Archive for July, 2010

Lacan Against Analogia Entis

07/31/2010

I just finished up Encore today (Seminar XX) and wanted to post these quotes. I’m trying to write something on Lacan, jouissance, and the hatred of God tomorrow. I’m moving on towards Seminar XVII and some choice essays from Ecrits for the month of August.

“That being as such may provoke hatred cannot be ruled out. Certainly, Aristotle’s concern was, on the contrary, to conceive of being as that by which beings with less being participate in the highest of beings. And Saint Thomas succeeded in reintroducing that into the Christian tradition – which is not surprising given that, having spread among the Gentiles, the Christian tradition had necessarily been thoroughly shaped thereby, the upshot being that one had but to pull the strings for it to work again. But do people realize that everything in the Jewish tradition goes against that? The dividing line (coupure) there for does not run from the most perfect to the least perfect. The least perfect there is quite simply what it is, namely, radically imperfect, and one must but obey with finger and the eye, if I dare express myself thus, he who bares the name Jahve, and several other names to boot. The latter chose his people and one cannot go against that. Isn’t it revealed therein that it is far better to betray him occasionally than to “be-thrate” him (l’etre-haïr), the former being what the Jews obviously did not deprive themselves of doing. They couldn’t work it out (en sortir) any other way. On the subject of hatred, we’re so deadened (etouffes) that not on realizes that a hatred, a solid hatred, is addressed to being, to the very being of someone who is not necessarily God” (Seminar XX, 99).

“You know the crazy story, the one that arouses my delirious admiration? I roll on the floor laughing when I read Saint Thomas (Aquinas), because it’s awfully well put together. For Aristotle’s philosophy to have been reinjected by Saint Thomas into what one might call the Christian conscience, if that had any meaning, is something that cannot be explained by the fact that Christians – well, it’s the same with psychoanalysis – abhor what is revealed to them. And they are right” (Seminar XX, 114).

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Barth on Gender

07/29/2010

He almost got there. Reading §54 one can sense Barth’s trying to combat the patriarchy that has cast an oppressive shadow over theological reflections on the relationship between women and men. Primarily he is addressing this relationship in the context of marriage. He has the common sense to resist the trite typologies offered by the likes of Brunner who basically says that women are passive, receptive beings who are overly subjective and tend to individualize whereas men are active leaders who can remain objective and can focus on the universal (CD III/4, 154). He recognizes that these ideas do not describe all men and women and are not grounded in the command of God. Hence they are superfluous at best. He also resists Schleiermacher’s idea that a woman’s natural dispositions is fortunate because it is easier for her to experience the feelings of absolute dependence on God. Although Barth does have the common sense to laud Schleiermacher for praising women when there “have always been far too many male or masculine theologians” (155), he effectively does nothing to challenge the hierarchy. Now, I want to jump into Barth’s actual reflections.

Barth is very aware of Paul’s famous statement in Galatians 3:28 that there is no longer male nor female in Christ Jesus and recognizes that there is to be no inequality amongst Christians. When discussing the case in Corinth concerning women covering their heads, Barth understands that it would be “foolish to try to make an inflexible rule of the particular interpretation of Paul in this instance” (156). However, and I believe this is his major mistake, he assumes that there is a proper role or essence of women. He surmises from his reading of this passage that the take home message is that “woman must always and in all circumstances be woman; that she must feel and conduct herself as such and not as man” (156). This actually is the ground upon which he critiques the feminist movement although he does recognize its utility. He does not believe that women should try and be anything else but women. If this isn’t bad enough he goes to try and argue the point Christologically. In Jesus Christ this order has been established and the women at Corinth are at fault for “trying to subvert this order, to treat it as outmoded and thus to discard it…Progress beyond this order can only be retrogression, a backward step into the old aeon in which the relation of man and woman is not ordered by Jesus Christ” (174).

Barth’s third step in this discussion is to discuss the order and relation between man and woman. He has been insistent that there is no inequality between man and woman, but here I think his argument breaks down. He prefaces this section by saying we must proceed with extreme caution as every “word is dangerous and liable to be misunderstood when we try to characterize this order. But it exists” (169). The order Barth refers to is this. Man and woman stand in sequence with one another. According to Barth, “[m]an and woman are not an A and a second A whose being and relationship can be described like the two halves of an hour glass, which are obviously two, but absolute equal and therefore interchangeable. Man and women are an A and a B, and cannot therefore be equated” (169). He goes on to say A and B do not exist in a hierarchy because they are undoubtedly equal. Furthermore, we cannot speak of man (A) without likewise speaking of woman (B) because they are constantly called to be in fellowship with one another as God has commanded.

“A precedes B, and B follows A. Order means succession. It means preceding and following. It means super- and sub-ordination…When it is a question of the true order which God the Creator has established, succession, and therefore precedence and following, super- and sub-ordination, does not mean any inner inequality between those who stand in this succession and are subject to the order. It does indeed reveal their inequality. But it does not do so without immediately confirming their equality” (169-170).

He follows this discussion by talking about how men must not use this order to exploit women and must occupy their position humbly and lovingly. But I have to ask the stupid question, what in the hell is he talking about? How can he say that we must not forget for one second that men and women are equal and then in the next paragraph claim that women must be subordinate to men? It seems as if he wants to have his cake and eat it too. It’s almost as if there were two Barths writing this text. The one more progressive Barth recognizes the tragic oppression of women that has taken place since the beginning of time and recognizes the sinful nature of patriarchy. But then we have the conservative Biblicist Barth who has to look back to Genesis 2 to determine the proper relationship between man and woman. Since man was made first Barth is forced to affirm that men do in fact precede women and are super-ordinate over women. Did it ever occur to him that the writers of Genesis might have been patriarchal and thus crafted a creation narrative in which they clearly conferred privilege and power to men? Did it ever occur to him that the same writers made Eve at fault for eating the fruit in the Garden?

Men and women are equal but a “mature woman is as such the woman who knows and takes her proper place, not in relation to man but in relation to the order” (180). Did he ever stop and consider that the order was set by men and not God? Also by creating this concept of an order he acts as if he is compelled to argue for male privilege because it simply exists. The order thus becomes an easy scapegoat that he can rely on to ground the subordination of women to men.

Projects to Come

07/25/2010

As the summer begins winding down I’m finishing my goal of reading all of Lacan’s Seminars. I only have XVII & XX left. Along with reading Barth I haven’t had much time to do much else. However starting in early September I’m going to begin a four months reading project of queer and feminist theology (of course I’ll be reading CD IV as well, just started CD III/4). I’ve already read some major feminist theologians such as Daly and Ruether so I’m not going to be reading them.

Here’s my reading schedule. Dates indicate day of expected completion. I’ve found the best way to stay on schedule is to have a definite goal. It’s made reading CD so much easier.

Althaus-Reid – Queer God – 9/12, Indecent Theology – 9/26
Stuart – Gay and Lesbian Theologies – 10/3
Fiorenza – In Memory of Her – 10/24
Johnson – She Who Is – 11/7, Living God – 11/21
Ogbonnaya – On Communitarian Divinity – 12/5
St. Clair – Call and Consequence – 12/12
Ela – African Cry – 12/19
Kyung – Struggle to Be the Sun Again – 12/26

I’m especially excited to finally read Althaus-Reid. Also, St. Clair’s work offers a womanist reading of the Gospel of Mark, which should be interesting. Also, I welcome any suggestions on other works on queer theology. I’m trying to stick with works by a single author as I prefer those over edited volumes.

I’ve also been working this weekend on trying to figure out some reading projects for 2011. I’m going to be working on 1 major project and 3 side projects. My main project (which will span the entire year) will be to cover modern (mostly Protestant) theology over the last 200 years. Starting with Kant, Hegel, and Scheleirmacher (Christian Faith) I will move on to focus on theologians such as Bultmann, Bonhoeffer, Tillich (ST), Rahner, Pannenberg (ST). Next I will cover major post-Barthian theologians (Jungel, Jenson, Gunton, Torrance, etc) and post-liberal theologians (Frei, Lindbeck). I’m basically trying to read a bunch of systematic theology and go back to cover many of the important theologians that I’ve thus far neglected.

My three side projects will focus on atonement, theodicy, and liberation theology. The atonement project will focus on alternative ways to read the cross (Joh, Ray, Fiddes, Jennings) that do not simply advocate a substitutionary reading. My focus on theodicy will be to come to grips with the problem suffering poses to any theological system. I’m especially excited about re-reading Gutierrez along with Kitamori, Lewis, and Surin. Finally, I will end 2011 by spending a large chunk of time of reading liberation theology (with a major focus on Latin American theology). I will work through Boff, Sobrino, Segundo, Miranda, Petrella, etc. Next, I will move on to briefly study some Asian liberation theology and black theology. The project will come to completion by reading Carter’s Race: A Theological Account.

I’ll probably be tweaking some here and there, but that remains my broad trajectory of reading until 2011. I had way too much time on my hands this weekend. But, I’m glad that this blog will benefit by returning to focusing more on liberation theology in all its variants (Latin American, black, feminist, womanist, queer).

Reformed Dating Website

07/24/2010

Check this out.

The tagline is: prepared, prequalified, predestined. I shit you not.

I’ve been thinking about joining and trying to create a dating profile. I wonder if one can indicate how many points in agreement one is with TULIP. Like, ‘hey girls I’m looking for a lady who’s a 4-point Calvinist, sorry ladies I’m not looking for a cutie who believes in limited atonement.’ Also, you know how on first dates a lame question people often ask is ‘tell me something about you that is embarrassing’. ‘Well sometimes I question whether or not I’m part of the elect.’ Deal breaker.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a Barthian dating site. I would consider joining that one.

Deleuze, Caputo, Christology, and the Death of God

07/19/2010

Over at Blake Huggins’ blog he and I have been engaged in a fruitful conversation about postmodern theology. He argues for a Deleuzian theology of nonexisting entities with an eschatological focus that ultimately follows the trajectory of some of Caputo’s weak theology. I raise some criticisms of Caputo’s deconstructive theology and discuss the ramifications of the death of God has on any future theology. Next, we tackle the possibility of an immanent theology void of transcendence (that is not simply Hegelian or some sort of process theology). I also critique Caputo’s theology and his impoverished Christology, ultimately I believe this to be the biggest shortcoming of his theology of the event. I’ve also voiced my criticism of Vattimo’s and Caputo’s weak thought and the desire to do theology after the death of God. Specifically, I worry that both thinkers end up advancing supersessionist views (although Vattimo is here clearly more guilty). It’s a fertile conversation, and I’m glad to see it unfold in such a civil way. I hope my Barthian and Altizerian commitments are shining through. Our disagreement might boil down to a simple choice between Tillich or Barth, and of course I choose the latter.

Barth and Altizer on Nothingness and Evil

07/13/2010

“Nothingness is the past, the ancient menace, danger and destruction, the ancient non-being which obscured and defaced the divine creation of God but which is consigned to the past in Jesus Christ, in whose death its has received its deserts, being destroyed with this consummation of the positive will of God which is as such the end of His non-willing. Because Jesus is Victor, nothingness is routed and extirpated” (CD III/3, 363).

“But it no less true that this divine opus alienum, the whole activity of God on the left hand, was fulfilled and accomplished once and for all, and therefore deprived of its object, when it took place in all its dreadful fullness in the death of Jesus Christ. Nothingness had power over the creature. It could contradict and oppose it and break down its defences. It could make it its slave and instrument and therefore its victim. But it was impotent against the God who humbled Himself, and Himself became a creature, and thus exposed Himself to its power and resisted it. Nothingness could not master this victim. It could neither endure nor bear the presence of God in the flesh. It met with a prey which it could not match and by which it could only be destroyed as it tried to swallow it. The fullness of the grace which God showed to His creature by Himself becoming a threatened, even ruined and lost creature, was its undoing” (CD III/3, 362).

It was an interesting section, and I enjoyed reading his critiques of Sartre and Heidegger. I looked up Altizer’s book on Godhead and the Nothing to read his comments on Barth and nothingness. Hopefully, I’ll return to this book in the future to read it in full. Here are some choice quotes I found:

“Now it precisely evil as evil that disappears in every such affirmation, so that Barth could maintain that as a consequence of the resurrection damnation is impossible, and impossibility which is the impossibility of nothingness, or the impossibility of nothingness in that apocalypse which is the resurrection…It is as though the very affirmation of God is not only inseparable from but identical with the denial of nothingness, and the deeper the affirmation of God the deeper the denial of nothingness” (Godhead and the Nothing, 48).

“If our only freedom is to know that nothingness has finally been destroyed, that freedom is faith itself, a faith in which an actual opening to nothingness is impossible, and impossible because now nothingness is absolutely unreal. This impossibility and this impossibility alone is what Barth could know as apocalypse, an apocalypse which is an eternal election, and an election which is creation itself” (Godhead and the Nothing, 47-8).

Bonhoeffer’s Criticism of Barth

07/08/2010

This passage always struck me in Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison. Does anyone know if/where Barth ever addressed this specific criticism? For the record, I haven’t read much Barth outside of Church Dogmatics so it might addressed in some of his other shorter works

“Barth was the first theologian to begin the criticism of religion, and that remains his really great merit; but he put in its place a positivist doctrine of revelation which says, in effect, ‘Like it or lump it’: virgin birth, Trinity, or anything else; each is an equally significant and necessary parts of the whole, which must simply be swallowed as a whole or not at all. That isn’t biblical. There are degrees of knowledge and degrees of significance; that means that a secret discipline must be restored whereby the mysteries of the Christian faith are protected against profanation. The positivism of revelation makes it too easy for itself, by setting up, as it does in the last analysis, a law of faith, and so mutilates what is – by Christ’s incarnation! – a gift for us. In the place of religion there now stands the church – that is in itself biblical – but the world is in some degree on itself and left to its own devices, and that’s the mistake” (Letters and Papers from Prison, 286).

Barth on Theological Epistemology

07/07/2010

“But Christian theology can and must differ from a general philosophy of God and the world in the fact that to Christian theology the factor upon which everything depends, the activity of God which becomes event, is not an unknown but a known factor, and known in such a way that demands a knowledge and an acknowledgment of the How? If Christian theology sticks to its own last, not launching out into problems for whose origin it cannot accept responsibility, it will concern itself with seeing and hearing the work of the true God which precedes any consideration of cosmic occurrence as such. It has to do with the God who foreordains all cosmic occurrence, who joins Himself to it only that He may determine it with full sovereignty, who is not accessible to any human conceptuality, but who has made Himself known, and in doing so can now be known and recognised. As its very name suggests, Christian theology has to do with Jesus Christ, with the history of the covenant of grace as it leads up to Him as has its source in Him, and therefore with the almighty operation of God governing all cosmic occurrence as it is revealed at this point. It does not first consider the creature and its activity in general, then work out a concept of the supreme being, then confer upon this being the name of God, and then conclude there may perhaps be an activity of God in and above the activity of the creature. On the contrary, it first knows the activity of God in a particular cosmic action in which God makes Himself known. It perceives that the One who acts at this point and in this way is the supreme being. And in the light of that perception it sees that God is at work in and over the activity of creation as a whole (CD, III/3, 141-2).

I’m getting excited to tackle §50 entitled God and Nothingness where Barth discusses evil. I plan to get to it this weekend and hopefully offer some commentary in light of Catherine Keller’s discussion of Barth and nothingness in her great work Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming.

(Also quick housekeeping note. I’ve added a new category Church Dogmatics Project 2010 so my readers can follow along with me on my reading of Barth’s Church Dogmatics)

Altizer on God the Creator and the Crucified God

07/04/2010

I came across this really interesting quote that I think clarifies what exactly Altizer is intending to do with the death of God. Enjoy:

“Sacrifice had long been a primal motif of my religious or theological thinking. I had long believed that sacrifice is the deepest and the purest movement of religion, and I had known that there are profound religious traditions which center upon sacrifice as the original moment or movement of creation. And if the sacrifice of God is the center of Christian redemption, could not the sacrifice of the Godhead be the center of the creation or of genesis itself? Creation is commonly known by the theologian as an act of absolute power, but there are deep traditions which know creation as a purely kenotic act of absolute self-emptying, and this does make possible for the theologian an understanding of how God the Creator could be the Crucified God, and of how the absolute sovereignty of God could be inseparable from the absolute sacrifice of God in Christ. Thereby God the Creator and God the Redeemer could truly be known as one God, and the death of God could truly be known as the death of God. Insofar as the Creator is known as an absolutely transcendent and absolutely sovereign Creator there can be no possibility of the Creator being known as the Crucified God, nor an actual possibility of knowing God the Creator as God the Redeemer, or not insofar as redemption occurs through the Crucifixion, or through the sacrifice of God. But insofar as creation itself can be known as sacrifice, and as an absolute sacrifice, then God the Redeemer can be known as God the Creator, and the Godhead of Christ be known as Godhead itself.
This has always been extraordinarily difficult in Christian theology, hence Arianism has long been the deepest Christian heresy, and the mother of all heresies, but Christian orthodoxy itself can be identified as Arian insofar as it refuses the Crucified God as God, or insofar as it refuses the sacrifice of Christ as the sacrifice of God. While it is true that neither the image nor the idea of the Crucified God are born until the full advent of modernity, modern theologians beginning with Luther can know the Crucified God, and know the Crucified God as deeply Pauline theologians. For if God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and doing so solely through the death of Christ, then how could the crucified Lord not be God Himself? True, this could only be an absolute offense, but the Crucifixion itself is an absolute offense, and is called forth as such by Paul himself, and an offense not only to reason but also to faith, or to every faith not deeply and ultimately grounded in the Crucifixion. Genuine offense is an offense to theological thinking itself, so to think theologically in this sense is to think so as to assault oneself, and this could only be a deep assault upon every interior depth to which one is open, and therefore an assault upon everything which we can apprehend as God. Only such an assault can make possible the depths of offense, so that here theological thinking is inevitably a purely negative thinking, and finally it can think only by assaulting Godhead itself” (Living the Death of God: A Theological Memoir, 135-6, italics are my own).

I also found it interesting re-reading parts of his memoir to happen across a comment he makes about theologians, age, and conservatism. According to Altizer, the greatest systematic theologians of our day, namely Tillich and Barth (although Altizer does confess that Barth is the only modern theologian he profoundly respects) become more conservative over time. Altizer claims that Tillich’s third volume of his ST is highly uncreative and conservative. Furthermore, he believes CD IV also reverses the original and powerful work laid in out in the first three volumes of Barth’s CD. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind as I begin CD IV in the fall and hopefully Tillich’s ST in the winter. Altizer mentions that he is grateful that his theology did not become more conservative over time. In fact, I believe his later works in the 90s like Genesis and Apocalypse and The Genesis of God are in fact his most radical theological works.

James Cone and Cornel West at AAR

07/04/2010

This is a really great video and is a tribute to America’s greatest theologian James Cone and his black liberation theology. Cornel West feeds him questions, and Cone shares his history and theological development. Something that struck me is when West rightly claims that Cone is actually grandfather of liberation theology. He was writing his books on black liberation theology two years before Gutierrez published A Theology of Liberation.