Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Translating Barth on Other People: Heidegger

Not a huge post, just a "here's what I'm doing" thing. I noted on Twitter yesterday that translating Barth was no big deal, that translating Heidegger was also not too bad a job, but that translating the former summarizing the latter was another matter altogether. So I'm going to show you what I meant by that in comparing three pieces of text: the original, the official English translation, and mine. The amount of research on Heidegger that went into this tiny snippet is kind of appalling—it's a rabbit hole of massive proportions—but so is the lack of said research that I'm betting went into the first translation.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

"Creation and Covenant" (CD §41): Stuck in the Middle With You... (excursus 1b)

Kant to the left of me, Brunner to my right; here I am. (See title phrase for the chorus.)

In the last post, covering the first half of this first excursus in section 41, Barth hit up Augustine and Gregory Nyssen for assertions of the unity of the creator and redeemer/savior/deliverer, and then knocked down Ferdinand Chr. Baur for saying that we don't really need the specifics of creation as long as we get that we depend on God.

You see, it's not good to try and progress "beyond" scripture into "greater truth" if you then leave it behind. It's not enough to say you've gotten the point, if you no longer need the details that made that point. The point begins to lose its character—it begins to look more like us and less like God—when we let the details slip like that. And the poster child for this (much as Barth depends upon him in other ways) is Kant, whose assertions about creation in the Critique of Judgment are so abstracted from God's character and bound to a determination of the world's character that they say absolutely nothing we can use.

So: Barth insists that creation is not "a doctrine of the world-cause." But it is about creation! The direction of the etiology is important; the term stressed in describing causation matters. It's about God making the world and all things, and not about how those things came to be as they are. It's also, by extension, about God determining and accompanying the world and all things, which we'll get to in CD III.3—but even then it will still not be about how those things came to be as they are. In the same ways, election and reconciliation are about God choosing and reconciling the covenant partner—and not basically about how the covenant partner came to be in the state it's in today. That second term will always be handled second, as a spoiler of how things ought to be, because we've made them to be otherwise by using our freedom for negation.

It's about God, not the world; we can only address the world theologically once we've gotten speech about God and God's acts right. The Creator, Reconciler, and Redeemer are one and the same God, and it's the specific character of that God that matters, not any hypothetical reconstructions of those acts in themselves and on the basis of their objects. And so it will always be the distance between the world as we've made it and the creature as it ought rightly to be that grounds our implementation of theological truth. That's the grounding reality of reconciliation from our side, the thing that makes reconciliation in history look the way it does. But to get that right, we have to realize the importance of getting the doctrine of creation right, and so understanding the origin, nature, and right of God's lordship correctly. While that won't be the content of today's passage, it will be the point of it.