Deleuze, Caputo, Christology, and the Death of God

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Over at Blake Huggins’ blog he and I have been engaged in a fruitful conversation about postmodern theology. He argues for a Deleuzian theology of nonexisting entities with an eschatological focus that ultimately follows the trajectory of some of Caputo’s weak theology. I raise some criticisms of Caputo’s deconstructive theology and discuss the ramifications of the death of God has on any future theology. Next, we tackle the possibility of an immanent theology void of transcendence (that is not simply Hegelian or some sort of process theology). I also critique Caputo’s theology and his impoverished Christology, ultimately I believe this to be the biggest shortcoming of his theology of the event. I’ve also voiced my criticism of Vattimo’s and Caputo’s weak thought and the desire to do theology after the death of God. Specifically, I worry that both thinkers end up advancing supersessionist views (although Vattimo is here clearly more guilty). It’s a fertile conversation, and I’m glad to see it unfold in such a civil way. I hope my Barthian and Altizerian commitments are shining through. Our disagreement might boil down to a simple choice between Tillich or Barth, and of course I choose the latter.

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5 Responses to “Deleuze, Caputo, Christology, and the Death of God”

  1. Troy Polidori Says:

    Jeremy, would you mind elaborating on what you mean by Vattimo and Caputo’s tendency towards supersessionism, and how you think Barth/Altizer differ (is it simply the Christology?)? Thanks, I’m a little late to the conversation, so I’m trying to catch up.

  2. Jeremy Says:

    Ok, well I’d point you back towards my conversation with Blake about supersessionsim. I cited this post where I offered a critique of Caputo (http://jridenour.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/caputo-and-tillichs-similiarities/) and how his weak theology ignores the Hebrew Bible and overly relies on the a theology of the cross and St Paul. I think my comments on Vattimo over at Blake’s blog describe succinctly Vattimo’s tendency towards supersessionism. Although to be fair, I should point out i know it’s not Caputo’s intent. The last thing he wants to offer is some sort of triumphant Christianity, but I wonder if his theology of the event has to also dismiss too much of the Hebrew Bible to properly carve out his weak theology.

    Caputo associates Vattimo’s weak thought with death-of-God theologies (although to be fair, Vattimo really knows nothing about radical theology or Altizer as his real specialty is Heidegger/Nietzsche). Caputo goes on to write, “The death of God is a grand récit all its own that is complicitous with Hegel’s story about the Jews and a certain quick reading of Saint Paul on the Jews. That is a supersessionist story of the transition from the alienated Old Law of the Pharisees to the benign New Law of love and the gift, from the dead letter of literalism to the living Spirit, from the legalism of slaves to the religion of the children and friends of God, from an eye-to-eye economy to the gift, etc. The hint of Marcion is never far from the story, however much it is resisted and revised” (After the Death of God, 80).

    That’s Caputo’s reading of the death of God and his critique of Vattimo, Hegel, and Altizer.

    I have no illusions about saving Barth from a critique of supersessionism. He does a great job at making that impossible. The entire CD is a testimony to that especially CD II/2 on election. Also, there was a discussion over at AUFS not too long ago about Barth’s criticism of religion in CD I/2. Again, here we see Barth unapologetically elevating Christianity and the Word of God over all other religions (and mysticism and atheism).

    Things with Altizer are a bit more complicated, which is why I cited Lissa McCullough’s (perhaps the foremost interpreter of Altizer today) comment over at AUFS about Altizer’s relation to Judaism. She points out his relationship with Judaism is more nuanced than Caputo’s criticism would let on. I think ultimately Caputo’s criticism of the death of God theology is more damning of Hegel and Vattimo than Altizer. According to her, Altizer’s reading of the death of God is uniquely focused on the Christian God, which is why the crucifixion (and not religion) is the crux of his interpretation.

    This is all very complex. I don’t mean to throw Caputo under the bus by labeling him supersessionist, but I do think his Christology is incredibly weak along with his view of the atonement.

    I’d like to hear from you about your thoughts of a possible Deleuzian theology. I don’t know what you thought about my critique of Blake’s idea of taking a eschatological twist on Deleuze’s implicit theology. Can immanence have any relationship with eschatology?

  3. Troy Polidori Says:

    Thanks a bunch Jeremy for laying all that out. I can definitely see the line tracing Caputo’s weak theology back to Tillich and over against the dialectical theology of Altizer-via-Barth. And I’m starting to think that reconciliation isn’t quite possible (though dialogue has been and will continue to be very fruitful).

    As for the Deleuzean theology: if you’re getting that from our blog, then its probably from Austin, who is currently at Nottingham and working a lot with Deleuze. My work has been more in Zizek/Badiou/Lacan philosophically and Barth theologically. My MA thesis centered around placing Lacan’s theory of sexuation from Seminar XX (via Zizek’s ontological interpretation) in conversation with McCormack’s revision of Barth’s corpus (election, CD II/2, yada yada). In other words, I’m pretty sure we’re thinking along the same lines here, though I’ve only recently gotten into Altizer and am still trying to work my way around his stuff avec Barth and co.

  4. Jeremy Says:

    I see. Sorry for mistaking your work with Austin’s. It sounds like we have a lot in common. I’ve been trying to read a fair amount by McCormack as of late. Also, I’ve officially reached the low point in Barth’s CD, the section on angelology which was absolute shit.

  5. geoff holsclaw Says:

    interesting conversation. thanks for the link.

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