Friday, September 10, 2010

Barth's Dialectic: 1 of the hinges

I absolutely loved Terry Cross's book on Barth's dialectic in the Doctrine of God where he makes a good case, following Bruce McCormack, that Barth never simply abandoned his dialectical thinking after the Anselm book.

Cross notes that Barth has a number of uses for the dialectic, but what I thought was most helpful was the way he used the idea of the door and hinge to explain Barth's thinking. The door is the Word of God. The hinges are analogy of faith (correspondence) and the dialectic. In fact, the dialectic keeps the use of the analogy of faith humble and human. So even though Barth moves more toward the fact that the God-Man, in the historical movement of Christ, fixes the gap between humans and God, the human side of that fact is still veiled. Because God has spoken humans can now speak of God, yet in a dialectical way; thus, I would say we are commanded to be heralds and witnesses to the Event of revelation, yet we are in essence limited witnesses.

Barth seems to have never abandoned the idea of the veiling/unveiling of God's self-revelation. In other words, God reveals and is hidden in revelation. Even in the person/work of Christ this is a fact. For example, the primary mover of revelation in the life of Christ is the resurrection where the "It is finished" of the cross is revealed to Christ's followers. Without the resurrection, we would be in the dark that God had reconciled the world on the cross. Now Badiou, for instance, sees the resurrection on its own merit without a need of dialectic; the Event of the resurrection fashions a new subject like Paul in light of its revelatory action. Zizek rightly criticizes Badiou's optimistic thought for being too much of a theology of glory without the dialectic of the cross. I think Barth, because of the dialectic, is not in need of such chastening.

So Barth's theological theme that grace is revealed through Jesus Christ is a consistent message throughout his corpus. The dialectic serves as a way that limits the teleological movement found in the Christian narrative. There is definitely some end and goal to the work of Christ, yet we are merely witnesses to it and our job is to be open and faithful to that witness and not to try to bring into fruition by our own merits.

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