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Deconstructing Barth

A Study of the Complementary Methods in Karl Barth and Jacques Derrida


Isolde Andrews

This original and perceptive study draws out the relevance of Jacques Derrida's thought about deconstruction, différance and the gift for Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics. These are particularly important for apprehending Barth's doctrine of salvation, which is the particular focus of this book. Derrida's insights are also shown to illuminate the way in which Barth speaks of complex events such as revelation which cannot be thematised by rational thought. This significant interpretation of Karl Barth indicates his affinity with postmodern thought. It will be of interest to those who are studying the relationship between theology and postmodernism, particularly the complex borders between the thematisable and non-thematisable.


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Chapter II: Complexity Versus Systems Which Simplify 53


CHAPI'ER II COMPLEXITY VERSUS SYSTEMS WIDCH SIMPLIFY 1. Introduction Chapter I suggested that a major point of contact between Barth and Derrida is that they both posit an approach to their respective areas of thought which entails a "system which is not a system". In this chapter, I indicate from Derrida's studies why it is necessary to get away from traditional systematic modes of thought in order to comprehend the radical approach Barth has for the understanding of salvation. Barth's economy of salvation is found to be an economy of differance. First of all, I read deeply into Barth's Prolegomenon1 to raise the issues involved for the rest of the chapter. 2. Barth's Prolegomenon Where do you start talking about God ? The traditional response was always laid out at the beginning of a dogmatics: one starts speaking of God by explaining the system or criteria by which it is believed that it is possible to talk about God. Barth begins by questioning whether he can write a prolegomenon in the traditional manner. Theology, he declares, does not find itself in possession of special "keys" for special "doors" .2 Neither does it have at its disposal a basis for knowledge, as he goes on to say, which might not straightaway be realised in every other science. To have any of these attributes, theology would have to ignore the factual nature of revelation as an event, the possibility of grace and thereby its own nature. This is in contrast to traditional theological...

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