Archive for March, 2010

The Logic of Sense

03/31/2010

So today I finally finished Deleuze’s Logic of Sense. Another really difficult but rewarding work. I think I enjoyed Difference and Repetition more, if for nothing else its sheer comprehensiveness. For those of you wondering where to enter Deleuze’s corpus, I’d suggest reading an essay in the appendix of the Logic of Sense entitled Plato and the Simulacrum. It serves as a really nice summary of Deleuze’s ontology. As a student of psychoanalysis, I also enjoyed the second half of The Logic of Sense that focused heavily on Freud, Klein, and Lacan. The relationship between sexuality and language was especially interesting. I figured I’d pull out a couple of key quotes that I especially liked.

“As for the subject of this new discourse (except that there is no longer any subject), it is not man or God, and even less man in the place of God. The subject is this free, anonymous, and nomadic singularity which traverses men as well as plants and animals independently of the matter of their individuation and the forms of their personality. “Overman” means nothing other than this – the superior type of everything that is” (The Logic of Sense, 107).

“The eternal return is Coherence, but it is coherence which does not allow my coherence, the coherence of the world and the coherence of God to subsist. The Nietzschean repetition has nothing to do with Kierkegaardian repetition; or, more generally with the Christian repetition. For what the Christian repetition brings back, it brings back once and only once: the wealth of Job and the child of Abraham, the resurrected body and the recovered self. There is a difference in nature between what returns “once and for all” and what returns for each and every time, or for an infinite number of times. The eternal return is indeed the Whole, but it is the Whole which is said of disjoint members or divergence series: it does not bring everything back, it does not bring about the return of that which returns but once, namely, that which appears to recenter the circle, to render the series convergent, and to restore the self, the world, and God” (The Logic of Sense, 300-301).

“In another respect, it is our epoch, which has discovered theology. One no longer needs to believe in God. We seek rather the “structure,” that is, the form which may be filled with beliefs, but the structure has no need to be filled in order to be called “theological”. Theology is now the science of nonexisting entities, the manner in which these entities – divine or anti-divine, Christ or Antichrist – animate language and make for it the glorious body which is divided into disjunctions. Nietzsche’s predictions about the link between God and grammar has been realized; but this time in the full sense of the disjunction, and placed in the service of the Antichrist – Dionysus crucified. If perversion is the power befitting the body, equivocity is the power of theology; they are reflected in one another. If one is the pantomime par excellence, the other is reasoning par excellence” (The Logic of Sense, 280-281).

Now, one can be expecting more Lacan since I’ve finished my way through Deleuze for now. I plan on finishing Seminar XI and then moving on to Seminar III, XVII, and XX.

The Brother Karamazov and Gospel Parallels

03/30/2010

So currently I’m listening to The Brothers Karamazov online at work. It’s been great so far. Today I just finished the section on the Grand Inquisitor. The Grand Inquisitor’s response to Jesus’ unwelcomed return reminded strongly of Paul’s reaction to Jesus in the Last Temptation of Christ. In the The Brother Karamazov, the Grand Inquisitor attacks Jesus for coming back by telling him that the church no longer needs him to function. The freedom Jesus offers man is too great for man to bear. Instead, the church gives man the proper amount of authority and mystery to keep man happy in his obedience even if it is a falsehood. Similarly, when Jesus encounters Paul in the Last Temptation he tries to tell Paul about his not going to the cross. Of course, Paul resists this and tells him he will proclaim his gospel regardless of what Jesus did or did not do.

Also, it particularly struck me when Ivan Karamazov said he refused his ticket and would gladly hand it back because he could not accept God if that meant one child had to suffer needlessly. “It is not God I do not accept, Aloyosha. I merely most respectfully return him the ticket. I accept God, understand that, but I cannot accept the world he has made” (The Brothers Karamazov, 258). This got me thinking. In the same way that Ivan refuses the ticket, might we not also say that Judas himself refuses the ticket? Judas cannot bear to go along with God’s plan to kill an innocent man for the redemption of the world. Judas cannot bear to watch his friend’s blood be shed to appease the one true God. If this God demands the blood of an innocent man, then Judas would rather not live in a world created by such a God. Judas cannot bear to hear the cry of dereliction. What kind of Father would do this to his son? Perhaps, then Judas catches a glimpse of this dark God that he cannot stomach. He had no choice but to commit suicide. This could help further explain his actions in the Garden. Perhaps he was trying to force Jesus’ hands to lead a rebellion, but Jesus refused because of his submission to Father’s immutable will. Judas tried to protect his friend from his damned mission. After this, Judas could do nothing but return the ticket because in a world ruled by such a God, Judas would rather not live.

The Problem of Evil

03/28/2010

“We may, of course, raise the basic charge against God: why is not His will for creation wholly and utterly a voluntas efficiens, and a good will only in this form? Why does this refraining, this not preventing and not excluding exist only in this utterly terrifying power which is proper to it as the divine will, and seems so fatefully to conceal the goodness of His will? To this our only answer is that God’s supreme and truest good for creation, and therefore the good determined for and promised to creation, is revealed in its full splendour only when its obedience and blessedness are not simply its nature, the self-evident fulfillment of its existence, its inevitable course, but when they are salvation from the edge of an abyss, when in its obedience and blessedness creation is constantly reminded of its creation out of nothing and its preservation from nothingness by the menacing proximity of the kingdom of darkness, when its obedience and blessedness are therefore grace and salvation…If God is greater in the very fact that He is the God who forgives sins and saves from death, we have no right to complain but must praise Him that His will also includes a permitting of sin and death, God is not less but greater – He does not come under suspicion, but shows Himself to be holy and righteous, in fact the He not only efficit, but also permittit. For in this way His will appears as the will of the gracious God who in His grace is the glorious God (CD II/1, 595).

The problem of evil is easily the best reason to reject God. The many other objections albeit scientific, rationalistic, Freudian, Feuerbachian while legitimate, are not the ones that keep me up at night. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, so why do people suffer needlessly? Augustine understood evil as the privation of goodness. Hence, evil has no real substance and is non-being rather than being. Thus God is not to blame for all the suffering in the world. I want to reject this ontological move made by Augustine because I have a hard time reconciling this account of evil with scriptures. In fact, I have never seen any description of evil in the Bible that defines evil as the privation of good.

Process theologians often simply deny God’s omnipotence and omniscience and so completely exonerate God of any of the blame. Caputo’s recent work has pursued a thinking of a weak God, and although I like Caputo’s theology it’s painful to see just how much of the tradition must be rejected to situate this weak God within a Christian framework.

Let’s move onto Calvinism. Zizek raises three objections to different explanations of the sovereign God. The first answer to be rejected is that suffering is accounted for by your sin, an explanation Jesus himself pretty clearly rejects. Two, suffering is a test of faith and if you can endure, God will reward you for your faithfulness. However, if it turns out like Job, you’re probably going to lose all your sons and daughters. Humans are irreplaceable singularities, so this sort of compensation God offers Job is clearly unfit. Three, God’s mysterious will is responsible, but this will is something we cannot know and should not question. Again, God swoops down and asks Job if he was there for the creation of the world. Of course Job was not so he is in no position to question God. Zizek suggests following Hegel, that God’s mystery is a mystery unto God himself.

Some people say, “I know it might not seem now that the starvation of millions has meaning, but that’s because we only have a myopic view of history. In the end, everything works to a higher purpose”. This explanation reminds me of the trite solace offered by some to those who are suffering: everything happens for a reason. Of course, the one suffering subject should reply, “What reason is that?” “Well, um, God has a purpose”, “Do you know his purpose?”, “Well, no”, “Oh, so everything happens and you don’t know either, thanks”. This is ideology at its purest.

Not only is this view of God often ethically despicable but also quite frankly creates a view of this perverse, Satanic God. Here is Hart’s critique of Calvin, “Frankly, any understanding of divine sovereignty so unsubtle that it requires the theologian to assert (as Calvin did) that God foreordained the fall of humanity so that his glory might be revealed in the predestined damnation of the derelict is obviously problematic, and probably far more blasphemous than anything represented by the heresies that the ancient ecumenical councils confronted.” God ends up looking like some ridiculous, clownish puppeteer putting on a show for his own amusement while completely indifferent to human suffering.

Barth seems to be hung up on this notion that God both wills and permits. This sort of distinction seems exceptionally fuzzy and introduces a rather arbitrary element into creation. I think I’ll bless person X but not Y. Why? Well, because it makes me that much more awesome. This move strikes me as a weak one that is ultimately unsatisfactory. Why does God permit some things and not others, because it only serves to enhance his glory? Why does it enhance his glory? Don’t question God. Eventually if you ask enough questions the entire argument will unravel. The same thing happens when wants tries to explain the origin of evil. Who’s responsible? Satan or perhaps Adam and Eve are culpable. Unfortunately, God gave them free will to rebel. Without this free will God could gain no satisfaction from our voluntary love of Him and each other. Hence, it’s ultimately God’s fault. The only question remaining to be asked after this is why did God even bother creating the world? Non-existence seems infinitely preferable over the suffering a single individual human.

One argument that I’ve been quite fond of over the years has come from Bonhoeffer’s prophetic writings in the Letters and Papers from Prison. In those letters he writes that only the suffering God cans help us. Schelling also puts it quite nicely, “God is a life, not merely a being. But all life has a fate and is subject to suffering and becoming…Without the concept of a humanly suffering God…all of history remains incomprehensible” (Philosophical Investigations into the Essence of Human Freedom, 274). According to this perspective, when people suffer there is no question where God stands. He is not outside looking downward observing the suffering. Rather, he is alongside co-suffering with them. We know God can sympathize with our pain because He Himself through Jesus was completely forsaken by all and died utterly alone. He knows suffering. The cross shatters any notion concerning God’s position with respect to pain; He is standing alongside dying with us. I’m reminded of the time I went to visit a Quaker service for my psychology of religion course. During the meeting, only two people spoke. The first one lamented the fact that innocent children suffer for no reason, and the man asked sincerely why God does not intervene since he was quite convinced God loved children above all. Twenty minutes of silence passed. Another member said simply this, “The face of Christ is on all those who suffer”. The meeting adjourned. I want to affirm this. Of all the explanations it is the only one that is not morally reprehensible or simply unbelievable.

But, over the last couple of months I’ve had my doubts. Certainly this is the paradigm through which I understand the crucifixion, but what about salvation? What about damnation? What about election? Surely the suffering God is very helpful when it comes to thinking of atonement, but what about hell? Unless one wants to embrace some sort of universalism, it seems difficult to reconcile the difficulties the existence of hell poses for any notion of an all-loving God. I believe that it is perhaps too theologically hasty to completely dismiss these conversations as if they never happened. Again, the only question that needs to be asked is why does God bother making the world at all? Why didn’t He rather just not make the world and spare the eternal damnation of so many? Can the suffering God really be of any use in understanding the Hebrew Bible? Do we not end up with some sort of Marcionism? All the great theologians have thought election. Altizer’s work has what spurred me on to think more precisely about damnation and salvation. As I prepare to read Doctrine of God part 2 on the election of God I’m excited to see more fully how Barth develops his notion of double election. Damnation is also something central to the gospels and the Hebrew Bible as well. Jesus commits himself to declaring that those around him repent or else they will be consumed in the apocalyptic fire. The Baptizer says that God will lay an axe to the root. Likewise, does not God’s election of Israel simultaneously imply an exclusion of the all those of the non-elect (i.e. Gentiles)? So, even if God is a suffering God, what does that say about after death? Once, your eternal fate is decided it seems rather obvious that God is no longer a suffering God, but a God of wrath and judgment. A God who sends those to hell based on his infinite righteousness.

Maybe we should come to admit that none of these explanations can avoid many problems (ethical, theological, biblical). However, there is one other possibility that most dare not consider, namely that evil is not utterly alien from God. I plan on reading Altizer’s Godhead and the Nothing in the near future to speak more about this idea. Here are a couple of quotes by Altizer about this work:

“Only in the course of many years of theological struggle was I able to open myself to the possibility of the absolute transfiguration of the Godhead, for this is only possible if the negative pole or polarity of the Godhead is absolutely real, that could only mean that Godhead itself is absolutely “evil” even as it is absolutely “good,” only the deep darkness and abyss of the Godhead makes possible an absolute transfiguration, and not only is that abyss transfigured in this transfiguration, but it can even be understood that the final expression of this process could only be actually manifest in its most abysmal or negative mode. Thereby we can understand how both ancient and modern apocalypticism can know a totality of darkness, a darkness inseparable from a full and actual apocalyptic dawning, or inseparable from apocalypse itself.”

“One of the deeper motifs of Godhead and the Nothing is the transfiguration of evil, and a transfiguration of evil which is finally the “Self-Saving” of Godhead itself, a self-saving which is an absolute transfiguration, and an absolute transfiguration of an absolute horror. If our clearest vision of that horror is Moby Dick, this is a genuine vision of a uniquely modern epiphany of God, one going far beyond its ancient Gnostic counterparts, and beyond them as an actualization of absolute evil, but an evil absolutely essential to a genuine apocalypse, and to a truly apocalyptic transfiguration.”

The Christlike Award

03/28/2010

The other day I was reminiscing about going to an evangelical elementary and middle school, and a really funny memory struck me. In the third and fourth grade I received the Christ-like award. In case you were wondering, only one child from each class won that award. I’m really curious what the criteria was for winning that award? Perhaps, it was some magical combination of intelligence, pseudo-piety, and ass-kissing? The best part is I remember the next year when i didn’t win the award and how pissed I was over being snubbed. How unhealthy is that! Oh wait, it’s not my fault because the school was apparently run by bad people. What kind of moral idiots create an award for the most Christlike student and then award some kid in front of his peers and parents? Absolutely crazy. If anything winning that award made me less Christlike. I’ve been fantasizing about how I would now like to accept that award at this age. I’ve had a couple of ideas. Let me know which one is your favorite:

1) Upon receiving the award, I scream out, “There is none good but God”, and tear up the award on stage (Mark 10:18)

2) Upon receiving the award, I take a lighter out of my pocket and set the certificate on fire, proclaiming,  “I have to come bring fire to the earth!” (Luke 12:49)

3) Upon receiving the award, I take the certificate and pierce it through with a sword, saying, “I did come not to bring peace, but a sword!” (Matthew 10:45)

4) Upon receiving the award, I look up to the heavens and yell, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!” (Luke 23:34)

Barth on the Poor and Oppressed

03/27/2010

Readers will be glad to know I’ve just completed Church Dogmatics II/1. I’m really excited to move on the II/2, which focuses on Barth’s original understanding of the election of God. The Doctrine of God (II/1) was an interesting read that mostly focuses on the different attributes of God. In the section on the Mercy and Righteousness of God Barth weighs in on what I can broadly outline to be ‘liberation theology’.

“According to the Gospel of Luke and the Epistle of James, as also according the message of the prophets, there follows from this character of faith a political attitude, decisively determined by the fact that man is made responsible to all those who are poor and wretched in his eyes, that he is summoned on his part to espouse the cause of those who suffer wrong. Why? Because in them it is manifested to him what he himself is in the sight of God; because the living, gracious, merciful action of God towards him consists in the fact that God Himself in His own righteousness procures rights for him, the poor and wretched; because he and all men stand in the presence of God as those for whom right can be procured only by God Himself…Just because He is righteous God has mercy, condescending sympathetically to succor those who are utterly in need of His help, who without it would in fact be lost. God is righteous in Himself, doing what befits Him and is worthy of Him, defending and glorifying His divine being, in the fact that He is our righteousness, that he procures right for those who in themselves have no righteousness, yet who He does not leave to themselves, to whom rather He gives Himself in His own divine righteousness” (CD II/1, 387).

I think my reaction to this passage summarizes quite nicely my ambivalence to Church Dogmatics. I feel as if some of the things he says are more or less theologically correct, but I often disagree with his justifications. Of course, Barth is correct that the Gospel of Luke depicts Jesus continually siding and comforting those who are oppressed and marginalized. Jesus sees in the poor and outcasts the members of the Kingdom. Luke 4:20-22 reads:

20 Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

This is part of Luke’s slightly different version of the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s gospel. Two questions must be raised. First, why should man also be in solidarity with the poor actively serving them? According to Barth, man should serve the poor because by serving the poor man can perceive dimly just how wretched man appears from God’s perspective. Second, why does God choose the poor as opposed to the rich? Unsurprisingly, Barth believes that by extending His mercy to the oppressed, God’s mercy only serves to expand and glorify His being. This is part of the Reformed tradition that I have a difficult time stomaching. Essentially, God’s reason for doing anything is always that it manifests His infinite glory. As much as Barth wants us to convince us that God desires to glorify Himself and reconcile Himself to man through the God-man, one question that keeps plaguing me is why does Jesus’ ministry oppose this very notion of lordship and glory? Continually, Jesus subverts people’s attempt to glorify Him by crowning him with special titles such as Messiah. Good teacher? Hell no, no one is good but God. The incarnation however destroys any notion of God other than Jesus. As Altizer would remind us, it’s not that Jesus is God, but rather that God is Jesus. Jesus goes so far as to disrobe himself and wash the feet of his disciples. This is such a humbling and baffling act. God Himself wants to wash our filth. Is this some underhanded attempt to assert his glory or does it have to do with God’s overwhelming love for humanity? The humbled shall be exalted. Why? Because God loves man, and Tillich was right when he said, “[j]ustice is the backbone of love. Without justice, love is just sentimental”. So God is love, but God’s love demands that social and economic justice are served so man can be free to demonstrate the love of God by loving his neighbor. Levinas was right that when we look to God, God merely deflects our vertical gaze and points horizontally back to our neighbor who needs our love and attention.

God’s solidarity with the excluded is of course what the cross demonstrates. God’s desire for justice is a desire for man’s liberation from evil forces, oppression, and sin. If this demonstrates God’s glory well then that’s great. But, to think that God merely suffered (through Jesus of Nazareth) to exhibit his glory seems to me miss the whole damn point of the incarnation. I know some might think that I’m assuming a sharp disjunction between glory and love that need not be assumed. However, for me it ultimately goes back to motivation. God’s love is such that He desires man to be free and liberated to celebrate and enjoy this life and strive after the Kingdom and fellowship with Him. This is ultimately glorifying of God. But, God does not side with the poor simply because He somehow this makes God even more glorious.

I somewhat appreciate Barth’s point about the reason we should serve the poor. While it’s important to remember that to God, all man is enslaved and impoverished. This should remind us that anytime we want to create some hierarchy, in God’s eyes, we are all shit (as Luther would describe so poetically). However, I’m very uneasy with giving someone a reason to serve the poor. Why should we serve the ostracized? Because that’s who Jesus Christ loved and served.

On The Psychotheology of Everyday Life Book Event

03/21/2010

I wanted to alert readers that over at Dave’s blog a book event on Santner’s On The Psychotheology of Everyday Life just began. I’m posting my thoughts with some questions on the introduction and the epilogue. I’ve just posted a short review of the introduction and encourage my readers to engage with book event as I’ve found Santner’s work to be very interesting and provocative.

Schweitzer Quote

03/16/2010

I’ve immersed myself in historical Jesus studies over the last week with the help of this podcast series, which I highly recommend. Here’s a great quote from Albert Schweitzer who truly revolutionized historical Jesus studies:

“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: “Follow thou me!” and sets us to the tasks that He has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And those who obey, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings that they shall pass through in his fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is” (The Quest of the Historical Jesus, 403).

The Apocalyptic Jesus and Anti-Judaism in the Gospels

03/12/2010

So over the last two days I’ve been listening to Ehrman’s course from the Teaching Company on the Historical Jesus. This is a really excellent course that seems to closely follow his book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. It was a nice refresher and reminded me even more why I support the apocalyptic Jesus over the Jesus Seminar’s de-eschatologized Jesus. While I can’t rehearse the many arguments he makes to support his position, I did want to highlight a couple of points. From Ehrman’s perspective, it is absolutely crucial to understand the Son of Man that Jesus both refers to and identifies with in the Gospels. For instance, consider Mark 13:26-27

“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.”

Notice Jesus does not identify as the Son of Man. Rather, he makes an allusion to the cosmic figure mentioned in Daniel who will come riding on the clouds to establish a new Kingdom in which the proud are humbled and humbled are exalted. However, it seems clear that Jesus is predicting in this apocalyptic passage that his followers should be preparing for the Son of Man’s coming.

In fact, much of Jesus’ ministry was an attempt to enact this Kingdom on earth by spending time those who would be exalted in the age to come (i.e. prostitutes, sinners, tax collectors). Another thing that Ehrman highlighted was that apocalyptic thinkers believed that evil forces (power and principalities) ruled the world. Hence, Jesus identified with the down and out in society because he believed that the coming Son of Man and the imminent apocalypse would be a complete reversal of the current world order where the ‘least of these’ would have power.

The ethics and actions of Jesus are so much easier to understand when one situates them within this apocalyptic framework.

One of Ehrman’s most convincing argument for the apocalyptic Jesus is this. If Jesus is baptized by an apocalyptic prophet (hence suggesting Jesus’ support of John) and his leaders form apocalyptic sects (read 1 Cor 15 and 1 Thes 4), then isn’t it fair to assume that Jesus was likewise an apocalyptic prophet? Some will try and argue that Jesus argued for a realized eschatology (Crossan, think the verse in Luke the Kingdom is amongst you), but they are forced to make the assumption that the followers of Jesus betrayed him and returned to John the Bapitzer’s apocalyptic message. This seems unrealistic. Basically, reading from the earlier material Q, Mark, Paul’s epistles to Luke and Matthew and finally to John one can easily trace the gradual de-eschatologizing of the gospel. John’s Jesus is utterly stripped of any apocalyptic fervor.

Finally, I’ve read some on the many anti-Semitic elements in the Greek Bible, but Ehrman made the interesting observation that the changes in Pilate’s involvement in the crucifixion is especially telling of the early Christians’ resentments towards the Jews. First off, let me say that Pilate was a horrible person. So, any idea that Pilate was some contemplative, sensitive man is absolutely absurd. Anyway, let’s start the analysis with Mark. Notice, that in this story Pilate offers the Jews the choice between Barabbas and Jesus. In, Mark 15:15

“Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”

In Luke’s gospels, on three separate occasions Pilate tries to release Jesus because he finds him innocent, but the Jews demand his crucifixion. Again, it is obvious that the gospel writers want to place the blame on the Jews. In Matthew 27 we not only have Pilate’s wife’s dreams, but we also have these two extra verses between the crowd’s demand and Pilate’s acquiescence. Matthew 27:24-25

“When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!””

Yeah, so things are evolving quickly. Not only is Pilate apparently worried to have innocent blood on his hands, apparently the Jews are wishing curses on themselves and their children. In all reality, this was likely just one thing on Pilate’s agenda that morning. Remember he also signed off on (at least) two more executions that very morning. It’s doubtful he would’ve given a damn, but it is telling to see how the Jews are becoming more culpable over time.

John’s gospel is by far the least believable account, but probably the most interesting. Pilate asks Jesus, ‘what is truth?’, and Jesus makes the (in)famous statement ‘My Kingdom is not of this world’. Again, Pilate attempts to free Jesus three times, but the crowds stubbornly refuse. Eventually, the Jews threaten Pilate by saying that you are not a friend of Caesar if you release this supposed King. Even more interesting, Ehrman claims that in the Greek it says that Pilate handed Jesus over to the Jews to execute him. Usually this is left out of the English translations because it doesn’t make any damn sense. But again, we can see just how innocent Pilate appears in John’s gospel. This also helps confirm in my mind, the many ways in which John’s gospel is written as a apology for why Christianity is not an enemy of Rome. Not only are the Romans not blamed for Jesus’ death, but also we have a de-politicization of Jesus’ teachings along with the statement about the otherworldly Kingdom.

Finally, in the non-canonical Gospel of Peter, it is in fact Herod, the Jewish ruler, who orders Jesus’ execution. Ehrman makes the observations that Pilate was actually canonized as a Christian saint in the early Ethiopian church. Quite absurd.

One other thing I’ll touch on briefly is the obvious anti-Semitism in the gospels revolves around the descriptions of the scribes and the Pharisees. From what I understand, the Pharisees were religiously devout Jews who dedicated their life to scrupulously following the Torah. Sure, some might have been hypocritical, but they were certainly the exception. The way in which the New Testaments presents them would be analogous to the way the new atheists describes theists. Sure their critiques describe some believers, but it’s mostly a gross caricature. This is why it’s ultimately wrong to play this game that Jesus was against the law in favor of love while the Pharisees blindly adhered to the law. That’s just unhistorical, anti-Semitic nonsense.

Barth on Negative Theology

03/10/2010

Sorry, I’ve been absent as of late. I’ve been busy finishing up a paper for school, and recuperating from the busy month of blogging in February. I’m still on track in Church Dogmatics, and I’m really beginning to enjoy CD II. Here’s a critique of negative theology that immediately made me think of Derrida.

“Again, we can not flee from the hiddenness of God into the possibility of a negative comprehensibility, as if this were less our own human comprehensibility than a positive, and not just as incapable…The true God is the hidden God” (CD II/1, 193).

Lacan on Castration and God

03/06/2010

“Furthermore, do we not see, behind this, the emergence of that which forced Freud to find in the myths of the death of the father the regulation of his desire? After all, it is to be found in Nietzsche, who declares, in his own myth, that God is dead. And it is perhaps against the background of the same reasons. For the myth of the God is dead – which, personally, I feel much less sure about, as a myth of course, than most contemporary intellectuals, which is in no sense a declaration of theism, nor of faith in the resurrection – perhaps this myth is simply a shelter against the threat of castration” (The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 27).