Second day of the conference, fewer people in the chairs today. Find it interesting how small this conference is compared to the Idea of Communism conference. I won’t speculate on why, but just note it. Anyhow, today is almost entirely devoted to distributism. That would suggest it is the predominant form of Christian social teaching, though a friend humorously suggested that Mugabe is the truest distributist in history. Polemical! More below.
“Theologians are like the Englishman who didn’t know that he as speaking prose; because they work exegetically and (so they believe) in a passively receptive way, they have no inkling of the fact that they are thereby active and reflective. But if thinking is merely contingent, it abandons itself to the categories of finite content, of finitude, of finite thinking, and is incapable of comprehending the divine in the content; it is not the divine but the finite spirit that moves in such categories. As a result of such a finite thinking and comprehending of the divine, or of what is in and for itself, as a result of this finite thinking of the absolute content, the fundamental doctrines of Christianity have for the most part disappeared from dogmatics. Philosophy is preeminently, though not exclusively, what is at present essentially orthodox; the propositions that have always been valid, the basic truths of Christianity, are maintained and preserved by it.” — Philosophy of Religion, 1827 lectures
With my post-Agamben eyes, and more recently in light of Anthony’s suggestion at the AAR that “God” should be aligned with the “never-living,” I took particular note of the places in Barth’s (rather laborious) exposition of the attributes of God where he talks about God’s life. In the section on God’s constancy, the main move that Barth makes to distance his concept of God from the traditional notion of impassibility is to understand God’s constancy as his life. We can’t think of God’s impassibility as a lack of movement, since that would mean that God is dead. He also wraps up the section on God’s eternity by saying that we must understand God’s life as eternal, to keep us from veering back into an abstract concept of eternity, etc. (I haven’t read the “glory” section yet — the end of the eternity section is what prompted this post.)
My question: Why not treat God’s “life” as a separate attribute?
It is rumored that there exist decent anthologies of post-Reformation scholasticism, of both the Lutheran and Reformed variety. Does anyone know if such rumors are true?
Every time I say this, someone says I’m missing the point, but I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the Christian tradition is morbidly afraid of infinite regress, which in my mind includes mutual determination as a subspecies.
For instance, why is it that the West can say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (based on the biblical text), but not that the Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit (which seems to be supported by the biblical account of Christ’s conception)? Did they just not want to trouble the waters further? Judging by their vociferous defense of the Filioque, that’s not a very likely explanation. Rather, it seems to me that they didn’t take that equally obvious route because that would mean that the Son and the Spirit were mutually determinative, introducing a kind of infinite regress (or vicious circle).
Similarly, every proof of the existence of God presupposes that infinite regress is an impossible outcome — hence the uncaused cause, that than which no greater can be thought, etc., etc., etc.
What is the significance of this? Only time will tell!
One of the most-cited texts in Catholic theology is Denzinger‘s Enchiridion Symbolorum, a compilation of doctrinal statements from church councils and other authoritative documents that provided a standard reference point. It stands alongside Migne‘s Patrologia as a monument to the intense passion for compilation that apparently consumed the Catholic theological community during the 19th century — the results of which Gramsci appears to have had in mind when he recommended that Marxism should follow the Catholic Church’s lead in developing standard “doctrinal” resources:
one would have to study all the material of the same type published by the Catholics, in various countries, in relation to the Bible, the Gospels, the Early Fathers, the Liturgy and Apologetics, great specialized encyclopedias of uneven value which are continually being published and which maintain the ideological unity of hundreds of thousands of priests and other cadres who provide the framework and the strength of the Catholic Church. (Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, ed. and trans. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith [New York: International Publishers, 1971], 414-15.)
Why stop with Marxism, though? Why shouldn’t Lacan have his own Denzinger? Why not an Enchiridion Deleuziensum? What exactly are we waiting for?
If any of you know of any responses to Zizek specifically by theologians, please point them out to me in comments. I already know about Graham Ward’s chapter in Cities of God, and of course the materials in Theology and the Political, and also the article from First Things on Badiou and Zizek.
I’d particularly appreciate responses from people outside of Radical Orthodoxy or reactionary Catholicism. But maybe theologians outside the Radical Orthodox circle might not have gotten around to Zizek yet. Their up-to-the-minute-ness is perhaps Radical Orthodoxy’s best aspect — now if only we could figure out a way to get them to read, if not more carefully, at least more sympathetically (categories which in my mind almost entirely overlap when it comes to initial understanding of a new text or body of thought).