25 Chapters
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1. God without Sovereignty

John D. Caputo Indiana University Press ePub

Nothing is less sure, of course,
than a god without sovereignty,
nothing is less sure than his coming, of course.

(Jacques Derrida)1

For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom,
and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength …
But God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
God chose what is low and despised [ta agene] in the world,
things that are not [ta me onta],
to reduce to nothing things that are [ta onta].

(1 Cor. 1:25, 27–28)

All this talk about the stirring of the event within the name of God should not stir up expectations of power. On the contrary, precisely insofar as it is the locus of an event, and not the nominator of an entity, the name of God indicates a certain weak force, at most a power of powerlessness, even though it is addressed to us in unconditional terms. Let us venture further down this risky road.

Suppose we dare to think about God otherwise than metaphysics and metaphysical theology allow? Suppose we say there is at least this much to the death of God: that the God of metaphysical theology is a God well lost and that the task of thinking about God radically otherwise has been inescapably imposed upon us? Suppose we say that metaphysical theology has been given enough time to prove its case and that the time has come to think about God in some other way? What then?

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3. Insistence and Hospitality: Mary and Martha in a Postmodern World

John D. Caputo Indiana University Press ePub

 

Now as they went on their way,
he entered a certain village,
where a woman named Martha
welcomed
(hypedexato) him into her home.

                                         —LUKE 10:38

The name of God is the name of trouble. The insistence of God means that God calls for a response or, since God is not somebody who “does” things like call, it means that the calling takes place in the middle voice, in and under the name of God. God calls in the middle voice. The call is perfectly figured in an unexpected and insistent knocking on our door. A disturbing visitation in the night is an uncertainty in which all the sting of “perhaps” is perfectly concentrated, in which the dynamics of “perhaps” and a theology of insistence is both modeled and put in play. Hospitality means to say “come” in response to what is calling, and that may well be trouble. We might say that hospitality is an example of an event, but if so it is an exemplary one, a paradigm, maybe even a surname for any and every event, which can come at any moment, like a wayfarer in need of a cup of cold water unless, perhaps, he is a thief in the night. As an ancient virtue in the Bible, where the very life of the desert traveler depended upon being made welcome, hospitality cuts deeply into the fabric of the biblical name of God, where the invisible face of God is inscribed on the face of the stranger, as if God were looking for shelter. Well beyond its status as a particular virtue, hospitality is a figure of the event, a figure of the chiasm of insistence and existence, of call and response.

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5. Two Types of Continental Philosophy of Religion

John D. Caputo Indiana University Press ePub

 

 

Kierkegaard's Johannes Climacus reports the case of one Dr. Hjortespring, who was converted to Hegelianism by a miracle on Easter morning at the Hotel Streit in Hamburg.1 My own story is not as dramatic. Still, if truth be told, in the present work I fear I will shock my friends by declaring myself a born-again Hegelian, and this in order to distinguish myself from the Kantians. My reasoning is as follows. The event is an event of truth. The insistence of the event may also be called its insistent “truth.” The “democracy to come” means the truth that insists on coming (true) in democracy, that is trying to come (true) as democracy. Just so, the name of God is the name of an event that is trying to come true in and under that name. It is at this point—truth—that I call upon the approach to religion and religious truth taken by Hegel, who is, by my lights, the father or (if Tillich is the father) the grandfather of radical theology and the predecessor of the new species of theologians for which I am calling. Hegel offers a new analysis of Christian theology and a new paradigm for the philosophy of religion by formulating a new idea of religious truth that constitutes for me a predecessor form of the theology of “perhaps” and consequently of theopoetics.

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Appendix to Part Two: Newly Discovered Fragments on the Kingdom of God from the Gospel of Miriam

John D. Caputo Indiana University Press ePub

My dear friend Magdalena de la Cruz has recently e-mailed me what she calls “Newly Discovered Fragments on the Kingdom of God from The Gospel of Miriam.” As you may know, Magdalena is quite a prankster and rather an anarchist herself.1 I have no idea about the source or authenticity of these texts, no original manuscript to submit to the experts, and no idea about the reliability of the translator, since all the texts are in English yet purport to be fragments of a missing gospel. This latter point would be, if true, quite astonishing. The English is middling good, so I conclude that the translator is an Anglophone who has mischievously introduced French and Latin into the text. Unless, of course, this is an alteration made by Magdalena herself, which I would not put past her, since her attitude to the niceties of scholarly protocol is, to say the least, rather casual. I pass them along to the reader, now as in the past, as a courtesy to an old friend, but with this proviso: whatever I receive from Magdalena is always very provocative and heterodox and, although these materials are highly supportive of my projects, I cannot dispel my suspicions about their provenance. I reproduce these texts with the admonition that the reader take them for what they are worth and not attribute too much authority to them or their author. Magdalena is a free spirit, to say the least, a very independent creature who makes me feel quite conservative whenever I am in her company, which I confess I enjoy very much, by the way.

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9. Back to the Future: Peter Damian on the Remission of Sin and Changing the Past

John D. Caputo Indiana University Press ePub

… and send away our debts …

(Matt. 6:12, my translation)

Axiom 1: What’s done is done.

Axiom 2: With God, everything is possible, even the impossible.

Aporia: Can God make it to be that what’s done is undone? That, of course, is impossible, the doing of which, however, in a way of speaking, is God’s very job description, or what we mean by the name of God, and something that touches close to the nerve of the “event” that stirs in the name of God.

That is the aporia posed by the theology of the event as it was framed back in the eleventh century by Peter Damian (1007–1072). Damian wants to know how hard a hard fact is, whether time is hard, fast, and unyielding, or whether God, for whom nothing is impossible, can make time yield and release the event, whether God can change the past, making it to be that what was done was never done. This was not simply a bit of speculation for Peter Damian, but a question about forgiveness and the healing of wounded souls. Damian represents a telling case study in this poetics of the impossible, both a hero and an anti-hero. For Peter Damian was one of Christianity’s first gay-bashers, who coined the word sodomy, and he was also a most unforgiving ecclesiastical authoritarian, who had no compunction about torching heretics. But even here the situation is complicated. It cannot be forgotten that his critique of sodomy occurred in the context of an outspoken and courageous campaign for clerical reform on his part. While we today on the left cannot countenance his homophobia, that should not prevent us from seeing that Damian was out to put an end to the sexual abuse of women and children by the clergy, and of junior clergy by senior clergy, in a time when clerics were not subject to civil law. He forthrightly pinned a lot of the blame for this problem on the hierarchy of the day, on the bishops and the pope himself, for looking the other way and for refusing to root out the offenders by strictly enforcing church discipline. Indeed, he looked to women and the laity for help in setting things straight. Is there nothing new under the sun?1

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