An Important ‘A’ from Jack Caputo

I am always learning and part of blogging for me is comparing notes with other people. It is part of my education. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything – I am just attempting to supplement the cultural conversation I watch stream by.

Quick Disclaimers:

  • I am not a radical theologian and don’t do radical theology. I am just conversant with the thought for the purpose of addressing some big problems that it points out. 
  •  While I love Caputo’s work (I really do) I obviously don’t buy into his project hook-line-and-sinker or endorse his views 100% [a friend asked me to clarify that from now on].
  • I do however have an early pdf of his soon to be released book. 

I’m only half-way through Caputo’s soon to be released book The Insistence Of God, and am about to get to the substantially titled chapters (on Malabou, Zizek and Millbank) but I found some stuff in the early parts of the book that were eye-opening.

The first is the helpful addition of an ‘a’.

The second is about the death of god. 

Jack reports to be doing ‘a radical theology’ several times. That seem like an important distinction. In this new book, he is not representing the totality of the radical tradition and approach – he is offering ‘a’ radical theology.

After introducing his ‘perhaps’ project, he says:

I would understand it if, at this point, the orthodox theologians feel rejected, if they get up and leave, before my lecture has even started, rejecting out of hand the very idea that this is theology at all. I share their suspicion. Indeed, such a suspicion of what I am doing is the condition under which I do it, under which I conduct what I am calling a “radical” theology. I would publish this book under protest if the orthodox theologians did not protest it. If this “theology” were not suspect, if it did not threaten a walkout by the pious, I would not be associated with it. What I call theology is possible only under the condition that it might not— perhaps—be theology…

There are 5 layers of explanation in the first chapter alone, but I am obviously not able to post them all here until the book comes out. Suffice to say that he starts chapter 2 with Plato’s pharmacy (pharmakon) and ends with Hegel as the hero.

The second, and in my mind more important, distinction relates the death of god. Caputo takes his point of departure from the ‘death of god’ theologians [a point of considerable concern] when he says the following:

Notice what the “death of God” means in the chiasm: God dies unless we come to God’s aid and let God be God in our lives. What has been traditionally called death of God theology is a headline grabber but it is a misleading misnomer—it should have been called the birth of God…

That is why I never speak of the death of God but of the birth of God or the desire for God (desiring sans all Lacanian lamentable lamentation over the lost phallus) and why Eckhart’s account of the story of Mary and Martha (ch. 3) is one of the inspirations of my theology of the event, as will become more and more clear as we go along. God is what God does, and what God does is what is done in the name of God, which is the birth of God in the world.

This seems a significant distinction to me. It clarifies ‘a’ point of departure.


Couple of reminders in closing: 

  1. I am not doing ‘a’ radical theology. I’m just a curious conversation partner. 
  2. I do not endorse Caputo’s (or anyones) ideas carte blanche
  3. My copy of the book is pre-editor and pre-publisher. The previous quotes should be taken with that in mind. 
  4. These thought have been formulated within a vibrant set of friends I am reading the book with. Any of the above thoughts that you do not agree with were theirs. 
  5. I have enjoyed reading about other genealogies of radical theology as well.  
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"I am obviously not able to post them all here until the book comes out."

It's already out on kindle.

Jesse Turri
Jesse Turri 1 Like

Thanks for writing this @Bo Sanders. I'm very excited about "The Insistence of God."

BoSanders moderator 1 Like

@Jesse Turri @Bo Sanders I love interacting with living theologians right now. So much of my early reading was from authors long dead that I had to move on (or up)

I am excited to be in a room with Captuo twice this Fall. -Bo 

BoEberle 3 Like

You're getting me amped up for this book, Bo, great post. Really taken by this kind of perspectival shift going in seeing what has usually been called the "death" of god more of a birth. Death/life all in one. If one keeps with the death interpretation, Caputo is probably right that attention is drawn away from the lived reality of the event.  People ask questions like "how can god die," to which a radical theologian might respond with "Well you see you've got Nietzsche and Hegel and Altizer etc" when the question "how can god be born" might yield some of the same philosophical concepts in reply, but also necessitates practices, especially community, that provide the concrete answer to the question of birthing god. 

I'm sure Caputo will take more flack for claiming to be a "radical," as many are sensitive about that term being coopted by people like Caputo who are using it in non-explicitly political terms, but that's to be expected. I've been looking forward to the book for years can't wait for next week! 

BoSanders moderator

@BoEberle There are some really interesting (unique) things that Caputo addresses. I expect it to generate a great deal of conversation :)