Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Reviews of "Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire

Here are a couple of interesting reviews of Hardt/Negri's Multitude.

The first is over at Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory and is a fair summary of the book concluding with a mild questioning of the ontology of the multitude based in a "strong event." Great introduction if you haven't and/or won't ever read the book.

The second over at The New Left Review. This is a very good introduction into the current issues over resistance to sovereign capitalism. It proceeds as a historical critique of sources concluding that the geneology of the multitude is wed to that of Adam Smith and free market capitalism, the very enemy the multitude is meant to resist. A great read.

Why am I posting this? Because I'm writing my own paper on the political use for Augustine's Eucharistic theology, and I'm using this book as a foil. We can see part of the paper below.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Introduction to Speech and Theology

From the first chapter of Speech and Theology.

Here are a sting of quotes with my comments interspersed as a summary of the Introductory chapter of Speech and Theology, a great book I’m reading through (James K. A. Smith is a Reformed Evangelical writing in the Radical Orthodoxy series). (If you are the type of person who wants to know why this is important before you read it, then skip to the bottom, and then start over. Also, while I'm not referencing Husserl and Heidegger in this post, this discussion bear on the one we are having over at generousortodoxy). So,...

"How can one speak without betraying the object of speech, giving it up and delivering it over to be manhandled by the interlocutor as something present-at-hand? How can language, and more particularly theoretical concepts, communicate without doing violence to the "objects" which is exterior to language? Do not concepts always already signal the violation of radical alterity?" (4)
These questions frame the horizon of Smith's inquiry. How might we speak of God, who is transcendent otherness? The question of violence is particularly telling, and opens up Smith's dialogue with contemporary French phenomenology (Levinas, Derrida, Marion), and how he might rehabilitate the understanding and use of the concept.
"In modernity--and marking a significant break from the late ancients and medievals--knowledge and comprehension are no longer distinguished; rather,
knowledge is only knowledge insofar as it comprehends." (5)

Comprehension is a total knowledge of an object of inquiry. So in modernity, the indistinguishablitiy of comprehension and knowledge leaves no room for a partial, or ad hoc, tacit knowledge of things, or knowledge by faith.

"Inheriting the modern penchant for comprehension and certainty (what of faith?), modernist (and, unwittingly, antimodernist) theology is marked by an employment of language and concepts which seeks to define the divine, to grasp the essence of God...[But] if the "object" of theoretical articulartion is in some way radically exterior to language (God), then every unveiling of it within language will fail to produce the object; the phenomenon will fail to appear, precisely because of the failure of the concept to grasp that which necessarily exceeds its comprehension...It would seem that either one treats all objects as present-at-hand (a positivist kataphatics), thereby denying their alterity and unwittingly engaging in violence; or, one gives up any possibility of non-violent description and thereby give up theory (an apophatics which ends in silence)." (5-6)

But what if violence weren’' the necessary condition of the concept? What if there were a third way between a positivistic theology (one I would, but Smith does not mention in this text, equate with many fundamentalist, and even evangelical systematic theologies), and a silencing of theology (or reducing theology to merely the status of us talking about ourselves in the third person of 'god', a typically liberal approach).

"The construction (or recovery) of just such a third way is precisely the task of this ook: to provide an alternative interpretation of concepts which do not claim to grasp their object, but rather signal the phenomenon in such a way that respects its transcendence or incommensurability rather than collapsing the difference and enying otherness. Such a reinterpretation of concepts will open a philosophical space for a reconsideration of theological method."

So the purpose of this book is to recover a way of speaking about God that is full of knowledge, yet doesn't not attempt to comprehend, to understand yet not domesticate, essentially, a speaking that "points" or "indicate" toward God truly, but does not grasp or hold. To do this Smith will investigate the early Heidegger and Augustine to outline a non-violent concept as praise and confession.

Why is this Important?

Well, for those in the emerging church, the church that is emerging,...for those post- and/or progressive evangelicals who are increasingly uncomfortable with the confidence of which some speak of God (preacher, teachers, professors), seeing in this speech the domestication of the mystery of God for the purposes of the speaker, Smith's is attempting to show us how we might speak of God without doing violence to Him, and therefore to our relationship with God in Christ Jesus. But also, to those who have drunk more deeply of postmodern tributary, for whom it is increasingly difficult to say anything about God for fear that all our speech is inadequate and (self) deceiving, which is also an emerging church aliment, Smith is trying to help us speak again, and not lapse into silence or perpetual disclaimers. So, if you have trouble speaking of God, read this book, or just read my summaries is your book budget is too slim.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

notes from Speech and Theology

James K.A. Smith, in Speech and Theology: Language and the Logic of Incarnation, agues for an incarnational account of language as formal indication (younger Hiedgger) through praise and confession (Augustine) in order to provide a non-violent (conceptual, linguistic, imminent) means of speaking of God (who is transcendent). I want to affirm this.

But it also occurred to me that this non-violent means of speaking of God arises from the very preaching of the early church, esp. the apostolic preaching which always connects speaking/hearing of the gospel, with the content of the gospel. From this rise the problematic use of gospel as verb and gospel as noun (proclaiming the gospel is part of the gospel). Or we could look at the term 'faith.' In the NT is frequently is both the act of faith (trust) and the Faith toward which our faith is ordered.

I was reminded of this while reading through Agamben's recently translated commentary on Romans, where he says, "The term [euaggelion=gospel] signifies both the act of announcing, and at the same time, the content of the announcement"(89)...and quoting a theological lexicons, "'the euagelion, understood as the promise of salvation, unites both the theological conception of a word which promises with a good which is the object of the promise'...Coming to grips with the euaggelion thus necessarily means entering into an experience of language in which the text of the letter is at every point indistinguishable form the announcement and the announcement from the good announced”(90).

In a sense we could argue the doctrine of the incarnation (as formulated by the early church in response to the Jesus, Crucified and Risen Messiah) is already prefaced by the proclamation of the apostles in their conjoining of preaching and promise, a proclamation within language which speaks on the model of the incarnation because God already spoke His Word into flesh.

I bring up this line of thought for the purpose of keeping theological speculation close to the Christian community and practice. For all of Christian theology is based, not merely in the claim, but in the pro(claim)ation that the man, Jesus, is the Risen Lord.