Thursday, August 23, 2012

Status of Summer work...

Since my work has taken the turn to the historical, I thought that this would increase the amount of time it would take for me to finish this bloody dissertation thing. Instead I am about 55 pages completed with three other chapters on the horizon. Here is some of the progress of my work:

 I have explored the work of recent theologians and philosophers for the last couple of years thinking about how this actually has helped my overall work.  First, struggling with concepts is rewarding in and of itself, but what my reading of thinkers like Zizek, Agamben and others have taught me is that they are often leaning on older thinkers within the philosophical tradition. The main figures, who are obviously having an impact on theological thought today, are, for me, Hegel and Spinoza. One of the things I have taken from both philosophers is that, one, labeling them in a particular school is hard and sometimes anachronistic, and, two, I found that it is better to see their historical impact and appreciate their contribution than to whine and complain about how they took things down a wrong turn or that they need to somehow be overcome. Their discussion of theological matters has had an important impact in all factors of human thought (see Jonathan Israel's majestic work if you think Spinoza is not important).

 Again, exploring the history of this tradition (and yes, I think one can see a flow from Spinoza to Schleiermacher and Hegel) has moved the trajectory on how we have historically thought about God, among other things. One can judge the merits of this turn, but, as I just start to wrestle with this history, I must admit that I stand with a certain awe of the so-called Spinozian line and the way Hegel wrestled with post-Kantian thought.  Hegel and Spinoza are very difficult thinkers that need real dedication to understand their ideas, but I have a feeling that the payoff is extremely rewarding.

 Where does Barth fit in? Well, for some who follow the neo-orthodox argument he really does not, because he is anti-modern; but if Bruce McCormack's recent interpretation of modern theology is correct then it helps lead Barth to a more actualistic understanding of God, which is very modern because it is built around a terminology that came from both Spinoza and Hegel (and Kant).  I think that my driving point here has been to articulate a thoroughly Protestant theology and to see an intellectual history that moves from the late seventeenth century into the twentieth century.  However, even against a certain Barthianism, I want to follow a sort of German tradition that notes how much Barth inherited his ideas from the nineteenth century tradition he is so noted for taking on.

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