refusal on our part would only reveal our disobedience, our unwillingness to be involved in it. Obedience to revelation must invariably mean to let oneself be involved” (CD I/2, 26).

What a beautiful quote. It flies right in the face of all those who think faith is merely a personal relationship. Not only is that insufficient, Barth goes so far as to say it’s disobedience not think through one’s faith.

“Thus we can say as little speak of an antithesis within the New Testament as of a synthesis. It may be the case that the Synoptic Gospels arose out of a certain opposition to Paul, and that the Fourth Gospel arose out of opposition to the Synoptics…That Paul and John could be reproached with Docetism and the Synoptics with Ebionitism is indeed testimony to the mutual interrelation of the two these” (CD I/2, 24).

This got me thinking about how the NT canon is ordered. I wonder what it’d be like to read through the NT chronologically. So often we read it as if it was already structured in this manner, forgetting that Paul was writing some 40-50 years before John’s gospel.

“This must be said particularly of the gigantic attempt (still as gigantic as ever) of the “Life of Jesus research,” i.e., the attempt, made in every style from mildest conservatism to the most imaginative or else most unimaginative, “hypercriticism,” to uncover out of the New Testament, by means of a series of combinations, restorations and also and particularly deletions, the figure of the mere man Jesus, the so-called “historical Jesus,”…He (Kahler) grounded his assertion historically that on the simple fact that we possess no sources for a life of Jesus which a historian could accept as reliable or adequate, because the Gospels are testimonies not sources” (CD, I/2, 64).

I found this to be an interesting move. Barth criticizes the historical Jesus research because we have scant evidence on the actual life of Jesus. He rightly recognizes that the Gospels aren’t historical documents, but rather proclamations of each church’s understanding of the gospel. I suspect that even with our burgeoning understanding of Jesus’ historical existence Barth would still refuse to engage the historical scholarship because of his theological commitments. Of course, I disagree.

“Through this likeness, then, God can become accessible to us because – in the broadest sense of the world – visible to us. A man we can see, physically or spiritually or both at once. Jesus Christ can reveal God because He is visible to us men as a man. His actual entry into this visibility signifies, let us remember, the entry of the eternal Word of God into veiling, into kenosis and passion. But this very veiling, kenosis and passion of the Logos, has to take place in order that it may lead to His unveiling and exaltation and so to the completion of revelation. God’s revelation without the veiling or in the form of an unknown being from another world would not be revelation but our death” (CD I/2, 36).

I thought this a fun quote especially the part how God’s presence would kill us if He didn’t veil Himself. I immediately though of Moses receiving the Declaogue on Sinai.

“But the succession of veiling and unveiling, incarnation and resurrection (John and Synoptists) suggest that in the veiling, in the incarnation, we do not have to do with a lessening in the divinity of the eternal Word…He who the third day rose from the dead was no less true God in the manger than on the cross” (CD I/2, 38).

This last quote speak for itself.

Moby Dick and the Dark God

01/25/2010

I’m no fan of fiction. I often tell my friends the only fiction I allow myself is the Bible. However, I’ve broken my vow for the last two weeks as I’ve been listening to Melville’s classic, Moby Dick. The person that reads the audio book on LibriVox is very talented and has made the book that much more enjoyable. I’m surprised by how damn progressive the book is. There’s so much out there about religious and racial tolerance that one would think the book’s written in our day and age. I’ve been waiting for Altizer’s AAR speech to come out as I’ve gotten wind that he makes allusion to the death of God and the gigantic bloated body of the great white whale.

Here’s a quote from an essay by Richard Rubenstein in the book the Theology of Altizer.

“Dr. Altizer has a highly original interpretation of the meaning of Captain Ahab’s quest for the great white whale in Moby Dick. According to Dr. Altizer, “Ahab’s mad quest for the white whale can be seen as faith’s response to the death of God, wherein the man of faith becomes the murderer of God so as to make possible a historical actualization of God’s death in Jesus, and thus an apocalyptic consummation of God’s original self-sacrifice or self-negation.” Dr. Altizer sees Ahab as a paradigmatic figure. He seeks the death of God in order to bring about the apocalyptic liberation from the restraints of the dead God, which is America’s true mission.”

Furthermore, Altizer shares his insights into Moby Dick in his theological memoirs.

“[t]hat God who is No and only No, or who is mysterium tremendum wholly apart from mysterium fascinans. This is the God who Blake named as Satan, or the God whom our great American epic named as Moby-Dick (and Barth confessed that he primarily learned English so as to be able to read Moby-Dick)” (Living the Death of God, 68).

The part that shocked me today was Melville’s profound commentary on Pip who became a madman after beholding the depths of the terrifying, omnipresent God.

“The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though. Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes; and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous, God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God’s foot upon the treadle of the loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man’s insanity is heaven’s sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his God” (Moby-Dick, 393).

There’s much more to be said about Melville’s theology. Famed death-of-God theologian William Hamilton wrote a short book in 1985 called Melville and the Gods that I plan to check out tomorrow from the library. Hopefully, I’ll have a post or more about this great American epic and its theological ramifications.

Philosophy in the Present

01/25/2010

Today I read Badiou and Zizek’s collaborative work Philosophy in the Present. It’s short and sweet. Badiou’s lecture is longer and serves as a nice primer to his philosophy. I’m just going to post some of the quotes I found to be the most provocative.

Badiou:

“At a deeper level, we can say that philosophy, faced with circumstances, looks for the link between three types of situation: the link between choice, distance and the exception. I argue that a philosophical concept, in the sense that Deleuze speaks of it, which is to say as a creation – is always what knots together a problem of choice (or decision), a problem of distance (or gap), and a problem of the exception (or event). The most profound philosophical concepts tell us something like this: ‘If you want your life to have some meaning, you must accept the event, you must remain at a distance from power, and you must be firm in your decision.’ This is the story that philosophy is always telling us, under many different guises: to be in the exception, in the sense of the event, to keep one’s distance from power, and to accept the consequences of a decision, however remote and difficult they may prove. Understood in this way, and only in this way, philosophy really is that which helps existence to be changed.”

“I insist on this point: it is not because there is ‘something’ that there is philosophy. Philosophy is not at all a reflection on anything whatsoever. There is philosophy, and there can be philosophy, because there are paradoxical relations, because there are breaks, decisions, distances, events.”

“Every universal is singular, or is a singularity. There is no possible universal sublation of particularity as such. It is commonly claimed nowadays that the only genuinely universal prescription consists in respecting particularities. In my opinion, this thesis is inconsistent. This is demonstrated by the fact that any attempt to put it into practice invariably runs up against particularities which the advocates of formal universality find intolerable. The truth is that in order to maintain that respect for particularity is a universal value, it is necessary to have first distinguished between good particularities and bad ones. In other words, it is necessary to have established a hierarchy in the list of descriptive predicates. It will be claimed, for example, that a cultural or religious particularity is bad if it does not include within itself respect for other particularities. But this is obviously to stipulate that the formal universal already be included in the particularity. Ultimately, the universality of respect for particularities is only the universality of universality. This definition is fatally tautological. It is the necessary counterpart of a protocol – usually a violent one – that wants to eradicate genuinely particular particularities (i.e. immanent particularities) because it freezes the predicates of the latter into self-sufficient identitarian combinations.”

“But we should add that the direct link between singularity and universality presupposes that there is something inhuman in universality. If we reduce universality to an ordinary human datum, this position is no longer defensible. And I believe that in Kant, this kind of direct relation between singularity and universality is linked to the moment in which Kant defines the human by means of something that exceeds humanity.”

“Today’s great question is not the critique of capitalism, on which more or less the whole world is in agreement with regard to the appalling material injustices, the thirty million dead in Africa because they do not receive medications, the atrocious disparities in the planet, and so on. All of this can be referred back to capitalism, in the wish for a capitalism that is better, a more moderate capitalism, and so on, without advancing an inch. Because the real question is not there, it does not lie in the negative and verbal critique of capitalism. The real question is that of an affirmative proposition regarding democracy, as something other than the consensus on the parliamentary form of politics. This is what the paradox that you point to tries to conceal, in other words, that the truly risky philosophical imperative, the one that really poses problems for thought, is the critique of the democratic form as we know it. That is the heart of the problem. And it is altogether more difficult than acknowledging along with everyone else the extent of capitalism’s injustice.”

Zizek:

“Philosophy is not a dialogue. Name me a single example of a successful philosophical dialogue that wasn’t a dreadful misunderstanding. This is true also for the most prominent cases: Aristotle didn’t understand Plato correctly; Hegel – who might have been pleased by the fact – of course didn’t understand Kant. And Heidegger fundamentally didn’t understand anyone at all. So, no dialogue.” [Side note, I’m surprised Kierkegaard’s misreading of Hegel wasn’t included in this list as Zizek fundamentally tries to re-read Hegel against Kierkegaard’s interpretation]

“My idea is now the following: perhaps we have to break with the dream that there is a normal philosophy. Perhaps philosophy is abnormality par excellence. Thus I would read Badiou’s theory. (We, Badiou and I, embrace each other, but in reality we hate each other. Our usual joke is: if I take power, he goes to the camps; but that is another story.) I also follow explicitly his thesis about the conditions of philosophy: that philosophy is by definition excessive; that it literally exists only through the excessive connection to external conditions, which are of either an amorous, political, scientific or artistic nature.”

“The fundamental message of philosophy, however, says that you can immediately participate in universality, beyond particular identifications.”

“At the foundation of Rorty’s conception lies a reference to particularism, whose disastrousness you have already criticized in your Ethics. It is a version of political correctness: only a black, lesbian single mother knows about the suffering of a black, lesbian single mother and so forth. Deleuze already protested strongly against this, because he said that this type of reference always amounts – even when it appears in the short term to be emancipator – to a reactionary position. Rorty’s concept of telling stories of suffering correspondingly demands an ethics that holds the space open in which anyone can tell their story. With this we lose any serious concern with truth.”

God is Unconscious

01/23/2010

In the Four Fundamental Concept of Psychoanalysis Lacan famously says that, “The true formula of atheism is not God is dead – even by basing the origin of the function of the father upon his murder, Freud protects the father – the true formula of atheism is God is unconscious “(59). This is a peculiar definition. What does Lacan mean by the statement God is unconscious? The first potential trap to sidestep is the typical Jungian reading of God. Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious is perhaps his most well known contribution. Jung assumes that based on similarities in myths and religions across cultures that humanity has a universal reservoir of primal myths and images to which every man has access. Unlike Freud, Jung also had a desire for the depths dimension in life. In the depths of the unconscious lurks God. We all have the potentiality to access this depth dimension. Hence, our conception of God literally dwells within theses unexcavated recesses of our mind. Here, we can begin to grasp Barth’s absolute difference from Jung. The last thing Barth would ever desire for his theology would be to confine God to the depths of man’s psyche. I would encourage any curious readers to check out Jung’s bizarre reading of Job in his short work entitled Answers to Job. Here Jung discusses God as a being becoming more conscious of itself. Yahweh is jealous of Job’s self-consciousness. I’d rehash the argument more, but it’s obscurity and strangeness made the interpretation almost completely independent of any exegesis of the book of Job. In the Monstrosity of Christ, Zizek locates the ultimate difference between Lacanian psychoanalysis and Jungian depth psychology in the two formulas: for Lacan, “God is unconscious” and for Jung, “God is the unconscious”.

[Side note, as a good Freudian it is incumbent on me to dislike Jung. His perversion of psychoanalysis into this obscure pseudo-religious, esoteric practice will always make him a major target of my assaults. But seriously, he slept with his patients. Not cool.]

I hope I have made it clear that Lacan utterly rejects this insipid interpretation of God that Jung offers us. Lacan was a Freudian materialist through and through. The idea that God is unconscious means that even if the subject consciously denies a belief in God, his actions convey that he still unconsciously believes in such a being or ordering principle. Let’s consider subject A. Subject A consciously believes that the existence of God is untenable and attributes people’s naïve belief in God to wish fulfillment or to the fear of death etc. As Zizek notes the paradoxical situation of our modern times is that even if God doesn’t exist then why is it that everything is prohibited? We all want a God. If we cannot look to the church for our ultimate authority, then we begin generating our own set of prohibitions that can become even more authoritarian. Consider the modern liberal subject in America, what exactly is she allowed to do these days? Everything is so damn complicated. Let’s take the example of trying to decide on an occupation.

What principle regulates our decision in pursuing a specific career? I realize I don’t speak to the entire West with this question, but instead to a rather fortunate middle-class liberal subject who gets to exercise some sort of control over what career she chooses. Our entire university system is based on a single principle: explore many options, but ultimately what will make you happy in life is pursuing what you love. This seems simple enough as the agent has all the control. However, there exists a rather naïve assumption by positing such a principle. This assumes that we know what we want. I cannot count the number of conversations I’ve had with friends who have anxiously speculated over what they ultimately want to do with their life. (I shouldn’t count myself out of this group as I struggled with possibly studying religion and philosophy as opposed to clinical psychology. I ultimately opted for a specific skill-set that would afford me the opportunity to help out people on a more concrete level). Things are too complex these days. In the past one might have merely opted for a vocation in which one already had the necessary skills. If you’re good at math become an engineer, who gives a shit if you want to make films? In the absence of any authority we still function as if we believe, but in what way exactly? While some believers might believe God has a plan for their life, doesn’t the liberal subject also betray a similar providential belief except in his case the call comes resounding from the individual’s omniscient will? This subjective will now has usurped God’s place, however the problem is that just as we don’t know what God wants for our life neither can the subject decide what he secretly wants. We remain a mystery unto ourselves. In fact, this is Lacan’s understanding of love. It’s not that we first must love and accept ourselves before we can love the other, but rather love is truly embracing the very otherness of the other. That is to say I love when I love the parts of my beloved to which she herself remains unaware of, her very otherness. Here, we begin to grasp why Nietzsche understood the death of God to be such an ambiguous event. It’s so damn difficult to remove the God-structure from our lives. If God’s killed, something will gradually take God’s place. New values must be created. Until we get there we still remain enslaved to a God, even if that God’s dead. As Lacan also noted, “If God doesn’t exist, the father says, then everything is permitted. Quite evidently, a naïve notion, for we analysts know full well that if God doesn’t exist, then nothing at all is permitted any longer. Neurotics prove that to us every day” (The Ego in Freud’s Theory and in the Technique of Psychoanalysis, 128).

Personal Reflections on Reading Church Dogmatics

01/21/2010

Readers of this blog (all three of you) will be happy to note that I’ve completed Vol I, Part 1 of Barth’s Church Dogmatics. I’m proud to say that I’m on schedule to finish Dogmatics by the end of 2010. When I initially decided to begin such a program I was unsure of why I took up the task. I had only read Barth’s Dogmatics in Outline and the Humanity of God. I was underwhelmed by both works. Part of me wanted to engage orthodoxy at its finest, and being the good Protestant that I am I decided it would be probably the best argument for Protestant orthodoxy. Barth’s not too conservative to remind of my past, and not theologically liberal enough to bore me. However, my motivation still remains unclear to me on a more personal level. Perhaps, I wanted to give orthodoxy one final shot. Not that I’m a raging heretic, but I often find parts of the creeds problematic along with many of the different topics of theology uninteresting. The last topics you’ll ever hear me discussing on this blog will be ecclesiology, pneumatology, missiology, or soteriology. When it comes to theology I like a small number of the actual disciplines: Christology, eschatology, atonement, theological theology (you know actual God-talk). I think that’s what has partly drawn me to both Barth and Altizer. They both remain so insistent that theology’s proper subject is God. Barth goes to painstaking lengths to justify why he doesn’t outline a proper anthropology apart from his theology. Likewise, although Altizer certainly has his political and ethical commitments, he has remained steadfast to constructing a theology that remains God-centered. In fact, Mark C Taylor called Altizer the most God-obsessed person he’s ever met. These men are true theologians. The problem with both Barth and Altizer, in my opinion, is that you either buy their theologies or you don’t. I mean the death of God is such a divisive issue that most people won’t bother engaging a book when they completely disagree (or more likely misunderstand) what Altizer intends by such a phrase. Likewise, with Barth I feel as if one buys his premises then it’s incredibly different to argue against his cogent and persuasive prose. Again, I emphasize one has to actually accept his presuppositions. As much as I find myself disagreeing with Barth, I hope my readers will continue to enjoy my critique and commentary concerning his Dogmatics. Hey, if nothing else, at least you can pretend to have actually read the entire damn tome through a series of fifty short blog posts.