I’ve been reading Taubes’s From Cult to Culture and finding it fascinating and challenging. One particular passage struck me from his Tillich essay, which I had read before in a “death of God” anthology edited by Altizer, where he claims that the very fact that we must do theology is already a sign that the old religious symbols are losing their meaning: Continue reading “Taubes on theology”
What is the difference between philosophy and theology if it’s not the personal belief stance of the thinker in question? What makes the pursuit of something like theology distinctive compared to what one would normally call philosophy? I should say from the first that I think this has to be regarded as an open problem, because philosophy and theology are both critical and speculative discourses undertaken in dialogue with a historical tradition. Given such similarities, it is understandable that one would cast about for factors external to the discourse itself, such as the “personal belief” of the thinker. I think that such a difference is both nonsensical and boring, however, and I propose that a more reasonable and interesting difference must be found within theological discourse itself.
At perhaps the pivotal moment in the Church Dogmatics IV/1, Barth poses the question Cur Deus homo? He discusses the incarnation and what it meant for God “to deny the immutability of His being, His divine nature, to be in discontinuity with Himself, to be against Himself, to set Himself in self-contradiction” (184). Continuing with these questions, Barth goes on to ask about the how the perfect, eternal, and omnipotent God could become limited, lowly, and impotent. Barth considers what it meant that “His becoming man, consisted in this determination of God to be “God against God” (184). Further on he writes, “God in His incarnation would not merely give Himself, but give Himself away, give up being God. And if that was His will, who can question His right to make possible this impossibility?” (184). This rift, this gap in the Godhead for Barth culminates in cry of dereliction on the cross. With fear and trembling, Barth wonders if this cry ultimately is a temptation that would encourage the notion that there is a “contradiction and conflict in God Himself” (185). Barth comes very close but ultimately rejects this idea because “God gives Himself, but He does not give Himself away” (185). Also, God is a God of peace not confusion (1 Cor 14:33). Despite the fact that God experiences this contradiction, “He acts as Lord over this contradiction even as He subjects Himself to it” (185). As Barth approaches the mystery of Christian theology, he stops short. He looks over the cliff but refuses to jump. At the very moment where he could ultimately embrace the death of the sovereign God, he pulls back. The sovereign God ultimately never left the control station even at the cross. Altizer once said that the death of God could help us finally come to terms with what the cry of dereliction actually meant for the Godhead. Radical death of God theologians seem to be the only theologians who actually take this question seriously.