As someone who works with a lot of biblical language, the status of God-talk is of obvious interest; as a student at Princeton Seminary, the natural conversation partners for matters like this are folks steeped in 20th-century German dialectical trajectory. So: I’ve been reading some Thiselton, some Bultmann, some Hector, some blogs.
All this falls woefully outside my expertise. Help me out: expand or correct some of these for me. Do the following sound somewhat right, babied down as they are – admittedly fusing and confusing Barth and Bultmann? I own that my understanding of how to avoid objectification is far shabbier than why it ought to be avoided.
“Objectification” is the description of God as an object amongst other objects, i.e., with univocal language as one would use of any other reality.
Objectification is to be rejected because it
- forecloses God’s “infinite qualitative difference”;
- makes knowledge of God attainable through some other means than by God’s own self-revelation:
- thus offending against the epistemological corollary of justification by faith alone: objectification means that humans can reach God naturally somehow
- that is, objectification denies that God’s revelation is identical to Godself: objectification thus implicitly posits a God behind the revealed God (aka Jesus Christ)
- i.e., objectification permits a general foundationalism, a natural theology
- objectification subjects the knowledge of God to possession, and consequently, to manipulation
Objectification is to be avoided by
- dialectics, i.e., tacking from thesis to antithesis such that the natural inadequacy of language for God is given full play
- analogical language: speaking of God only with language that God has authorized and/or delegated to describe God
- namely, in the unique history of Jesus Christ (???)
- apparently, by using a lot of language like “invasion” and “event” and “act” that allegedly through its punctiliar rather than extended spatiotemporal metaphors keeps God-talk sufficiently alienated from ordinary talk to safeguard God’s transcendence/freedom
Avoiding objectification necessarily means
- demythologization, i.e., recognizing that biblical representations of God are mythical; they objectify God according to their specific, historically parochial cultural idioms. Consequently, these must be recognized as such and “translated” somehow (rendered such as to address humankind in its present [presumably also local] self-understanding)
- e.g., avoiding objectification means rejecting a realistic, future eschatology, because, besides belonging to an antiquated cosmology, such a postulate makes knowledge of God’s activity accessible, stable, and possessable (rather than identical to God's paradoxical veiled unveiling in Jesus Christ) ??