Thursday, February 25, 2010

Paul Jones on Barth, Hegel, and ‘Geschichte’

Paul Dafydd Jones, The Humanity of Christ: Christology in Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics (London: T&T Clark, 2008): 198.
Geschichte signals a deft riposte to the charge of Hegelianism, easily leveled against Barth given his intensive utilization of the motif of Aufhebung throughout the Dogmatics. Barth’s basic response to the charge is easily imaginable: dogmatics has no fundamental relationship with the apprehension of Geist offered by ‘philosophic history’; it does not read ‘world history’ as Spirit’s ‘field of actualization’, with nations and prominent individuals functioning as vehicles of Spirit’s drive towards self-realization. Nor, more specifically, are the life, death and resurrection of Christ especially illustrative of Spirit’s progress, even granted that the pictorial Vorstellungen of ‘revealed religion’ apprehend this ‘true content’ in advance of speculative thought. Whereas for Hegel Geist’s outworking manifests itself in the person of Christ, Barth uses Geshichte to underscore that Christ, as an irreducible particular person, is one who is ‘logically indispensable’ to and ‘materially decisive’ for a dogmatic account of reconciliation.”

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Highly difficult. Can you explain it in plain words? As Heidegger used to say in his seminars: "do not use great words, use little money instead. This make communication easier".

W. Travis McMaken said...

I agree - Maybe Paul will drop by and explain it to us further! But, I think the real point is in the last sentence, and that is a bit more accessible.

pauldafyddjones said...

It's probably a bit easier in context, and the quotes are mostly from Hegel himself, but yeah, it is indeed a bit much.

Anyway, the basic point is this. For Hegel, the incarnation is but one occurrence within the context of the Spirit's self-realization. It's an important occurrence, to be sure, but it only makes sense within the context of the whole. For Barth, on the other hand, history begins and ends with the concrete person of Jesus Christ. He can't be subsumed under a broader scheme of history. Rather, he is an irreducible event that defines what history is.

Thanks again for posting stuff about the book, Travis. I suspect that many who have a "first book" out are in the same position as me. We try our best not to think about it too much, much less go and re-read it, since it just induces waves of fear, self-loathing, doubt, impostor syndrome, etc. All that healthy stuff that characterizes the *Schattenseite* your average academic's emotional life. At any rate, it is always refreshing to hear that other people are actually interested in the book. Reminds me not to take myself too seriously!

Best,


Paul