Derrida and Keller


One thing that never ceases to frustrate me is when philosophers caricature Derrida as a nihilist who believes that we can make texts say anything we want. Right now, I’m reading S. Shakespeare’s new book Derrida and Theology. It’s a fairly even-handed presentation of Derrida’s work, and I really enjoy that he spends the majority of time actually in Derrida’s text, teasing out the theological gems. I’m looking forward to the end where he discusses theological appropriations of Derrida ranging from Altizer to Taylor to Caputo to Milbank to Keller. The diversity of interpretation of Derrida’s theological insights ranging from a death of god theologian, to a negative theologian, to a secular postmodern nihilist, to a radical atheist speak volumes of just how complex and dense Derrida’s corpus is.

Much of Derrida’s critique of onto-theology stems from his belief in theology’s penchant for being a totalizing system that suppresses all difference for the sake of unity. Hence, God is inextricably linked to the primary arche from which all of creation beings. That is to say creation ex nihilo. This is where Catherine Keller’s magnificent work The Face of the Deep comes in handy. While I don’t generally like process theology as I am suspect of most natural theology (here Barth was certainly right). Keller argues that lurking beneath the text rests a different interpretation, one that has been ignored by theologians for thousands of years. As opposed to typical picture of God hanging out in outerspace playing checkers with Jesus in the dark, until he decides to “Let there be Light”. Keller unearths in the text a new understanding of creation where matter was always already there. God does not create being out of nothing, rather his job like a beloved caretaker is to call creation good and bless it. He paints creation and breathes life into it.

Read Keller’s book if you want to see a fascinating mixture of post-structuralism of Derrida and Deleuze with Whitehead and some superb literary studies of Moby Dick and the book of Job, along with her re-fashioning of the creation myth.


2 Responses to “Derrida and Keller”

  1. GARRETH Says:

    I would agree with Keller up to a point, with her reading of Genesis, but would disagree because ‘creation ex nihilo’, is a later discovery/interpretation within Judaism.

    The english theologian, James alison who would be very influenced by the the Rene Girard, illustrates this point very well. he would agree with Keller’s reading of Genesis, but also shows the lateness of the Judaism’s understanding of creation as ‘ex nihilo’. He has chapter in his book ‘on being liked’ on the very topic, which is food for thought.

    I would also disagree with Keller’s interpretation of ‘creation ex nihilo’, as an act of power, and alternative reading of creation ex nihilo’ would be by Rowan Williams, his essay titled ‘on being creatures’ in his on Christian Theology book.

  2. More Blogging & Žižek « Sola Intellectum Says:

    […] Catherine Keller’s work The Face of the Deep: A Theology of Becoming (per a recommendation from Jeremy). However, in the meanwhile, I will be blogging through Robert Jenson’s On Thinking the Human, […]

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