You can’t trust the titles I have on that side panel thingy. I read those a while ago. I’m now reading Dogmatics in Outline by Karl Barth, A Primer on Postmodernism by Stanely Grenz, almost done with Theology after Wittgenstein by Fergus Kerr, and I’m teaching and reading L’morte D’arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory. I started Tocqueville’s Democracy in America recently, but I suspect it will remain marked on page 50 until Christmas. I also just received The Catholicity of the Reformation ed. by Braaten and Jenson.
A few quick thoughts on the aforementioned titles: Barth. So far I haven’t found anything scary, extreme, or really all that controversial. I read a few online reports that range anywhere from “Barth is the greatest theologian since Calvin” to “Barth is a socialist, word twisting, self-deceived, maniacle adulterer.” All I know is that Barth is referenced everywhere. Every theologian that has the least bit of relevance has to cite Barth, either in disgust or praise. And of those, so far I’d have to side with the latter. I suspect that Barth was an incredibly honest man. Honest people tell the truth, meaning that they don’t make pronouncements about matters which they don’t know. And when they do make pronouncements they are usually more general or can be taken in a number of different directions. This scares some people and excites others. Hence the enemy/hero write ups. I like Barth’s emphasis on freedom. Freedom is essential to the personality and community of God, and therefore freedom is a significant part in redemption. He argues that faith is freedom, insofar as it is our seeking to live in the life and communion of God.
Kerr on Wittgenstein. What is meant by the pronoun “I”? Wittgenstein says that the pronoun refers to our body. The “I”, the “ego”, or whathaveyou is the body which thinks, speaks, touches, tastes, breathes, etc. There is no reason to go beyond this. We are living bodies. And this assessment resonates, demands, and pleads with greater furvor for the resurrection of the dead. This insistence on the body as being fundamentally ‘who’ we are is refreshing, as Kerr points out, particularly as it applies to fellowship and community. The Cartesian Ego places barriers between people and ultimately the Incarnation is not “God with us”, it’s something like “God a little closer”. For Descartes (and his legacy), God may have landed on the earth but he was wearing an astonaut suit like the rest of us. We have not really connected.
Last for tonight: Mallory. Having never read this before, I really don’t know much about these tales, but I’ve been amused, shocked, and informed in a variety of ways in the last week since beginning the read. First the shocked bit. The utter ignobility of Arthur, Uther, Merlin, and everyone else is more than I was prepared for. Maybe that’s a little overstated, but the adultery, fornication, murder, etc. makes The Death of Arthur a veritible medieval soap opera. Although, after reading a short bio of Mallory, it all became a bit more clear. This fellow was a regular rouge. He was imprisoned on a number of occasions, escaped twice (once swimming a moat). He was wanted for burglary, assalting an abbott, and seducing a nobleman’s wife. He fought on the side of Edward VI in one battle and subsequentally switched sides. His waivering earned him another bit of jail time toward the end of his life. He wrote/compiled these Arthurian tales in the last couple of years of his life, and he died shortly before they were published in 1485. The amusing bit is that this swashbuckling life in Mallory and as displayed by the characters of his tales is punctuated with incredibly devout Christian celebration. The knights regularly attend mass, say prayers, celebrate Christian feasts, proclaim their status as Christians, etc. And this leads to the informative bit, I suspect that this is a very good (albeit simplistic) portrayal of life in the Church prior to the Reformation. Obviously not everyone was as wild (or daring?), but the seemingly earnest marriage of well-meaing devotion and utter ignorance and consequent sinfulness seems to fit the bill… I don’t know, just a thought.