Sunday, February 17, 2019

Prum's "The Evolution of Beauty"

The title of this article is click-bait-y, but once you get into the article it's a really interesting discussion of of Prum's "Evolution of Beauty" book. Within the framework of natural selection, how do beauty and the aesthetic sense function? (I'm learning anew about this subject and find it so fascinating.)

I was just studying a review of the book yesterday, which makes the point discussed in the paragraph that begins "Despite his recent Pulitzer nomination..." Here is that article.

Happy birthday, Raphaelle Peale

Today is the 245th anniversary of the birth of artist Raphaelle Peale. Years ago I read Phoebe Lloyd's article, "Philadelphia Story", Art in America, (November 1988), 154–171, 195–200. It analyzed and identified Peale's words and discussed her thesis that his father, Charles Wilson Peale, essentially poisoned his son. Lloyd died before her book on Peale was completed ( but if you do an internet search you can find a lot of information about Peale and photos of his lovely paintings. Here is "Strawberries and Cream" (1816).

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Monday, February 11, 2019

Barth's Dogmatics, §3, the Word of God as Criterion of Dogmatics

Beth purchased for me this note paper
the year I turned 30 (1987), which was also the year
I began writing my dissertation on Barth. This volume
of the Dogmatics still contains a few of those
old note pages, used back then as bookmarks.
My blog project for 2019 is to take notes on Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. My folks purchased
whole English-language set for me forty years ago, and subsequently I wrote my doctoral dissertation on a portion of Vol. III, part 2. For this blog project, I’ll study the Dogmatics by paragraphs, taking notes. See my December 2, 2018 post for Barth's overall plan for his series.

Paragraphs 1 and 2 are the introduction. Paragraph 3 is the first of five sections comprising Church Dogmatics’ chapter 1, “The Word of God as the Criterion of Dogmatics.”

Paragraph 3 is “Church Proclamation as the Material of Dogmatics”: “Talk about Got in the Church seeks to be proclamation to the extent that in the form of preaching and sacrament it is directed to man with the claim and expectation that in accordance with its commission it has to speak to him the Word of God to be heard in faith. Inasmuch as it is a human world in spite of this claim and expectation, it is the material of dogmatics, i.e., of the investigation of its responsibility as measured by the Word of God which it seeks to proclaim.”

In section 1 (pp. 47-71 of the English translation), “Talk About God and Church Proclamation,” Barth notes that “Not all human talk is talk about God,” although it could and should be. But we don’t know humans in our original state, only as fallen and condemned but not redeemed by grace. Because not all human talk is talk of God, including in the church, theology must reflect upon church proclamation as judged and redeemed by the Word of God. Proclamation is like the words of the king spoken through the herald.

It is true that God may speak in other ways than in proclamation and even in non-human speech. But since the church has the special responsibility of proclamation—both preaching and the sacraments—it must serve and always attentive to the Word of God that it (proclamation) aims to tell and share. Modernist theology attends too much to the human experience, while Roman Catholic theology overemphasizes the sacrament and the magisterium. But the Reformers, and now the Protestant churches, emphasize preaching “only as the grace of the strictly personal free Word of God which reaches it goal in the equally personal free hearing of [humans], the hearing of faith, which for its part… can be understood only as grace” (p. 68).

In section 2 (pp. 71-88), Barth notes that proclamation “is always and always will be [the human] word. It is also something more than this and quite different. When and where it pleases God, it is God’s own Word… On this promise depend the claim and the expectation But proclamation both as preaching and sacrament does not cease to be representation, human service” (pp. 71-72). The church has the responsibility to proclaim, knowing that proclamation and the response alike depends upon God alone.

Dogmatics is in turn the work of the Church to criticize and correct its proclamation, and thus dogmatics cannot function without prayer. Thus:

Dogmatics is necessary not as proclamation itself but to evaluation the fallible work of proclamation.
Dogmatics serves proclamation, not as an end in itself, nor as a source of higher knowledge.
Dogmatics serves as an investigation of how best we may speak of God.

As an aside, Barth notes that although hymnals and books of order serve worship and proclamation, seldom do revisions of such materials consult dogmatics (p. 71). As another aside, he notes that social work in the church claims to be proclamation, too, but here, too, dogmatics must evaluate this work (p. 71).

The following three paragraphs take up some of the questions raised by this paragraph 3: “The Word of God in its Threefold Form” (preached, written, and revealed), “The Nature of the Word of God,” and “The Knowability of the Word of God”, and then finally dogmatics as a science.

Arnold Come (see December 8th post), writes of paragraph 3 (p. 89): "The church's speaking about Go includes proclamation, prayer, singing, confession, social action, Christian education, theology. Proclamation in preaching and sacraments uniquely expects human words and acts to be used by God himself as his own word to men. This peculiar kind of speaking creates the church's own inner life and defines its task toward the world. Dogmatics has the secondary task of exposition, investigation, polemic, criticism, and revision in the serve of more authentic proclamation. So dogmatics cannot prescribe the content of preaching, nor is the theologian necessarily a superior man of faith."

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sunday Afternoon at Powell Hall

What a wonderful St Louis Symphony this afternoon: Vaughan Williams' "A Lark Ascending" and "Serenade to Music", Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachmusik," and Brahms' second symphony. Incoming music director Stéphane Denève conducted, so it was a treat to get a preview of his style.

Those two Vaughan Williams' pieces are so sublime...

Beth's photo:

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Happy Birthday, Carmen Miranda

It's a busier weekend than usual, with university events today and a St Louis Symphony concert, which I'm looking forward to because they're performing Vaughan Williams.

I've two poetry manuscripts that I'm sending to spring contests: I've submitted to four contests and  for the time being will submit to two more.

It's the birthday of Brazilian star Carmen Miranda, as well as Carole King, who in their different ways brought much happiness to the world.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Barth's Dogmatics: His Theological Pilgrimage

First edition of Barth's "Romans"
Finally I'm back to blogging, after dealing with some issues with "the blues" and also starting the semester and knocking out some other writing. Never a dull moment, LOL.

Before I move on to the next section of Barth's Dogmatics, here are some thoughts lifted from my doctoral dissertation concerning Barth’s theological pilgrimage toward Volume 1 of his Church Dogmatics.

Second edition 
Famously, Barth had rejected the theological liberalism of his teachers and developed a “dialectical” theology in his book The Letter to the Romans (1919, revised 1922). Part of Barth’s explorations in the 1920s his discovery, in Calvin and others, of a more constructive location of God’s being in God’s own revelation, compared to the “wholly Other” God of his Romans.

Barth’s discovery included several points, (1) The self-accreditation of the Bible as God’s Word apart from any human judgments. Barth discovered “the event character of revelation, that is, God’s initiative in revelation, rather than a condition of revelation or an “objective” revelation as taught in Protestant Orthodoxy and, in other ways, Roman Catholicism. (2) The distinction between the Bible itself and the revelation; scripture itself is a witness to revelation. (3) God’s word is connected uniquely with these worlds; although revelation itself is not historical, God’s Word is is connected with this historical witness wherein the eternal God makes himself known in human temporality. (4) Although the Bible is a witness, others could, even more than the Bible, witness to Christ. “The conception of faith as obedience offers Barth a view of the authority of Scripture that does not depend on the incidence or quality of certain experiences… Barth is now able to emphasize all the more the infinite qualitative difference between the motions of the Spirit and the autonomous motions of the human soul.”

Therefore, (5) the internal witness of the Spirit to us and the witness of the Spirit in the Bible are mutually corrective. The dialectic of his earlier period, the Yes and No of God, becomes now the dialectic of subject and object, both involving this corrective and revelatory power of the Holy Spirit.

Barth’s 1924-1925 lectures on dogmatics, Unterricht in der christlichen Religion, provide an interesting glimpse into the positive, constructive potential of Barth’s pre-Dogmatics theology but also provide the most completed form of dogmatic theology that he accomplished. This book was published in English in 1991 and is often called The Göttingen Dogmatics.) He retains the forceful aspects of his dialectical theology: the modern theologian finds dogmatics strenuous, bitter, and feature, because its object is God who gives his command to proclaim his Word, and thus dogmatics is necessarily under divine judgment. The expression “God is God” prevents any human word from seizing God’s initiative, particularly in theological matters.

Barth's 1927 "Christian Dogmatics" 
Barth’s subsequent effort, Die christliche Dogmatik im Entwurf (1927), was a famous false start for a longer project, but it begins the same as Church Dogmatics: the object of theological inquiry is Jesus Christ, the event which reveals the triune God and which is made new for all in the Holy Spirit and the Bible. The trinitarian starting-point, within the sphere of prolegomena, is novel. But if one traverses Barth’s earlier dialectical reflections, it is not surprising why he does so. As Balthasar writes, Barth realizes “there is then no need to introduce any created consciousness into the picture. Because he can then meet and vanquish the note of ‘consciousness,” which plays such an important role in the theology of Schleiermacher.”

God is known only in God’s own freedom. As in Barth’s Letter to the Romans, the problem of God’s otherness is stated in terms of God’s entire otherness. But here in the Christian Dogmatics, Barth weds the “infinite qualitative difference” between God and humanity to the position which he discovered in Calvinism: finitum non capax infiniti. God is free subject who cannot become an object to us; but God is a free subject who nevertheless wills to be in encounter with human beings. Knowledge of God rests upon God’s freedom to be known.

As in Romans, the encounter reveals the ultimate contradiction between us and God; true relation, according to Barth, is an exclamation to God of our unfaith. Thus Barth retains a dialectical pattern: he speaks of “the great divine disturbance and question” which stands over against us. But Barth shifts from the mystery of the origin wherein the Word may be found, to the positive World of God that is given by God who wills encounter—and who gives us his Spirit to accept his world. Thus, we return to God’s triune being. God’s triune being is the way in which God is other to us, as free Lord and not simply as contradiction. Religion as the human self-justifying impetus negates God’s free Lordship by seeking to unite consciousness with God’s being. This free Lordship is a discovery that Barth retains for the Church Dogmatics.

The Word of God is only accessible to existential thinking, to the perceiving human subject. Barth’s long-time concern for normative preaching is answered in the address of God to the existential situation of the person who is called to a decision to accept God’s Lordship.

But Barth was still concerned about a possible philosophical a priori in human consciousness. So his next step was to retain the concreteness of God’s Word and the importance of proclamation in a way that did not necessitate a foundation for knowledge of God other than God.

His next step was his 1931 book Anselm: Fides Quaerens Intellectum, where he found a way to maintain God’s self-relationship not only as the sole basis of knowledge of God but also as the basis of theological intelligibility.

Anselm finds the necessity of both subjective faith and the object of faith in the Name of God revealed to him, aliquid quo nihil maius cogitari possit. That which exists only intramentally is not superior to something which is both intramental and extramental. The superiority of this theology is that it does not proceed from idea to reality. Rather, the name of God prevents argument from idea to reality (from creature to creator) because that name reveals god as he who establishes the very possibility of knowing him. The name reveals God as he who is greater than that which can be thought, as he who can therefore be conceived only as he allows the governs the conception. Against Feuerbach, Barth argues that one does not conceive God in the same manner as other creatures at all. The knowledge of this “object” wholly depends on its gracious establishment of the possibility of knowing it—and God’s self-givenness is so compelling that unbelief is foolish.

In the Dogmatics, Barth, using these insights to develop the self-givingness of God in contrast to “modern Christology” which fails to account for the otherness of God in his Word and thus lacks the “mystery” of God’s revelation. God’s special otherness, rather, is found in the Word which is incomparably superior to any human word.

Contrasting Barth’s view with Schleiermacher’s: In the latter, God is the primal ground of consciousness and the Other is the codeterminate, and in the former, God cannot be had or found, but rather the Other comes, and satisfies the need for God.