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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Possibility of Dogmatic Prolegomena

Barth immediately launches into debate with two movements: Liberal Proestantism and Roman Catholicism. Liberal protestantism begins its prolegomena on a foundation of anthropological, historical, and general existential concerns. Karl Barth's brother, Heinrich Barth, provides Karl w/ three key points on page 39 in the excurses: "1. The juxtaposition of the general and hte particular does not imply a rationalistic attempt to master the particular, i.e., the problem of special historical reality, by subsuming it under a general concept. 2. (And this is most revolutionary for Karl Barth's epistemology!) The truth of existence which shines forth in the history of revelation is not to be regarded as identical withthe general truth of existence, with which existential philosophy as such is concerned, but rather as the light which shines forht here and not elsewhere. THe philosophical or general concept of existence odes not offer knowledge of GOd, but only ananalogy to such knowledge. THus philosophy neither can nor does seek to integrate or subordinate theology to its own nexus of problems, but simply attempts to display its own attitude to dogmatics, which it may well do on the basis of that transcendent understanding. 3. Only in retrospect from revealed truth, i.e., by way of recapitulation and not anticipation, does the philosophyical concept of existence seek to be an analogy to the knowledge of GOd. In nose sense, therefore can it be accepted as an instrument of knowledge of God. It is only to be wished that this self-interpretation of the "critical philosophy of existence" could have been brought into the public debate in a far more unmistakeable form than is the case in the essay quoted. It is alsois also to be wished that towards this end the use of such loaded categories as the general and the particular, positive and historical, might have been abandoned. Again, it must be left to philosophy to assume responsibility for the assertion that in that transcendent knowledge of human existence we have an "analogy" to the knowledge of GOd, since this asseriton cannot possibly be a theological statement. FOr it is hard to see what theological foundation could be found for it. A sharp warning should thus be given to the theologian that his new use of the "old Scholastic term" cannot give any philosophical certainty to his work, so that he must not be entied by any fresh possibility of natural theology. Even the "critical philosophy of existence" cannot give rise to any dogmatic prolegmena. If the assertion of analogy is really to be regarded as recapitulatory rather than anticipatory, then this warning is also to be found inthe meaning of this philosophy itself" (pp. 39-40)
Roman Catholicism seeks a foundation in Scripture with far greater refinement, but does so in such a way that in the end the possibility is still a human one, for while it finds a place for God's action, it merges it into a constantly available relationship to man as God's creation. This is the famous "analogia entis," or "analogy of being," which Barth calls an invention of the "anti-Christ" in the preface. Just as faith is not a deposit with which we claim hold of, nor is our relationship to grace inherent in nature, even our own nature (Brunner gives nature and grace a point of contact in the doctrine of the Imago Dei, or Image of God). Jesus Christ comes to us again and again, and we are thus never capable of holding onto him.
Here Glen and Scott and Leah and I came to discuss the "antennae" in man," whereby we must have SOME capacity to understand revelation. If God gave us this antennae, is this not grace itself simply deposited into us, into our nature? For Barth, I believe that he found such a claim irrelevant to dogmatics, and necessarily irrelevant due to what we might wish to make of our nature. Even if we do have some capacity, what of it? Is it a capacity which we can act within? Or does God awaken that capacity when the moment is right? I believe Barth would say the latter, but would find it lacking any depth to say such a thing. Instead, the analogia entis has historically acted as a step (however small a step) for humanity's unreadiness for grace.

Barth introduces the next section by emphasizing that the Word of God shall be measured by Christ Himself, and so shall any corrections of dogmatics. We shall visit this again on 1/2/06.

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