Monday, October 22, 2007

Notes Toward a Report: Question 2

What can Abraham's relationship with God tell us about the nature and possibility of theology?


Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

- Abram is promised the very thing that the tower of Babel builders wanted (a name that would last), but he is promised it by the very means that denied it to the tower-builders (a scattering from family and homeland) (Gen 11.4, 12.2)
- does the scattering of languages open or close the possibility of theology?
- what are the implications of Abram's silent obedience in response to God's command? can such silence constitute a kind of theology?

2:12 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

- Abraham appears to work out the theological meaning of God’s commands existentially (in practice) rather than discursively and it is relatively clear that he does not know the meaning of his interpretive actions in advance. (Gen. 13)

- Abraham is potrayed typologically as the first to move from Egypt to the promised land, Canaan. (Gen. 13)

6:29 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

Genesis 15

- Following Melchizedek’s priestly mediation of tithes, Abraham has his first dialogue with God.

- Gen. 15.1 introduces the locution: “the word of the Lord” came to Abram; post-Melchizedek, the relation is mediated by the word? This newly symbolic dimension to the relationship allows for doubt and dialogue rather than simple, mute compliance?

- This re-capitulation of the covenant includes, for the first time, metaphor and metonymy. Is there a connection between the rhetoric and the change in the nature of the relationship? (Dust and stars as metonyms of earth and heaven; dust and stars as metaphors for posterity.)

- Is the substitutionary logic of metaphor an additional interruption of the patriline?

- The starry heavens: the immanent appearance of the immemorial/non-historical, the eternal stars as what circles above the earth/the historical and literally give time (day/night, seasons, etc.)?

- The confusion of day and night in this chapter indicates that the events do not belong to the ordinary run of time?

- The “cut” of the covenant is introduced; does this symbolic cut, the introduction of symbolic/metaphorical difference/substitution touch on the splitting of the subject’s own self-immediacy? The loss of immediacy in relation to God inducing a loss of immediacy in relation to oneself? Such a cut/split in subjectivity prompts fantasies of wholeness (the fantasies that are the substance of pride) and simultaneously leaves us potentially open to others if we do not withdraw behind fantasy in fear.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

Genesis 16

- There are a series of notable parallels between Gen 16 and the Eden story: Abram hearkens to Sarai, Sarai takes Hagar and gives her to Abram, Sarai’s eyes are opened, Sarai can then have (vicarious) children

- Abram = Adam, Sarai = Eve, Hagar = fruit

- other Eden parallels: the central role of shame, its connection to blame (16.2), a reflexivity of seeing and being seen, Hagar’s surprise at being seen by God without her destruction (shame as the inability to see the other’s gaze as other than destructively judgmental)

- Sarai brings Hagar into the story as a substitute/metaphor for herself, a metaphor/surrogacy that changes/splits her relationship to herself?

5:44 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

Genesis 17

- circumcision: indelibly associating reproduction with divine gifts

- the general commandment is vague and indistinct (17.1), but the prescriptions associated with circumcision are so precise and detailed (high-resolution descriptions)

- token : covenant :: signifier : signified; the token seems to be much richer in content that than the signified

- circumcision as symbolic castration: there will be a child, but only by God’s grace and power? a cut that literally interrupts the patriline? a cut that is a token shedding of blood?

- circumcision does not equal covenant: the whole household is circumcised, but only Abram receives a covenant

5:55 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

Genesis 18

- does Abraham here teach, at least implicitly, that there is some kind of moral standard independent of God, in relation to which God’s own actions might be measured?

- is the negotiation/dialogue a kind of rational/theological response to God?

5:55 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

Genesis 22

- a complex pattern of “hearing” and “seeing” in this chapter; Abraham “hears” passively and “sees” actively? by hearing, Abraham is empowered to actively see? he
“listens” to what the Lord “sees”?

- what about the centrality of substitution/metaphor for the story?

12:59 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

Genesis 22/23

- is to ask a question about Abraham as a model of fidelity necessarily to ask a question about typology? how ought we to think about typology?

- the question of the importance of the Book of Mormon’s/Jacob’s typological reading of the akedah

- some basic elements of typology? (1) an identification between two dissimilar things that elides the differences between the two (a commutative relationship?)? (2) a metaphorical identification structured by time, a space of time, a bridge the spans a temporal gap that produces a kind of temporal abridgment, a “folding” of the normal course of time in which two previously unrelated events are asserted as identical? (3) it is non-causal/linear fold that “re-sets” chains of causality in order to introduce something new and free and unconditioned? (4) the type is a kind of cipher capable of recoding the elements of an entire situation, a cipher rather than a symbol? (5) being faithful to God means being faithful to this typological realignment he means to enact?

- what of the difference between antitype and archetype? which are we talking about? what are the essential differences?

- typology requires us to turn our hearts to our fathers (the past type) and toward our children (the future antitype)? it binds generations together by abridging time?

- repentance, by creating something new, enacts the gift of freedom or agency

6:46 PM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

Abraham 2

- again, the ethical problem of Abraham’s being told by God to lie about Sarah

- could we use typology to understand these ethical conundrums? a kind of typological re-ordering of the ethical?

- our expectations of a “flawlessly” ethical God simply don’t seem to fit the texts

– is the problem with our expectations rather than with the text?

- is God engaged in a kind of ethical bricolage? making the best out of the way things are? because the world, always already given, never perfectly conforms to our ethical imperatives? thus we sometimes need to make the “least bad” choice and accept responsibility for its badness rather than imagine some other kind of world in which ethically perfect actions are possible? is the problem located in our desire to have an ethical system that only returns ethically pure results? is the problem epistemological (we just don’t know enough to see how ethical perfection is possible) or ontological (reality is such that ethical perfection is a mirage)?

7:08 AM  
Blogger Adam S. Miller said...

Abraham 3

- God appears to be described as experiencing time; time of a different “order,” but time nonetheless

- is God’s “other” time a different way of “relating” to time?

- does vs. 14 indicate we should read the entire discussion of astronomy as really a discussion about children and posterity?

- vs. 16 provides a fascinating formulation of infinity (for any two orderable things, there will be a third higher thing . . .): does this found a Mormon ontology on multiplicity/infinity rather than on unity or duality? does this formulation say: everything is one or many but there is no such thing as a dualism because two implies infinity? does our Mormon materialism demand a choice in favor of infinity?

- though intelligences are hierarchically orderable, ALL are co-eternal

- “to be chosen before we were born”: the immemorial, the always already of things having started without us, preceding as a non-recoverable pre-history

- the immemorial dimension of our own histories: our co-eternality? our definitive lack of any identifiable or recoverable point of origin?

- our immemoriality: the problem of our relation to our parents/Parents (or lack thereof!)

- a non-libertarian reading of our co-eternality: our “having always already existed” does not mark the epicenter of our irreducible freedom and autonomy, rather it means that there is NO beginning to which we could appeal as the auto-foundation of our liberty

- it may be worth noting that the moment the story gets ethically complicated (Ab. 2) the story shifts scale from the personal to the cosmological

- stars are used metaphorically in Genesis, but metonymically in Ab. 3 (Kolob metonymically stands in for God as a scepter for a king)

7:26 AM  

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