From Peter Rollin: John Caputo on Event
Over the next few weeks I'm going to offer you (my email subscribers) some advance access to videos from my yearly festival in Belfast. The actual event involves a blend of music, art, workshops and whiskey tastings as well as talks from some of the sharpest minds in the world of Radical Theology.
The videos I'll be linking to are in an unlisted area of Youtube and will include short talks from myself, Barry Taylor, Gladys Ganiel and Kester Brewin.
The one I'm offering you today is from the world renowned philosopher John Caputo. Dr. Caputo is a hybrid philosopher/theologian intent on producing impure thoughts which deny fixed and rigorous boundaries between philosophy and theology. Caputo treats "sacred" texts as a poetics of the human condition, or as a "theo-poetics." [That is,] as a poetics of the event harbored in the name of God.
In this talk Caputo explores the Event housed in Religion, asking if Radical Theology can preach.
Over the last twenty years I’ve been developing a project that has been described as “Pyrotheology.” Born and bred in Belfast, Pyrotheology has now grown into a vibrant movement with a world-wide impact.
In this intimate event, I’ll be presenting a clear and compressive introduction to the theory and technology of pyrotheology in the city where it all began.
This event will involve a mix of talks and discussions, and should be of interest to students of religion, academics, religious leaders and laypeople alike. We’re going to limit the tickets to 60. To register click on the Ticket link.
Price includes light refreshments, lunch provided by Flour Power, beer from Boundary Brewery and a free copy of “The Divine Magician” (or other book)
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Who is John Caputo?
Reference #1 - Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_D._Caputo
Reference #2 - Syracuse University (below)
John D. Caputo
Thomas J. Watson Professor, Religion and Humanities
Research and Teaching Interests
John D. Caputo is a hybrid philosopher/theologian intent on producing impure thoughts, thoughts which circulate between philosophy and theology, short-circuits which deny fixed and rigorous boundaries between philosophy and theology. Caputo treats "sacred" texts as a poetics of the human condition, or as a "theo-poetics," a poetics of the event harbored in the name of God. His past books have attempted to persuade us that hermeneutics goes all the way down (Radical Hermeneutics), that Derrida is a thinker to be reckoned with by theology (The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida), and that theology is best served by getting over its love affair with power and authority and embracing what Caputo calls, following St. Paul, The Weakness of God. He has also addressed wider-than-academic audiences in On Religion and What Would Jesus Deconstruct? and has an interest in interacting with the working church groups like ikon and the “Emergent” Church. He is currently working in a book on our frail and mortal flesh, probably to be entitled The Fate of All Flesh: A Theology of the Event, II.
Professor Caputo specializes in continental philosophy of religion, working on approaches to religion and theology in the light of contemporary phenomenology, hermeneutics and deconstruction, and also the presence in continental philosophy of radical religious and theological motifs. He has special interests in the "religion without religion" of Jacques Derrida; the "theological turn" taken in recent French phenomenology (Jean-Luc Marion and others); the critique of onto-theology; the question of post-modernism as "post-secularism;" the dialogue of contemporary philosophy with St. Augustine; the recent interest shown by philosophers in St. Paul; the link between Kierkegaard and deconstruction; Heidegger's early theological writings on Paul and Augustine; "secular" and "death of God" theology (Altizer, Vattimo, Zizek); medieval metaphysics and mysticism.
He conducts a series of biennial conferences on these themes: April, 2005, "St. Paul Among the Philosophers" (now available from Indiana University Press); April, 2007: "Feminism, Sexuality, and the Return of Religion" (in press with Indiana University Press); April, 2009: "The Politics of Love" (in preparation. This year’s conference, “The Future of Continental Philosophy of Religion,” will be held April 7-9, 2011. For details visit: http://pcr.syr.edu.
Recently, three books have appeared about his work: Cross and Khora: Deconstruction and Christianity in the Work of John D. Caputo, Eds. Neal Deroo and Marko Zlomsic (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010); A Passion for the Impossible: John D. Caputo in Focus, ed. Mark Dooley (SUNY Press, 2002) and Religion With/Out Religion: The Prayers and Tears of John D. Caputo, ed. Ed. James Olthius (Routledge, 2002). Prof. Caputo joined the department in Fall, 2004 after retiring from Villanova University where he taught from 1968 to 2004.
Professor Caputo's The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event (Indiana, 2006) received the 2007 AAR Book Award for "Constructive-Reflective Studies in Religion." What would Jesus Deconstruct? was the winner of the ForeWord Magazine Best Philosophy Book of 2007 award.
In Defense of Total Depravity
by R.E. Slater
June 24, 2015
As an introduction to the article below, I would like to note that the more classical Christian view of total depravity is one that recognizes the imprint, or image, of God upon man as one that has been marred or subjugated in every way possible by that metaphysical reality of sin. Now a philosopher may decry total depravity as a "lack" of something missing (or affecting) the human spirit, but for the Christian we would acknowledge that what God hath made good-and-holy has now been marred in some way (and in every way) by sin.
And so, the way back is through a healing provided by God by way of a relationship with Himself rather than to be left isolated within ourselves to find that healing to our identity in relationship with all things. Ultimately, the answer to sin is in relationship with God who reforms our identity. And it is not in the denial of our sin (or sinfulness) but in the acceptance of this condition "of lackness" (as Pete terms it) that brings us to the Lord both before and after our renewed relationship to Him through Christ Jesus.
For myself, sin is the other side (or perhaps, the opposite end) to the freedom granted humanity by God. To say we are free (or, free-willed) creatures must at the same time allow for its opposite declaration of bondage from freedom, from holiness, from goodness, which in Christian terminology is known as "sin". And thus, some will argue that we are really not free at all because of sin's affect upon us (Tony Jones tends towards this viewpoint of conditionalism), though for myself, I would argue we do have freedom given to us through God's image and by His Holy Spirit working in our lives either directly or indirectly (most usually through people, but also by circumstance, event, and even nature itself). Even so, it is always-and-ever the sovereign God who brings us to Himself, and not we ourselves to Him by our own means. For if we are left to ourselves this would never happen (according to the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans). But this holy work does only occur in-and-through the work of God's own (Holy) Spirit who bring us to Himself in some way, manner, means, or method. To which we humbly give thanks with bowed knees and hearts.
For a philosopher/theologian like Peter, he rather comes to the ideas of God, freedom, and sin as from the study of the human spirit through social/psychological contexts in what may be described as our "humanness." But, on the other hand, though he is interested in the religious aspect of our humanness - a subject he deals with constantly as you can tell by his writings - he feels much more comfortable examining our humanity in psychoanalytic terms rather than in classical theological terms. Especially as from within a philosophical context to the church's religious contexts.
Hence, the following article may feel foreign to the more conservative Christian. However, in pyschoanalytic terms, Pete's explanation is the more commonly accepted "starting point" amongst academics. He does not pretend to interpret Scripture so much as to interpret the human spirit from practical discussions that are being held within the field of scientific endeavor while leaving his discoveries to the Christian theologian to expand into whatever insight might be discovered as helpful and good and missional.
And so, rather than feel threatened by this approach it may be an approach than might lend some help to the contemporary theologian struggling to contextualize the Scripture's teachings of redemption, God, sin, and worship, in ways that might more readily appeal to the work-a-day world we live within. While clinging to past traditional church doctrines and dogmas today's theologians may wish to examine these newer insights to discover some value in these presentations if only to understand the mindset of the non-Christian world. One of which is how do we utilize the newer insights of psychoanalytics, philosophy, and even radical theology, in manners that might be helpful in explaining Christian theology's very own difficult subjects.... Perhaps no longer in classical terms of yesteryear built upon Greek and medieval philosophies and pseudo-sciences but in postmodern terms acknowledged by this 21st century generation. If so, we must then continue forward into these newer areas of thought if only to be better witnesses to the gospel of Christ as modern day apostles and prophets of the Lord speaking the oracles of God.
- R.E. Slater
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In Defense of Total Depravity
by Peter Rollins
June 6, 2015
As some of you will know, every year I run a small festival in my home town of Belfast. This year one of our guests was the ever brilliant philosopher John “Jack” Caputo. During a discussion in the talks part of the festival someone asked him what the main difference was between the two of us. The question was asked partly because we share so much in common and I’ve been so influenced by his writing. Yet, there still seems a slight difference in our approaches.
In response Jack said, “I think in listening to Pete this week I’ve finally worked it out, he’s a philosophical Calvinist!” For Jack, the Lacanian influence in my work manifests itself in the proclamation of a lack that touches every part of our being. Something he felt is a philosophical version of Total Depravity. The difference between us then lies in the way that Jack (as a heretical catholic) is much more positive about human subjectivity than myself.
Far from wanting to reject this claim, I think that he put his finger on something very important. The only thing I’d want to push back on is the idea that my position is depressing.
To understand the claim it will be good to briefly reflect on what Total Depravity actually means. To begin with, it shouldn’t be thought of as the idea that humans are utterly and completely sinful, but rather that every part of the human subject is touched by sin. If we take sin as an ontological category rather than an ethical one (something that is actually a conservative theological move, even if it is not one reflected in the contemporary church) then we can define Total Depravity as describing a lack that is infused into being itself.
Theologically speaking this means that Total Depravity defines the idea that human subjectivity is something other than a form of “pure life.” It is rather a form of impure life. It is a life infused with death. In philosophical terms this can be said in the following way: a human being is constituted by a lack at the heart of its subjectivity.
This recognition can actually be seen as the fundamental insight of religion. Namely, the religious impulse is born out of the sense of a lack experienced in the very heart of subjectivity. Rather than explaining religion as the result of some need for tribal identity, as the means by which we come to see the human essence, as a will to power, or as the result of postulating agency in a hostile world, Lacan saw the religious impulse as arising fundamentally from a recognition of the incompleteness hard-baked into the very nature of human subjectivity (a lack formed in and by language). The religious individual experiences this lack and then attempts to stop it up via some signifier such as “God,” “Historical Necessity,” “The scientific method,” or “Evolution.”
By directly affirming the ground out of which religion is born (in its sacred and secular forms), Pyrotheology affirms a form of Total Depravity in that it recognizes the constitutive lack at the core of being, and the various ways this lack is made manifest (the Real). The point however is not to offer up a way of closing down this lack (which is ontological in nature and thus cannot be filled). This strategy of corking up the lack is the way of fundamentalism, and secular philosophies such as positivism. Rather the theory and technology of Pyrotheology is concerned with directly assuming the lack and enjoying the desire that it creates, rather than seeking our pleasure in the closure of the gap.
It is this religion of the gap that I explore in my most recent trilogy of books: Insurrection, Idolatry of God and The Divine Magician.
One Response to In Defense of Total Depravity
joe calandrino says:
June 22, 2015 at 9:15 am
Well here it is, Pete, in 7 paragraphs, the nexus of some of most stunning ideas about religion, all poised for some kind of synthesis (the elusive project of my own blogging efforts). Lack, desire, the Real, subjectivity, being. And, far from being depressing, it’s all good news.
I am coming to see this important contribution of yours this way: “lack” is constitutive of the subject/being(ens&esse) as the subject confronts the “loss” of immediacy: the loss of experiencing itself (as itself) and the world without mediation. Such is inherent in the growth of consciousness, and therefore constitutive of it. In the play of the Real and the Symbolic, all metaphysics enacts, in the Symbolic order, something actually going on in the ineffable Real.
If we take as axiomatic that the locus of the divine is the Real (Lacan), then all movements in the Symbolic (and Imaginary) order are analogical enactments that substitute for “lack” as they engage moments in the Real. These enactments in the Symbolic order of something occurring in the Real is “the ground…of…religion.”
It is this idea of “manifest[ing]” that fascinates me. Far from foreclosing on lack, pyrotheology opens onto the very givenness of the Real itself, In this sense, Jean-Luc Marion’s 3rd phenomenological reduction to ‘givenness’ brushes up against your pyrotheological opening, and instead of foreclosing on lack, discloses the formation of the subjectivity of self (a relation of metonymy, not identity).
Depravity, then, can be understood as a ‘deprivation’ of immediacy, that, unexpectedly, opens upon the horizon that situates givenness, presenting it to the intuition. When the intuition is ‘saturated,’ the ‘religious impulse’ becomes the response to Caputo’s ‘unheard call’, which commands the aim of intentionality. The religious subject is thereby called into itself, “constituted” as you say, by “lack” which is the _distance_ between the Real, and, well, everything else.
If we suspend Caputo’s notion that his ‘call’ is reduced to one’s “mommy” in psychoanalysis, then it’s really not Calvinism vs Catholicism that separates your pyrotheology from Caputo’s theopoetics/insistence theology, but rather entangles them in the play in his ‘chiasm’ where Marion’s new phenomenology holds “lack” in tension between givenness and the emerging self. For Marion’s system, the relation between what is given and subjectivity precedes the individuation of the self. Hence, lack, givenness, the Real are all anterior to the self coming into being.
The pyrotheological, phenomenological and theopoetical gestures share in the notion that relationality precedes being, and constitutes it as that which is anterior to it.
- John Calandrino