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More From Kevin Corcoran

Kevin continues his thoughtful, chapter-by-chapter analysis of my book, and I’m very thankful.  He’s onto Chapter 4, “The Theology, Stupid.”  He concurs with me at some point, and dissents at others.  Among his agreements are those having to do with epistemological humility.  Among his dissents, that I seem reluctant to grant that the statement, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself,” the status of an objective proposition that is either true or not true, metaphysically speaking.  Indeed, he may have me on that one.  And I am, I hope, epistemologically humble enough to know that I very well could be wrong about anything.

Along those lines, I’ve gotten several emails in the last week and had a conversation at the Princeton cohort along the same lines: Is the eternal deferral of Derrida and Caputo really resonant with the Christian narrative?  That question causes me to wonder, What is it about Derridean deferral that so attracts me (as a Christian)?  I guess it’s just that Caputo has convinced me, again and again, how deeply Christian it is to keep questing after truth and justice.  To never settle.  I fundamentally disagree with Chesterton that the purpose of having an open mind is to eventually close it.

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  • Derrida–and really postmodernism and deconstructionism in general–have always attracted me, too. I first read Derrida in a lit class with a prof who was astonishingly good at making sense of it all. Perhaps part of the reason we respond so favorably is that we have learned these things at the hands of brilliant professors who took away the fear and helped these ideas make sense.

    And to be honest, I just think some people are inclined toward categorical thinking and others aren’t. I remember being in classes at Fuller and watching people’s foundations crumble when the authorship of the Bible was questioned or a “truth” was reframed. That never happened to me. I knew I didn’t have foundations to crumble. Instead, I had–and still have–that web of belief that holds together even when some of the pieces fall away or are replaced with new ideas.

  • Carla said,

    “And to be honest, I just think some people are inclined toward categorical thinking and others aren’t.”

    I concur. I led a recent conversation with baptists about postmodern vs. modern values and how they are not necessarily age specific. The more I read and ponder, the more I see modern and postmodern values living in dialectic tension. There is a level of symbiosis between the two.

    My household is a perfect example of this. My wife and I are both GenXers and would typically be labeled “postmoderns.” The problem is that while the label would fit me, it would not fit my wife. While I’m of the “cultural creative’ stripe as Doug and Tony like to say, my wife is in the other direction…linear, pragmatic, categorical. We need both postures in our household.

  • Hey Tony,

    I’m disinclined to embrace the “eternal deferral” idea because it strikes me as “discarnational” (how’s that for a pomo word!) I think the very fact of the incarnation tells against this idea of Derrida’s (and Caputo’s). The idea of C&D (as I understand it) is the idea of the undeconstructible and impossible kingdom that’s always coming but never arrives. There’s this great suspicion on their part of contingency, particularity and deconstructibility together with an embrace of a Wholly Other God/Messiah/Justice. Yet the God of Christian faith is not allergic to the contingent, particular and “deconstructible”. God, in fact, dwells within it. God dwells in human skin and the kingdom within deconstructible, contingent, particular, cultural structures.

    So my discomfort begins with the incarnation. The D&C idea is disembodied, clean, unsoiled and, to my mind, of a very different nature than the messy, embodied and dirty story of a God who dwells within the messiness, contingency and particularity of a first Century Palestinian Jew. The biblical gospel is much resonant with my own theological sensibilities than the gospel of D&C.

    Also, to settle on the claim (say ) that God is one yet three or that Jesus is both human and divine, as I’ve suggested on my blog, does end the quest. Mystery remains. Abounds even. And where there is mystery there is plenty of room for continued searching.

  • Michael Toy

    I’m not smart enough to disagree with Caputo and Kearney on the impossbile become possible thing. But that doesn’t mean I like it or agree with it.

    I love everything they say about what goes wrong with us, and with truth, when we try to nail down the good and the just and the true with words.

    But the rhapsodic proncouncement of arrival of the god who is not ever present, but ever arriving doesn’t seem like good news to me. Are we really doomed to sit at the dinner table and smell the meal which is coming but never arriving?

    But I have no better answer either.

  • Beautiful picture, Michael!

    Sorry for the typos in my comment. I meant, of course, to say that the biblical gospel “…is much MORE resonant” and that settling on certain claim “….does NOT end he quest.”


  • hey tony,
    I would wager that your commitment to D&C stems as much from political, and therefore ecclesiolgical, issues as it does from epistemological issues. or rather, you are concerned not only with how one thinks but rather how one lives.

    and kevin, i like the ‘discarnational’ idea. and that is exactly what I’ve thought of Derrida when I read “Structure, Sign, and Play.” And I certainly don’t see the Incarnation as the closing down of thought, but rather site of a fullness of presence which continually overwhelms us.

  • Tony,

    Interesting reflections.

    It am constantly amazed how much D & C are Augustinian in their philosophical inquiry and pursuit of truth. I like this. I think it can be salutary for evangelicals and their epistemologies if they espoused it. (Might Caputo be attempting to emphasize this in _What Would Jesus Deconstruct_?) Yet, what is interesting is, although D, C, and A have a similar approach to truth they do not all arrive at the same conclusions about what truth is.

    My point in pointing this out is, one can still approach truth like D, C, and A (like yourself) but arrive at drastically different conclusions. Personally, I appreciate this approach of the three but I tend to like Augustine’s conclusions more than D & C’s. The reason being, I think D & C’s philosophical project does not permit them to uphold (while deconstructing) a conceptual space for previous Christian intuitions and notions.

    Concerning the Incarnation, it would be informative and insightful to engage D & C with any Eastern Orthodox philosopher (Soloyov, Florensky) or theologian (Bulgakov, Lossky, Zizioulas.). Why? Because, central to the liturgy and practices of our Orthodox brothers and sisters is the emphasis that the Event has arrived (Incarnation) albeit once but not for all – it continuously arrives every time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated.

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