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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 IV: Barth's Economy Of Salvation (I) 139


CHAPTER IV BARTH'S ECONOMY OF SALVATION 1. Introduction This is the first of two chapters which deal with Barth's economy of salvation. I shall focus upon volume's IV. I - IV.J of the Church Dogmatics which give an exposition of the doctrine of reconciliation, although prior chapters have indicated that Barth's doctrine of salvation is worked out from the outset of his thirteen volume work. I showed in my last chapter how the terms of Barth's understanding of salvation do not derive from an economy of self-conscious thought or "salvation in life" such as that of Kant or Hegel. Rather, Christ signifies the freedom of an act of God which is comparable with Derrida's economy of the gift. Salvation in these terms saves man from the predilections of his own self- conscious thought or a "salvation in life" within the mind of man. Having made the latter point, Derrida's economy of the gift begs a question about such a notion of salvation. Derrida pointed out that, when the gift becomes enmeshed in the human economy of thought or the oikos, it is immediately destroyed. In theological terms, the destruction of the gift suggests that the purpose and intention of God ceases to exist. This happens in a similar way to the loss of the gift in Derrida's thought, when human beings appropriate the gift to their own economy of thought. The crucifixion of God made man in Christ and his subsequent rejection by human beings could be regarded as the...

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