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Into the Far Country

Into the Far Country: Karl Barth and the Modern Subject

Scott A. Kirkland
foreword by D. Stephen Long
Copyright Date: 2016
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  • Book Info
    Into the Far Country
    Book Description:

    Into the Far Country is an investigation of Karl Barth’s response to modernity as seen through the prism of the subject under judgment. By suggesting that Barth offers a form of theological resistance to the Enlightenment’s construal of human subjectivity as “absolute," this piece offers a way of talking about the formation of human persons as the process of being kenotically laid bare before the cross and resurrection of Christ. It does so by reevaluating the relationship between Barth and modernity, making the case that Barth understands Protestantism to have become the agent of its own demise by capitulating to modernity’s insistence on the axiomatic priority of the isolated Cartesian ego. Conversations are hosted with figures including Fyodor Dostoevsky, Rowan Williams, Gillian Rose and Donald MacKinnon in the service of elucidating an account of the human person liberated from captivity to what Barth names “self-judgment," and freed for creative participation in the super-abundant source of life that is the prayerful movement from the Son to the Father in the Spirit. Therefore, an account of Barth’s theology is offered that is deeply concerned with the triune God’s revelatory presence as that which drives the community into the crucible of difficulty that is the life of kenotic dispossession.

    eISBN: 978-1-5064-0138-6
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    D. Stephen Long

    Barth studies may very well be at an impasse. The “new paradigm” that interprets him favorably in terms of Kantian epistemology, Hegelian ontology or philosophical idealism in general, is the inverse of those critics who interpret him unfavorably because of his putative indebtedness to Kantian epistemology, Hegelian ontology or philosophical idealism. The debates between the two cannot move forward as long as they have such broad agreement as to what Barth was doing; only the evaluation differs. A theologian’s affirmation or rejection of Barth, and/or Barthianism, will depend upon correlative commitments to Kantian epistemology, Hegelian ontology and philosophical idealism, and...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction: “Against Innocence”: Barth, Neo-Kantianism, and Modernity’s Pelagianism
    (pp. xxi-xliv)

    In the preface to the second edition of theCritique of Pure Reason, Kant compares his epistemological revolution to the Copernican revolution in cosmology. By offering a redescription of the solar system in heliocentric terms, Copernicus reimagined planetary motion from the vantage point of the surface of the sun rather than the earth—a change of vantage point was everything. When Kant states that in proceeding through theCritiquewe shall be “proceeding precisely on the lines of Copernicus’ primary hypothesis,” he is suggesting that we invert classical modes of knowing. It has “been assumed that all our knowledge must...

  7. 1 “Complete Autarchy”: Self-Determination, Absolutism, and the Politics of Enlightenment
    (pp. 1-54)

    In 1784, three years after the publication of hisCritique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant responded to a question posed by Reverend Johann Friedrich Zöllner in the monthly journalBerlinische Monatsschrift. This famous response was “An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” (Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?).¹ Kant’s answer to this question is the most famous articulation of the Enlightenment project by a contemporary. For Kant, “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed minority.”² Enlightenment is humanity’s coming of age, its emergence from the shackles of forms of dogma and control set in place by the “guardians”—those...

  8. 2 Particularity Regained: Kenōsis, Obedience, and Christology
    (pp. 55-112)

    Father Zosima’s discourses, following in the wake of Ivan Karamazov’s tirade against the apparent impotence of Christ, detail a life lived out of a particular set of convictions about the world and its ground. Zosima, approaching immanent death, sits with his most faithful friends and declares he wishes to “pour out his soul” to them once more.¹ His discourses, in the first instance, narrate various encounters, only after which we are privy to talks and homilies reflecting on the shape of human life. The integration of narrative and theological reflection is critical to Dostoevsky’s response to Ivan’s accusations. The only...

  9. 3 In Via: Toward a Pedagogy of Discipleship
    (pp. 113-152)

    Judgment involves us in all manner of districts of human life and discourse; aesthetic, social, moral, and political judgments all vary in one way or another in shape and consequence. As a political matter the question of judgment inevitably binds us up in the exchange of speech, and therefore the generation of shared meaning.¹ Judgment is executed in speech relations. To execute a judgment, therefore, is to determine in relation why any existing state of affairs is, or is not, conducive to human flourishing. Accordingly, to have the capacity to exercise one’s judgment is to be a social creature. To...

  10. 4 Resurrection, Life in Divine Plenitude: Trinity, Judgment, and Apophasis
    (pp. 153-202)

    At the heart of modernity lies a diremption between the rational and the historical, the universal and the particular. Reason confidently calls into doubt the historical enterprise, and so the possibility of a historical ground for truth. The unavailability of the historical, near or far, to the rational subject calls into radical doubt narrative forms that give shape to human life. So it is that G. E. Lessing can axiomatically declare that, “contingent truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason.”¹ The historical cannot form a point of departure, for the historical remains in flux,...

  11. Postscript: Persuasion, Overdetermination, Repetition
    (pp. 203-208)

    The question I posed at the beginning of this book was whether or not Barth’s construction of subjectivity is Kantian, and what the theological consequence of the answer might be. Bruce McCormack maintains that Barth was attempting to be “orthodox under the conditions of modernity,” meaning Barth arrives at an armistice with Kantian epistemics—indeed, with the turn to the subject—while at the same time finding noetic space for revelatory encounter in a christologically grounded dialectical relation between veiling and unveiling. At this stage my argument with McCormack is over, and I do not wish to cover this ground...

  12. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 209-224)
  13. Index of Names
    (pp. 225-230)
  14. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 231-234)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)