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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 III: The Economy Of The Gift And Salvation 97


CHAPTER III THE ECONOMY OF THE GIFT AND SALVATION 1. Introduction Chapter II drew attention to the complexity and apparent ambiguity of the experience of salvation in Barth's C.D. The irreducible thematisable and non- thematisable elements of salvation history (as recorded in the Scriptures) were found to relate to each other, as signifiers and signified, in a similar way to Derrida 's economy of dijj'erance. Deconstructive reading of the text of the C. D. showed that its inconsistencies were not a failure to reconcile or synthesise theological propositions. Rather, deconstructive reading exposed the ruptures and gaps in the text which indicated the complex maze of thematisable and non- thematisable borders between God and man. This chapter continues to explore these elements in relation to how eternity became time. Barth's understanding of salvation involves God, who is outside time, actually being the condition of time. This rationally impossible notion is shown to be meaningful when considered in relation to Derrida's economy of the gift: without the gift there can be no economy, although the gift itself is not part of the economy. 1.1 Sovereignty and Lordship My first task is to consider the issue of "salvation", as understood and raised by Derrida in his essay "From General to Restricted Economy". 1 The latter distinguishes between two conditions of meaning. Firstly, there is the condition of meaning which is the "absolute degree of putting at stake" of life (also known as sovereignty). 2 Secondly, there is the condition of meaning understood as...

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