Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ethics of the Event

Trying to put the finishing touches of my seminar paper with regards to Barth's ethical works specifically found in the Church Dogmatics. Here is how it is lining up:

First, following Graham Ward, I think we need a little Hegel to reinvigorate the turn to culture in a way that is open and hopeful. Here Hegel helps Barth along. This is in defense against Hoff's critique of the modern concept of God as the Self-Revealer found in Hegel, Barth which then leads into Zizek. Hoff sees this as un-biblical, but I see it as a plus (at least that is what I am going to try to argue). In short, economic Trinity over immanent.

Following a trend among contemporary interpreters of Barth's ethics (Nimmo, Clough, Haddorff), I am going to argue for a dialectical Barthian ethics based on traumatic events that interrupt the flows of life. This is not an ethic that comes from within but is external and provokes an "act" by the agent. Barth is at his best when he is dialectical, but following Zizek's Hegel, I am going to say this needs to be a dialectic without a synthesis (so at least from our standpoint there needs to be a certain sense of openness).

The basis of this ethics is found in the event of reconciliation; it is formed by the grace of the election in Christ. So grace comes first and forms the command of God that compels the freedom to be obedient (not to a static law). I am still working out this concluding point, but here I will use Zizek to warn and critique Barth's conception in the sense of preventing the commanding God of becoming a big Other (is this possible?).

I am also interested in contrasting Barth's idea of the event with Derrida's notion (maybe for a future paper). For Derrida, the event is undecidable and thus deferred indefinitely. Yet, Barth's and Zizek's use of dialectic compel them to make a decision to act in the here and now. In some sense, Barth and Zizek are indifferent to the pluralism that is out there because they are so particular. It is again a dialectic of the Yes/No that speaks from an identified position. So one must do theology as one does ethics, but like theology one must always begin from the beginning.

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