Back to Work-Blogging

The inadvisability of blogging one's developing thesis has left this site relatively spare for a while. But with one last loose-end-tying-up course in the fall term and examination readings to go through, I'm about to return to form. I'll be reading through important sources in the present state of Barthianism, particularly on election and its weird not-quite-Barth bondage to trinitarian ontology. I've done most of this reading before, but I didn't have the grounds to argue with it, or differentiate it from Barth. (Mostly I complained about it then because it didn't make proper sense in my system, which is a separate concern from whether it makes sense vis-à-vis what Barth actually wrote.)

Of course, there's another kind of inadvisability possible in this kind of writing. I don't aim for this stuff to be popcorn-worthy; this isn't theological fight club. But I am about to make a lot of statements critical of or in direct contradiction to the opinions of well-regarded and influential scholars in a field from which I'm not looking to alienate myself. And I'm already getting a few "no serious scholar thinks what you think" readings. (Which I know; it's why I'm the one filing the bug reports and writing the patches, because I'm the one seeing the problem.) That's good, it's important. And I've done the same, in a review that might better be left in someone's drawer, to a recent book that didn't manage to provide proof of its own assertions counter to the best current work in the field.

It's not that I don't like theological fight club; it's that, for lack of a better word, chivalry is advisable. Honorable combat, sparring not for the takedown but for the good fight well-fought against a worthy opponent. (Wow, there's a lot of gender-role garbage back of that.) Put another way, it's the difference between Barth and Brunner arguing with Schleiermacher. The notional busts of Bruce McCormack, George Hunsinger, John Webster, and many others are going to stay sitting on my notional desk for a long time to come.

So it's about time I started putting up argument demonstrating my engagement with the field. What they have done well, I have to do at least as well. And what they have done poorly, I have to be able to spot and do better. I'm obviously going to make my own errors; I'm as subject to this process as anyone else. But I have at least one advantage, which is that I'm still significantly an outsider. I've worked hard to gain familiarity and currency within the field, but especially when it comes to the assumptions of Reformed theology, as embodied by readers who take Barth as a Reformed theologian, a cradle Lutheran has a different enough lens for what may be better differentiation of Barth's own claims.

First on deck, while I considered a couple of Hunsinger bits (four views of hell, or the one in which he manages to hypostasize periods within eternity), will be McCormack's "Grace and Being: The Role of God's Gracious Election in Karl Barth's Theological Ontology," from the Cambridge Companion. I've never had a stake in the battle between pseudo-Chalcedonians and so-called-Revisionists, and I've been asked to claim a position numerous times over the years. But if I'm going to claim land here, it's going to be Barth's, and it's going for that reason to be my claim and not theirs. So, anyways, a start on that is coming, after I finish wading through this piece carefully.

If you want previews, you can always listen to me complain on Twitter.


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