Thursday, March 14, 2013

What Makes Barth's thought Dialectical?

Since Bruce McCormack's work on Barth, one should read Barth less as a representative of neo-orthodoxy and more of a modern/orthodox thinker.  Kenneth Oakes recently even sees no problem in calling him orthodox/liberal because of Barth's continual use of the theoretical format he learned from the Neo-Kantians and Wilhelm Herrmann specifically.

McCormack has insisted that Barth was a dialectically critical-realistic (Realdialektik) theologian.  God's existence is the transcendent real that humans come in contact in a dialectically veiled/unveiled revelation with God as both the Object (Sache) and Subject of the matter.  Barth interpreter Paul La Montagne lists 7 points to illustrate what exactly this means:

1. Barth takes God's existence and God's self-revelation for granted.
2. His theology is nonfoundationalist (not anti).
3. His theology is critical and self-critical (This is a KEY point often ignored by Barth's readers).
4. We cannot speak of God, but we refer to God in our theology.
5. Our knowledge of God is mediated and indirect.
6. Our language of God is fallible; it is actualistic witness at its best.
7. Theology as a science is of a hypothetical character.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Beginning of Historicism: Chladenius & Möser

Johann Martin Chladenius and Justus Möser are two names that one does not hear in many households (especially the ones inhabited by Anglo-Americans).  However, in Beiser's new book on the German Historicist tradition, he makes the claim that these two are the grandfathers of Historicism. This is important because most  begin with Herder.

So what is so significant about both of them?  They both begin to look at history outside of simple confessional history or the history of the elite.  They also notice the importance of context and perspective in viewing the past. Because of their attention to history some may place them outside of the eighteenth century Enlightenment and see them as forerunners of nineteenth century movements.

Möser especially deserves mention here because he rejects Wolffian rationalism for its emphasis on reason and turns to the action and emotions of real historical actors. Chladenius seems to turn away from the relativism and perspectivism that may form from a historicist understanding of history because of his orthodox Lutheranism.  All in all, they are both pioneers in asking critical, modern questions about history.