John Betz

John Betz is Professor of Systematic Theology at University of Notre Dame, and holds degrees from Wake Forest University and a Ph.D. from University of Virginia. In addition to articles in journals such as Modern Theology and the Journal of the History of Ideas, his publications include a monograph on Johann Georg Hamann entitled After Enlightenment (Blackwell, 2009) and a translation, in collaboration with David Bentley Hart, of the 1962 edition of Erich Przywara’s Analogia Entis (Eerdmans, 2014). He is currently working on a monograph on Przywara as part of a larger project to recover the relevance of early twentieth-century Christian metaphysics to theology today.

MARS HILL AUDIO Conversation 35

Glorious Abasement: John Betz on the Prophetic Critique of J. G. Hamann

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Theologian John Betz discusses the eighteenth-century philosopher and translator, Johann Georg Hamann, critic and contemporary of Immanuel Kant and other prominent figures of the German Enlightenment. Hamann, even from the early stages of the Enlightenment, saw and argued that the project of modernity would lead to its own destruction. Hamann argued that reason could not, by itself in a pure form, give a complete account of reality, for he saw that the modern ideal of “pure reason” is a fiction. Reason, he argued, is always embedded within an historical culture and language from which one can never fully be detatched. In his evaluation, Hamann anticipated the postmodern critics of the twentieth century; however, he avoided the nihilism of postmodernism by observing the revelatory character of language and history. By focusing on the divine kenosis or humility of God, who creates, reveals, and condescends to humanity through His Word, Hamann maintained that man’s pursuit of truth is always contingent on God’s Word in special and general revelation through history and creation. Throughout the interview, Professor Betz describes the centrality of God’s condescension in Hamann’s understanding of knowledge and reason. It is through the humility of God in his condescension to communicate to man that Hamann recognizes the Promethean project of modernity to attain enlightenment from man’s resources alone. $6


Volume 96

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Guests on Volume 96: David A. Smith, on the beginnings of the National Endowment for the Arts and the capacity of the arts in a democracy for combatting atomistic individualism; Kiku Adatto, on how images, words, and ideas interact in a visually saturated culture and on how the image of a person's face in a photograph has the capacity for intimate representation of inner personhood; Elvin T. Lim, on how presidential speeches have been dumbed down for decades and why presidents like it; David Naugle, on the deeper meaning of happiness, the disordering effects of sin, and the reordering of love made possible in our redemption; Richard Stivers, on the technologizing of all of life; and John Betz, on the critique of the Enlightenment offered by Johann Georg Hamann (1730-1788), and why it still matters to us.