Jean-Luc Marion & Saint Augustine

“Let me seek you, O Lord, by invoking you, and let me invoke you by believing in you. For you addressed me in advance. Let my faith invoke you, O Lord, my faith that you gave to me, that you inspired in me through the ministry of your Son, through the ministry of he who spoke in advance” -Augustine

To speak of God is a dangerous game. For Marion, the Confessions of Saint Augustine is not a theological, nor philosophical treatise. The Confessions are an act of praise. We are called from God to praise Him. It is not we who establish this relationship, but God Himself reconciling us and calling us back to communion with Himself as He originally intended for human beings to do. God speaks His word, and we respond to that call:

“The first to hear was in fact first of all also the first to speak, in a sense the sole one. In other words I can predicate nothing of God to other men, if I do not first say it to God (who validates it to me by hearing it) because more essentially I say nothing to God (and a fortiori nothing of God) that was not first said by him to me. Scripture precedes my own writing and permits citation, or rather permits me my writing as citation, such that the word said silently to me by the other precedes the uttering that I carry out and that follows from it. Whether it falls silent or speaks, my word always responds to the word, silent or written, of God. Not only does the scripture of God precede my live word, which repeats it, but my word becomes live only in and through resaying the originally living saying of the Word of God. Praise is therefore carried out as a word resaid, which responds by resaying what it first heard, in short as the word of the responsal. Thus the originary word of God, that which I cite in order to speak to him in turn, resounds as always already emitted and given, in short, as essentially a call.” (p. 14)


Marion, Jean-Luc (2012-10-24). In the Self’s Place: The Approach of Saint Augustine (Cultural Memory in the Present) Stanford University Press. Kindle Edition.


CD II.1 (Part 2 of 7)

I hope I can get these out more frequently, but my schedule is not always allowing such things to happen! Which is actually a good thing but I digress. The further I dig into this volume of Barth’s Church Dogmatics the more enjoyable it is becoming. The ebb and flow of Barth’s thought becomes captivating and rather addicting. I recently acquired a copy of Otto Weber’s Introduction to Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics, which has proven to be a wonderful guide in my journey. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for help in understanding what Barth is getting at in the Church Dogmatics.

In my first post of this seven part series, the summary of this volume thus far:


Our knowledge of God is grounded in the action of God, in which He objectifies Himself to us, meets us in our own plane as a subject calling for a corresponding action on our part in the obedience of faith.”

What should be highlighted at this point is that for Barth, God’s freedom to reveal Himself is his (Barth’s) utmost concern. We respond in faithful, child like obedience to the Word God has revealed. The fulfillment of the knowledge of God is only possible because God Himself as actually spoken to us.

“Therefore, everything else that He has to say to us, all truth and reality, all enlightenment and salvation, depends on the fact that primarily and comprehensively He is speaking about Himself.” (p. 48)

All knowledge of God depends on if He is actually speaking of Himself. Even our faith has been given to us by God, as Barth declares:

“…where God stands before man as the One who awakens, creates and upholds his (man’s) faith, and where God offers Himself to man as the object and content of the knowledge of his faith, He does it in this being and action- as the One who remains a mystery to us because He Himself has made Himself so clear and certain to us.” (p. 43)

It is not to be understood that mystery and clarity are strict contradictions here. The more knowledge of God we have, the more profound the mystery of His being becomes to us, and the more we become aware of the lack of ability for our words and terms to grasp His majesty. Barth on the meaning of mystery:

“Mystery means that He is and remains the One whom we know only because He gives Himself to be known. He is and remains the light visible and seen only in His own light.” (p. 41)

Moving on from mystery, Barth contends God’s objectivity is “primarily” trinitarian. We receive is a “secondary objectivity” (p. 55):

“His works and signs in our creaturely sphere, before our eyes and ears, and in our hearts. As such, and of themselves, they are not capable of yielding a knowledge of him.” (p. 55)

Since we are marred by sin and are unable to yield knowledge of God by our own capacities, God designates and elevates objects to be ‘sacramental’ means in which He communicates Himself to us. The ground for sacramental realities is to be found the human nature of Jesus Christ. He is the first sacrament (p. 54). He establishes the possibility of sacramental realities.

“It is the case everywhere that when there is unveiling there is also veiling, when God sets up His lordship it means the self-humiliation and self-alienation of God, when He reveals Himself His hiddenness is confirmed. Revelation occurs for faith, not for unbelief.” (p.55)

We then come to a critical point in understanding how sacramental realties are in themselves not revelation:

“Yet the sacramental reality, the selected subject-object relationship, is not in itself and as such identical either with revelation or with real knowledge of God. It serves it, because God reveals Himself and is known.” (p. 55)

Scripture is to be thought of as a sacramental reality. Much debate happens with the frame of Biblical inerrancy (I don’t intend to entertain those debates currently), and this can help us see a way out of the rigid Biblicism that collapses God’s revelation and word within the written letter of the Bible. This, according to Barth, must not and cannot happen. God is the living God who speak to us today. He is always speaking and if we had ears to hear we could hear Him speaking constantly. This is where some dialectal tension gets involved, which can be dizzying at first. The tension comes in for good reason, reading Scripture can become idolatry if we are not careful. We think we are hearing the Lord, when in reality it can very well be our own voice and we could be worshipping a God made in our own image. Idolatry is always close by for us and our affections directed at anything can quickly dive into a despairing false worship.

From there we move into Barth’s treatment of God being an object for Himself, and how when we use His name it is His name He has determined for us to call Him by. God is free and uncreated, He creates things outside of Himself, and brings Himself to be the object of knowledge for His creation. He is the one who determines Himself to be known, and how He is to be known. True knowledge of God, for Barth, is entirely monergistic. He is the one who does all things to reveal Himself to His creatures/creation whom He loves and gave Himself up to reconcile all things to Himself. This is where Barth really shines, and where I very much enjoy reading the run on sentences and repetition that comes into play with his words. Barth proclaims:

“The knowability of God is not knowability of God if finally-even considered from man’s side-it is something other than the work of God Himself (and therefore an object of praise). (p. 66)

It must be the work of God to establish true possibility and true knowability to man’s side if man ever wants to have true knowledge of God. What is most wonderful is that God’s action is never arbitrary; it is always out of His triune self giving love which is out of freedom. It is grace:

The fact that God is revealed to us is then grace. Grace is the majesty, the freedom, the unreservedness, the unexpectedness, the newness…in which the relationship to God and therefore the possibility of knowing Him is opened to man by God Himself.” (p. 74)

‘God is being and nature are not exhausted in the encroachment’ (p. 75) but for Barth:

“God is wholly and utterly the good pleasure of His grace and mercy… He is wholly and utterly in His revelation, in Jesus Christ.” (p. 75)

For Barth there is no analogy ‘on the basis of which the nature and being of God can be accessible to us.’ (p. 76) Again, not going to enter in the debate of ‘analogy of being’ and ‘analogy of faith’, but for Barth God is so utterly distinct from us that we have no analogy to which God can be accessible to us outside of the gracious action of God to establish it. Moving from there we start to see why Barth was so opposed to natural theology (revelation and knowledge of God outside of the person of Jesus Christ). Man cannot establish or make encroachment for true knowledge of God. I think some of his critiques are certainly warranted given the popularity of natural theology among apologists today. The next blog post will deal with that section (pg. 85-103).

On Theological Leadership

“…to provide theological leadership is to help the congregation or some other community of faith to enter into the shock, strangeness and novelty of the Christian gospel. It’s about pointing back to the seminal events of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and drawing from them an orientation to the present and the future. It is this which not only orients us to the church’s only foundation, it is also the point from which we gain critical leverage over any cultural or ecclesial domestication of the church”

A wonderful article on what it means to lead a congregation theologically. The full article can be found here.

Downton Abbey, the Incarnation and the Unassumed is the Unhealed. (No Spoilers)

“If Christ is not man, then God has not reached us, but has stopped short of our humanity – then God does not love us to the uttermost, for his love has stopped short of coming all the way to where we are, and becoming one of us in order to save us. But Christ’s humanity means that God’s love is now flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, really one of us and with us.” -T.F. Torrance

In between my readings of Barth’s II.1 & David Bentley Hart’s The Beauty of the InfiniteI have really enjoyed watching the television show ‘Downton Abbey’. I’ve been binge watching the show, and I have really found many aspects of the show fascinating. Most particularly the utter humanity the show embodies. Based in the early 20th century the show explores many themes of a changing world and those who look to resist it. What struck me was the humanity found in both the aristocrats and the servant class. No matter the societal structures, we are sure to find sin and suffering at every level. This element of the show is what interests me most. The utter brokenness we find in all people. We are in search of transcendence, for an escape from our current predicaments and pain. This only goes to show the true importance the universality of the Incarnation, and how Christ takes on the whole of our humanity to heal it. He takes our humanity ontologically, as to heal humanity ontologically. I don’t intend to get into the debates over how much of our humanity Christ takes on, but I tend to be with Barth and Torrance on this matter. When John refers to ‘the Word became flesh’, flesh here does not mean a neutral human nature but actually means our full human nature that exists in bondage and sin. Torrance emphatically proclaims:

“It was certainly into a state of enmity that the Word penetrated in becoming flesh, into darkness and blindness, that is, into the situation where light and darkness are in conflict and where his own receive him not. There can be no doubt that the New Testament speaks of the flesh of Jesus as the concrete form of our human nature  marked by Adam’s fall, the human nature which seen from the cross is at enmity with God and needs to be reconciled to God. In becoming flesh the Word penetrated into hostile territory, into our human alienation and estrangement from God. When the Word became flesh, he became all that we are in our opposition to God.” (T.F. Torrance, Incarnation)

He came among us to save us. To heal our brokenness, and to comfort us in our suffering. Not only this, but Christ also plunged into the societal structures that oppress and alienate. A lot of the show also focuses on a woman’s role in the family and society at large, which would constitute not much in either situation (aristocrat or servant class). The Incarnation the life of Christ reconcile this form of our brokenness as well, by restoring our humanity to the form it was always meant to be and there by over turn our broken understanding of the roles of men and women.



Apple vs. the FBI

Thank you Apple.


Amen, Apple.  Thank you.  Beautifully stated.


February 16, 2016

A Message to Our Customers

The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.

This moment calls for public discussion, and we want our customers and people around the country to understand what is at stake.

The Need for Encryption

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our…

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