Thursday, June 2, 2011

McKenny on Ward's Wrong Reading of Barth and Modernity

Here is a footnote on Ward from McKenny's book:

From Barth's perspective, to overcome the problems posed for Christian life and thought by modernity it is not sufficient to secure a place in modern discourses for Christian speech or for the existence of God—as it would be if secularism or atheism were the fundamental problem. Graham Ward thus misunderstands Barth when he seeks to claim the latter for his own project of recovering the ‘repressed other scene’ of modernity, that is, all that modernity in its quest for rationality, objectivity, impartiality, etc. sought to forget or ignore. In this vein Ward credits Barth with recognizing the mysterious as a countercurrent to the demystifying secularization of the Enlightenment and for taking the side of Hamann as a voice of orthodoxy and tradition against Kant and neologism (Graham Ward, ‘Barth, Modernity, and Postmodernity,’ in The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, ed. John Webster (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 274–95). But Barth says almost the direct opposite of what Ward attributes to him. He draws attention to the mysterious only to claim that it exhibits the very same self-assertion as does rationalism, and far from opposing Kant, Barth names the Königsberg philosopher along with Mozart as the two eighteenth-century figures who recognized the limits of human self-assertion (Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century, 35 ff./18 ff., 73/53, 266–9/237–9). Ward is troubled by secularism; he therefore applauds the postmodern attention to the countercurrents of mystery and tradition. Barth was troubled by human self-assertion, that is, by the assimilation of all that is other to the self-enclosed totality of the subject. Suspecting that both secularism and its anti-rationalistic countercurrents are manifestations of the latter, he opposes them both.

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