Author Archive

Closing Time

11/03/2011

Dear Readers,

I am closing this blog. I no longer have free time to post on theology and psychoanalysis. Graduate school has taken over all my free time as I am currently working on my dissertation and multiple journal articles and book reviews. I apologize for the untimely closing because I had hoped to complete the Modern Theology Project of 2011. Unfortunately, my heart is no longer in theology, and I need to get busy publishing to improve my chances of landing an academic job in clinical psychology/psychoanalysis. I appreciate all those who have read over the years and feel free to comment on posts and other things that interest you. I will continue to try and respond to comments. If you want to continue reading my posts check me out at AUFS where I will post occasionally when the Spirit leads me.

– Jeremy

Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 3 (Part IV)

09/18/2011

Here are some reflections:

1) Cone and Black Theology – Pannenberg believes Cone’s black liberation theology (and other variants of liberation theology) are all examples of “secularizing belief in election” (521). There is a major danger that a “hubris that brings down historical disaster, the judgment of God in history” (521). We witnessed a similar critique of Boff and the idea of the Kingdom of God at the beginning of Volume 3. It appears that Panneberg’s anxiety is that these theologies are not eschatological enough and run the risk of putting too much agency into the hands of fallen humanity. I really think Pannenberg is quite uncritical here, and one wonders about the political import of Pannenberg’s systematic theology, which is woefully apolitical (read conservative). Why he could not be more leftist like Moltmann who shares many of Pannenberg’s similar theological convictions, despite some significant differences?

2) Eschatology and Pneumatology – Pannenberg understands the two having a strong connection since the fulfillment of eschatology is contingent upon the action of the Spirit. We have to be careful to not merely view eschatology as being a futural event because it “is also at work in our present by the Spirit” (553). The Spirit is always already at work in bringing about reconciliation in the present moment for the sake of a final consummation

3) Salvation and the Unreached – Pannenberg acknowledges that a personal relationship with the Christ cannot be the “universal criterion for participation in salvation” (615). If we are to take seriously the proclamation of the universality of God’s love we have to admit that some people cannot be judged based upon that Christological criterion. Rather, Pannenberg believes that parables like the sheep and the goats suggest that what counts is “whether their individual conduct actually agrees with the will of God that Jesus proclaimed” (615). Amen.

Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 3 (Part I)

09/01/2011

A couple of thoughts:

1) Boff and the Kingdom – Pessimistic Pannenberg chides Boff and liberation theology for believing that “church-incited revolutionary action can actualize the righteousness of God’s kingdom even in social practice” (55). Pannenberg believes that we must be mindful of the perversion of human nature, and the fact that God brings about God’s Kingdom. Of course, he declares that the church has no space to be silent in the face of injustice, but we can never “establish the full and final righteousness of the reign of God” (55). This strikes me as bizarre and naïve. Do liberation theologians really believe that they are somehow working independently of God to achieve their hope for justice and emancipation? Haven’t liberation theologians been much more “sober” in realizing just how sinful humans can be, especially systems of structural injustice?

2) Personal Jesus – Pannenberg criticizes, “individualistic Jesus-piety [that] passes too lightly and quickly over the fact that the work of Jesus including the forming of a band of disciples, the symbolical relating of the Twelve to the people of God and of common meals to the future fellowship of God’s Kingdom” (125). This pious Christianity fails to take seriously the importance of the church and the body of Christ, which demands a sharing and solidarity with fellow believers

3) Faith – Faith is historical knowledge plus trust (or perhaps what the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson termed ‘basic trust’). Faith can never be a content-less knowledge. To some extent, it is always based on our understanding of the history of Jesus of Nazareth (145). Our knowledge of God and Christ is always provisional (154). He believes that it is cowardly and pathetic for us to declare that, “the historical knowledge presupposed in Christian trust to be itself a matter of faith and in this way evading all criticism. If we do that, faith falls victim to the perversion of being its own basis and is robbed of any sense of having a ground in history preceding itself” (154). This is Pannenberg at his best, and something I appreciated throughout his dogmatics. Christian theology cannot immunize itself from external critique, lest it sequesters itself into the safe halls of the seminary burying its hand in the sand avoiding all conversations with other disciplines. Christian theology has to risk itself otherwise it quickly becomes meaningless ideology.

Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 2 (Part I)

08/16/2011

Some Thoughts:

1) Creation ex nihilo – Pannenberg is mistrustful of Barth’s use of the nothing that he outlines in CD III/3 as being an antagonism or resistance to God. Pannenberg (14) believes that this sort of reading of creation is not upheld exegetically and fails to do justice to Genesis 1. Ultimately, the decisive power of the Word will not permit any such idea of resistance. He is also critical of Moltmann’s notion of self-withdrawal or self-limitation which Moltmann appropriates from Jewish mysticism (15). This serves to help make sense of the independent existence of creature and Creator. However, Pannenberg is skeptical of this move by Moltmann because it is insufficiently Trinitarian. I’d be curious to hear Pannenberg’s opinion of Keller’s Face of the Deep, which argues, quite persuasively, that creation out of nothing does exegetical violence to the creation narrative.

2) Creation and the Self-Distinction of the Son – Pannenberg argues that the creation itself bears witness to the goodness of God. The Son of God is “the primary object of the Father’s love” (21). The love that the Father has for creation is ultimately mediated through the Son, and it is non-competitive with the Father’s love for creation. Readers will recall that Pannenberg places great theological and Christological significance in the Son’s self-distinction from the Father. Hence, the proof of Jesus’ divinity is manifested his submission to the Father’s will. The eternal Son predates the existence of Jesus and “is the basis of his creaturely existence” (23). Pannenberg puts it quite succinctly that the, “eternal Son is the ontic basis of the human existence Jesus in his relation to God as Father” (23). Later Pannenberg argues that the mediation of the Son in creation not only serves as a structure and the basis for fellowship with God, but also “as the origin of existence of creaturely reality” (29).

3) Theodicy/Creation – Pannenberg acknowledges that meaningless suffering is perhaps the greatest challenge to the belief in the goodness of God. He applauds Barth for arguing against that the natural theodicy of Leibniz that fails to take seriously the suffering in the world. Pannenberg believes that the fatal flaw of Lebinz’s argument is that it simply considers theodicy from creation and fails to consider “God’s saving action and the eschatological fulfillment that has dawned already in Jesus Christ” (165). This question is an open one that will only be fully revealed in the eschaton (164). Pannenberg recognizes that God bears responsibility for evil’s existence. However, for Pannenberg, “God did not shirk the responsibility but shouldered it by sending and giving up His [sic] Son to the cross” (169). Although this does not serve to explain away evil, it does suggest a God who involves Herself in the suffering and contingencies of this world.

Updated on MTP

08/07/2011

I just wanted to drop a line to let the readers know that I apologize for being late on my post for Pannenberg ST Vol II (Part I). I have my comprehensive doctoral exams next weekend and don’t have time to post right now. Adam will be posting Part II some time next week, and I will have my post up the following week once I complete my exams. I’m sorry for the delay, but I don’t have time right now to post with all the studying that is required.

The Ideology of Happiness in Psychotherapy

08/04/2011

There’s this amazing new group opening up at a place where I work that has this description on the flyer: It is not the problem that causes us to suffer…it is the THINKING about the problems that causes suffering. Change your thinking and experience more happiness and freedom.

Where should I begin? First off, sometimes life’s a bitch. Problems invariably arise that cause suffering and distress. If one were to pretend that there were no problems, that would actually be a sign of mental illness. Secondly, I don’t understand why there’s a collapsing of mental illness and misery. Being unhappy is a normal part of life. Also, major depression is infinitely different than normal anger and sadness. Psychoanalytic theory has never presupposed that humans are happy creatures. After all, it was Freud who brilliantly said that, “much will be gained if we succeed in transforming your hysterical misery into common unhappiness.” Freud was no idealist when it came to human nature. I’m so tired of people believing that psychotherapy is an attempt to make people feel better. Finally, since when did thinking become the problem? This is ideology at its purest. Let’s say you meet someone who has an objectively shitty life. Would it really be most useful to tell the person that s/he needs to think differently? Anyway she views her life, it’s going to be shitty because those are the actual material conditions of life. We come here to the crux of the matter, namely that the problem is the mind not the world. It’s completely meaningless to tell someone that her perception is what is causing her unhappiness when the problem might be the actual material conditions of the world the person inhabits. Now granted, sometimes people’s perceptions are responsible for their problems when the world they live in is not terrible. However, what good does it do to tell a battered partner that the real problem is perception? This is nothing but ideological bullshit. Also, the lesson of psychoanalysis is not that the problem with people is that they are not rational/optimistic enough. Rather, the problem is that they do not know why they do the things they do. Only by becoming more cognizant of the unconscious forces that determine her life can someone be truly liberated to have the freedom to be differently in the world.

Cone on Liberals

07/14/2011

“The liberal is one who sees “both sides” of the issue and shies away from “extremism” in any form. He wants to change the heart of the racist without ceasing to be his friend; he wants progress without conflict…Black people know who the enemy is, and they are forcing the liberal to take sides. But the liberal wants to be a friend, that is, enjoy the rights and and privileges pertaining to whiteness and also work for the “Negro”. He wants change without risk, victory without blood…His favorite question when backed against the wall is “What can I do?” One is tempted to reply, as Malcolm X did to the white girl who asked the same question, “Nothing.” What the liberal really means is, “What can I do and still receive the same privileges as other whites and – this is the key – be liked by the Negroes?” Indeed the only answer is “Nothing.” However, there are places in the Black Power picture for “radicals,” that is, for men, white or black, who are prepared to risk their life for freedom. There are places for the John Browns, men who hate evil and refuse to tolerate it anywhere” (James Cone, Black Theology and Black Power, P 27-28)

Pannenberg – Systematic Theology Volume 1 (Part I)

07/13/2011

I want to offer couple of brief talking points on CH 1-2.

1) The Source of Theology – Pannenberg offers a history about the source of theology for both Protestant and Catholic dogmatics. Early Protestant dogmatics grounded its theology firmly in the Word of God. Of course, the Enlightenment criticism of the unity of Bible “destroyed the biblical statements by drawing attention to contradictions and antitheses in biblical statements” (26). Pannenberg notes that the accommodation theory (the notion that differences in the Bible can be explained by the idea the Spirit adapts to the language and culture of the Bible’s various authors) replaced the doctrine of inspiration. The doctrine of accommodation exposes the true problem of the doctrine of inspiration, which is that it “handled the divine truth of scripture as the presupposition rather than the goal of theology” (35).

2) Barth and Schleiermacher – For Schleiermacher, theology must be grounded in the subjective experience of the believer. He also presupposes that truth was “always decided already in advance” (42). Unlike the inspirationists, scriptural unity is replaced by the “subjective faith consciousness” (42). Of course, this severs theology from the argumentation for the truths of Christian doctrine because what ultimately matters it the subjectivity of the individual Christian. Although Barth was tirelessly critical of Schleiermacher’s project, Pannenberg believes that Barth again committed the sin of “basing dogmatics on faith as risk if not on faith as experience” (44). Barth intended to base theology on the priority of God’s self revelation, but Pannenberg argues if we want to move beyond this fideism ought we not to “abandon the assumption that the reality of God is a presupposition of dogmatics from the very outset?” (45). Pannenberg goes so far to say that Barth “demonstrates the tragic embarrassment of theology at this point. So long as one thinks that the truth of Christian doctrine must be established in advance of all discussion of its content, and given the demise of both the infallible authority of the church’s teaching office and the older Protestant doctrine of inspiration, there is little choice but to appeal to an act of faith, where as experience or as risk or venture” (47). For me, this is Pannenberg at his best. The later Bonhoeffer comes to mind who likewise criticized for Barth’s ‘positivism of revelation’. Bonhoeffer argues that there are degrees of importance and decisions to be made theologically. We have to discriminate and argue without demanding that all of it must swallowed completely.

3) Truth – Pannenberg outlines his methodology as one that will attempt to argue for the truth of Christian doctrine. The real task is not to assume the truth of Christian doctrine, but rather to “face the contesting of the reality and revelation of God in the world” (50). Pannenberg recognizes that it is simply impossible to do theology without presuppositions. Similarly, he understands that the subjectivity of the theologian also comes into play although it does not determine truth. However, the truth will ultimately be determined by God. He considers that doctrines should be conceived of as “hypotheses” (56). Since God is the source of truth, systematic theology “must be a systematic doctrine of God and nothing else” (59). All different doctrines emerge from and “have their truth in God” (59). Finally, a systematic theology must be critical of previous dogmatics, which area incomplete and open to revision.

Jungel – God as the Mystery of the World (Part I)

06/19/2011

I’m going to offer some reflections on Jungel’s brilliant God as the Mystery of the World Sections 1-10.

1) The nonnecessity of God – Jungel’s work is an attempt to respond to questions Bonhoeffer raises in Letters and Papers. God is no longer a necessary working hypothesis. Furthermore, Jungel claims that arguments that attempt to prove God are the “midwife of modern atheism” (19). A God of necessity is always construed to be Lord and believed to be a God defined by power. This necessary omnipotent God always has to make room for His love, which is secondary to power. To move beyond this necessary God, Jungel wants to argue for a God who “is more than necessary” (25). God’s desire to come “to himself with out man” (38) is more than necessary. Following Barth, Jungel argues that God comes from God and we only know God through God’s self-revelation. From this perspective of revelation, God is groundless, unconditioned, and more the necessary. Finally, as a good Lutheran, Jungel declares that we “can speak of no other God than the ‘incarnate God’ and the ‘human God’” (37). This christological perspective has not informed God-talk in modernity because theology has been under “the dictatorship of metaphysics” (39).

2) Methodology –  Jungel charges Pannenberg for  beginning his theology with “the “claim to intellectual veracity” is better dealt with by assuming from the anthropological relevance of talk about God is first demonstrated ‘apart from God’” (17). For Jungel, this concedes too much and sets the ground for atheism. This probably explains why Pannenberg opens up his systematics by beginning a study of the history of religion and makes history such an important aspect of his theory of revelation.

3) Death of God – Jungel self-consciously takes a non-apologetic approach when discussing the death of God. He is not trying to rescue theology from such challenges, rather he states “[t]heology is either interesting on its own, or not at all” (45). Historically, Jungel recognizes that the question “Where is God?” is implicitly a question of theodicy. In my opinion, this is precisely what radical theology tried to address when Altizer et al. raised the question about the death of God. Is it still possible to speak about the goodness of God after shoah?

4) Bonhoeffer – Jungel gives credit to Bonhoeffer who opened up the path to begin engaging the question of the death of God, perhaps best exemplified by his provocative statement to live in the world “even if there were no God” (59). What is key for Jungel is that Bonhoeffer grounds this discussion christologically. The God on the cross of Christ is revealed to be a weak and suffering God. God does allow Godself to be pushed out of the world on the cross.

5) Hegel – The first philosopher to integrate the death of God into his metaphysical system was the Lutheran Hegel. Although Hegel discusses a speculative good Friday, this is never detached from its christological basis. For Hegel, the idea that “God himself is dead” is based on the understanding that God finitized Godself, as the self-negation of God. This God “does not desire to be “in and for himself” and does not desire to forsake the world in its finitude” (74). Against the docetic tendencies of the church fathers, Hegel boldly claims that “it was not the man who dies, but the divine; that is how he became man” (77). In Hegel’s theology, the incarnation is “immediately related to the death of Jesus Christ” (77). Ultimately, Jungel wants us to recognize that Hegel’s understanding of the death of God is christologically driven and is strongly related to the atheism of modernity.

In the next sections Jungel engages the question of atheism and God in modernity by evaluating the philosophy and theology of Descartes, Fichte, Kant Feuerbach, and Nietzsche. However, I don’t have time to analyze Jungel’s discussion of these great philosophers.

Cone Interview

06/09/2011

Check it out.