Below is a link to my longer version of the paper I presented at the ‘Belief and Metaphysics’ conference. Due to time constraints, I had to edit the 27 pages down to 15, which was still somewhat bloated by footnotes, so it was a little less than that. For that edited version, I gutted just about all the introduction and all of the little sections where I would draw out the implications of how such and such example might play itself out.
For the curious, a few further notes.
First, even though my presentation was a (bloated) 15-page paper, it did creep slightly over the time allowed to present. John Milbank was chairing, and there came a time where he leaned over and said that I will need to quickly wrap it up. Now, I understand that he is John Milbank and that his job as the chair is to be strict on presentation time, but, he also is the same John Milbank who (1) , later that night, spoke for about 30 minutes or so during the first evening meal to give a good but long ‘prologemena’ to his paper the next and and who (2) went over his allotted time the following day at his keynote to the effect of causing the whole day’s schedule to be pushed back 30 minutes. Oh, the irony of him telling me to wrap it up!
Second, John Milbank was very kind to me about my paper. In the Q&A time immediately after my paper, he told me that it was “very good.” I slightly bowed and thanked him. One of his comments, which I thought was rather interesting, went something like this: “A very interesting paper connecting these two individuals. It would seem, in my estimation, that de Lubac was a much better Kierkegaardian than Barth was.” I think I would definitely agree on this matter. What’s at issue here is that even thought Barth picked up on some very key Kierkegaardian elements (“infinite qualitative difference”, etc.), Barth distanced himself too far away from philosophy practically focusing himself too much on the divine in history, ironically ending up back towards Hegel (this latter insight was suggested to me by Dr. John Wright who had recently finished von Balthasar’s book on Barth). De Lubac, on the other hand, while indeed affirming the “infinite qualitative difference” (see Mystery of the Supernatural, p. 35), never wanted to do away with metaphysics. Indeed, how could a good Scholastic do away with metaphysics! One could also show how Kierkegaard’s upholding as Socrates as hero, and his movement ‘beyond’ him in Philosophical Fragments is not an annullment of Socrates, but in the moving beyond is also an embrace. (It is interesting how two of the most important writers in the 19th century — Kierkegaard and Nietzsche — hinged upon Socrates. The former claimed him as hero while the latter despised him.)
What also surprised me is that during our session when the woman to the right of me was presenting her paper, Milbank took my paper from in front of me and starting leafing through it. He was quickly skimming it and it looked like he was looking at my footnotes as well. When he arrived at the section on de Lubac, he marked it and said, “here on down is really good.” Again, I thanked him. Considering he had just written a book on de Lubac and the next day he confessed in front of everybody that de Lubac is one of his heroes, this was very gracious of him to say! (This was a very surreal moment for me.)
Craig Keen made some helpful comments, noticing my ‘theologial reading’ of Kierkegaard. He mentioned that the paradox is a kind of ‘spark’ that sets us off. Totally — as all of Kierkegaard’s talk of the ‘halt’ and ‘decision’ would affirm. Further personal reflection has made me wonder if ‘spark’ would be a word used moreso by those deeply entrenched in an industrialized society. I still like the term, though.
Lastly, I was asked by what I actually mean by the word ‘paradox.’ The questioner (I didn’t catch his name, sadly) made it apparent that my use of the term was a bit different, perhaps, than usual usage. True. Typically, when a paradox is talked about, the typical connotation ammounts to nothing more than a logical puzzle, catch-22′s, and trying to solve contradictions (e.g. Russell’s set). My paper, as it speaks about paradox, is in part this contradictory confrontation of the mind against itself, but it speaks beyond this purely rational mode: the paradox in Kierkegaard and de Lubac opens oneself not only to all of reality, but the Triune God which is beyond (and thus intimately closer to ourselves than we ever could be). This ultimate paradox for them, of course, is Jesus Christ. So, for my response to the questioner during my session, I talked about the paradox of the natures of Christ: he is both fully divine and fully human. How can 1 + 1 = 1? (Mitch Hedberg had a joke about that Pert Plus shampoo in line with this: “2-in-1 is a bullshit term because 1 isn’t big enough to hold 2. That’s why 2 was created. If it was 2-in-1, it would be overflowing. The bottle would be all sticky and shit…” — haha!) Yet, in regard to the union of the divine natures of Christ (hypostasis), this is what we believe. This articulation became official in 451 AD with Chalcedon, but it probably goes without saying that this was affirmed in belief before its creedal pronouncement.
A post with Kierkegaard, de Lubac, and Mitch Hedberg? This day is starting out good.
Oh! Here’s my paper:
From Copenhagen to Cambrai: Paradoxes of Faith in Kierkegaard and de Lubac [I had to remove the link to this paper because the essay is now published in the following volume: Belief and Metaphysics, eds. Peter M. Candler, Jr. and Conor Cunningham (London: SCM Press, 2007).
Comments, question, criticism welcome!