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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access November 18, 2019

Another Name for Liberty: Revelation, ‘Objectivity,’ and Intellectual Freedom in Barth and Marion

Kristóf Oltvai EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Theology

Abstract

Karl Barth’s and Jean-Luc Marion’s theories of revelation, though prominent and popular, are often criticized by both theologians and philosophers for effacing the human subject’s epistemic integrity. I argue here that, in fact, both Barth and Marion appeal to revelation in an attempt to respond to a tendency within philosophy to coerce thought. Philosophy, when it claims to be able to access a universal, absolute truth within history, degenerates into ideology. By making conceptually possible some ‚evental’ phenomena that always evade a priori epistemic conditions, Barth’s and Marion’s theories of revelation relativize all philosophical knowledge, rendering any ideological claim to absolute truth impossible. The difference between their two theories, then, lies in how they understand the relationship between philosophy and theology. For Barth, philosophy’s attempts to make itself absolute is a produce of sinful human vanity; its corrective is thus an authentic revealed theology, which Barth articulates in Christian, dogmatic terms. Marion, on the other hand, equipped with Heidegger’s critique of ontotheology, highlights one specific kind of philosophizing—metaphysics—as generative of ideology. To counter metaphysics, Marion draws heavily on Barth’s account of revelation but secularizes it, reinterpreting the ‚event’ as the saturated phenomenon. Revelation’s unpredictability is thus preserved within Marion’s philosophy, but is no longer restricted to the appearing of God. Both understandings of revelation achieve the same epistemological result, however. Reality can never be rendered transparent to thought; within history, all truth is provisional. A concept of revelation drawn originally from Christian theology thus, counterintuitively, is what secures philosophy’s right to challenge and critique the pre-given, a hermeneutic freedom I suggest is the meaning of sola scriptura.

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Received: 2019-08-18
Accepted: 2019-10-23
Published Online: 2019-11-18

© 2019 Kristóf Oltvai, published by De Gruyter

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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