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The God Who May Be

A Hermeneutics of Religion

Richard Kearney

Publication Year: 2001

"Kearney is one of the most exciting thinkers in the English-speaking world of continental philosophy.... and [he] joins hands with its fundamental project, asking the question 'what'or who'comes after the God of metaphysics?'" -- John D. Caputo

Engaging some of the most urgent issues in the philosophy of religion today, in this lively book Richard Kearney proposes that instead of thinking of God as 'actual,' God might best be thought of as the possibility of the impossible. By pulling away from biblical perceptions of God and breaking with dominant theological traditions, Kearney draws on the work of Ricoeur, Levinas, Derrida, Heidegger, and others to provide a surprising and original answer to who or what God might be. For Kearney, the intersecting dimensions of impossibility propel religious experience and faith in new directions, notably toward views of God that are unforeseeable, unprogrammable, and uncertain. Important themes such as the phenomenology of the persona, the meaning of the unity of God, God and desire, notions of existence and différance, and faith in philosophy are taken up in this penetrating and original work.

Richard Kearney is Professor of Philosophy at Boston College and University College, Dublin. He is author of many books on modern philosophy and culture, including Dialogues with Contemporary Continental Thinkers, The Wake of Imagination, and The Poetics of Modernity.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion


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p. vii

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p. ix

I wish to acknowledge the indispensable support and encouragement of John Manoussakis, my assistant at Boston College; Merold Westphal, my general editor; and Dee Mortensen, my sponsoring editor at Indiana. Thanks are also due to Jack Caputo, my sparring partner and inspirational colleague...

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pp. 1-8

God neither is nor is not but may be. That is my thesis in this volume. What I mean by this is that God, who is traditionally thought of as act or actuality, might better be rethought as possibility. To this end I am proposing here a new hermeneutics of religion which explores and evaluates two rival...

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1. Toward a Phenomenology of the Persona

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pp. 9-19

I begin by exploring the theme of transfiguration, first in terms of a phenomenology of the persona, and then in subsequent chapters with more specific reference to defining epiphanic moments such as the burning bush (Exodus 3:15), the transfiguration narratives of Christ on Mount Thabor (Mark 9,...

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2. I Am Who May Be

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pp. 20-38

The epiphany of the burning bush provides my first example of religious transfiguration. I start with a brief account of this dramatic encounter between Moses and his Lord, before proceeding to a hermeneutic retrieval of several decisive readings of this passage—rabbinical, exegetical, and philosophical....

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3. Transfiguring God

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pp. 39-52

In this third chapter, I turn to the more explicitly incarnational accounts of the persona-prosopon as it features in the Christian narratives of transfiguration on Mount Thabor and the paschal apparitions in Emmaus, Jerusalem, and Galilee. My approach remains, however, in spite of invoking several...

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4. Desiring God

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pp. 53-79

Another way of speaking of the transfiguration of God is to speak of the desire of God. It is through such desire that the God-who-may-be finds voice, and does so in many different personas. We have been looking above at such epiphanic examples as the burning bush on Mount Horeb and the transfigured...

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5. Possibilizing God

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pp. 80-100

In Mark 10:27, we find Christ and his disciples discussing the question of who can enter the kingdom. In response to the query about how one can be saved, Jesus replies: ‘‘For humans it is impossible, but not for God; because for God everything is possible’’ (panta gar dunata para to theo). In this chapter...

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Conclusion: Poetics of the Possible God

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pp. 101-111

Taking some pointers from the above sketches of an eschatology of the possible, I explore here in conclusion (a) a hermeneutic retrieval of certain key, if all too often neglected, readings of possibility to be found in the Western heritage of thought (e.g., Aristotle, Cusanus, Schelling); and (b) a reinterpretation...


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pp. 113-160


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pp. 161-169


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pp. 171-172

E-ISBN-13: 9780253109163
E-ISBN-10: 0253109167
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253339980

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 1 index
Publication Year: 2001

Series Title: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion
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OCLC Number: 51103165
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The God Who May Be

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • God (Christianity).
  • Philosophical theology.
  • Possibility -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
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