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The Insistence of God

A Theology of Perhaps

John D. Caputo

Publication Year: 2013

The Insistence of God presents the provocative idea that God does not exist, God insists, while God’s existence is a human responsibility, which may or may not happen. For John D. Caputo, God’s existence is haunted by "perhaps," which does not signify indecisiveness but an openness to risk, to the unforeseeable. Perhaps constitutes a theology of what is to come and what we cannot see coming. Responding to current critics of continental philosophy, Caputo explores the materiality of perhaps and the promise of the world. He shows how perhaps can become a new theology of the gaps God opens.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion


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pp. 1-3

Title Page

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pp. iii-iv

Table of Contents

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p. vii-vii

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Preface: The Gap God Opens

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pp. ix-x

God as a Highest Being—a steady hand at the wheel of the universe, ordering all things to good purpose, the spanning providential eye o’erseeing all—has had a good run. But in our postmodern condition we acknowledge the instability of traditional foundations, the ambiguities of the old absolutes, and the complexity of endlessly linking systems without ...

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pp. xi-xii

Most of this book has been previously unpublished, but some sections have appeared in earlier versions that have been rewritten often beyond recognition but deserve acknowledgment: “God, Perhaps: The Diacritical Hermeneutics of God in the Work of Richard Kearney,” in “Philosophical Thresholds: Crossings of Life and ...

Part 1. The Insistence of God

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1. God, Perhaps: The Fear of One Small Word

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pp. 3-23

I dream of learning how to say “perhaps.” I have the same dream, night after night, of a tolle, lege experience, in which I open a book—I cannot make out the title—always to the same sentence, “Peut-être—il faut toujours dire peut-être pour . . .” In the morning I cannot remember the rest of the ...

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2. The Insistence of God

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pp. 24-38

Allow me to put my cards on the table right at the outset. My criterion of truth is how well we have learned to deal with the fear of one small word, “perhaps.” That, I would say, is a general problem for us all. No one gets a pass. But in this book I am singling out theology and calling for a new species of theologians, theologians of the future. That means I measure ...

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3. Insistence and Hospitality: Mary and Martha in a Postmodern World

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pp. 39-55

The name of God is the name of trouble. The insistence of God means that God calls for a response or, since God is not somebody who “does” things like call, it means that the calling takes place in the middle voice, in and under the name of God. God calls in the middle voice. The call is perfectly figured in an unexpected and insistent knocking on our ...

Part 2. Theopoetics: The Insistence of Theology

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4. Theopoetics as the Insistence of a Radical Theology

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pp. 59-86

We cannot start with a stable concept of “philosophy” and a stable concept of “religion” and then “apply” “philosophy” to “religion.” We must allow what are called “philosophy” and “religion” to tremble together under the force of their mutual contact, letting each push back on the other. That contact can be made not in the abstract, but rather from out of the original ...

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5. Two Types of Continental Philosophy of Religion

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pp. 87-116

Kierkegaard’s Johannes Climacus reports the case of one Dr. Hjortespring, who was converted to Hegelianism by a miracle on Easter morning at the Hotel Streit in Hamburg.1 My own story is not as dramatic. Still, if truth be told, in the present work I fear I will shock my friends by declaring myself a born-again Hegelian, and this in order to distinguish ...

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6. Is there an Event in Hegel? Malabou, Plasticity, and “Perhaps”

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pp. 117-134

Let there be no mistake. I am following Hegel where he did not quite mean to lead, marching to a drum he did not quite beat, taking up a cause he did not quite advocate. I am proposing, as Heidegger would have said, to “repeat” Hegel, to repeat not what Hegel actually said, which has already been said by Hegel, but to repeat the possible in Hegel, remaining loyal ...

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7. Gigantomachean Ethics: Žižek, Milbank, and the Fear of One Small Word

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pp. 136-174

Žižek’s rereading of Hegel is more radical and disruptive than Mala-bou’s. Žižek sees the Hegel of the au revoir coming, the Hegelian Absolute inching its way home through its peregrinations through world history, and he stops it in its tracks. In its place Žižek puts a more deeply doubly negative dialectic, where the Spirit does not come home, where it never ...

Part 3. Cosmopoetics: The Insistence of the World

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8. The Insistence of the World: From Chiasm to Cosmos

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pp. 167-179

We promised at the start to honor the animals of Jesus, and now we must make good on that promise, this time by honoring the animal that Jesus is, the animal that I am following (je suis),1 whose animal needs were recognized by Martha. Indeed it is time to honor the history of the animals that we all are and are following, which I have emblematically called ...

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9. As if I were Dead: Radical Theology and the Real

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pp. 180-196

I object to the blackmail, to the bad choice—theism or atheism!— and to the violence of double genitive in the odium theologiae—the total contempt for religion on the part of secularists, the demonization of atheism by the theologians, which leads to outright violence by religious extremists. The whole thing is a perfect recipe for war. The current form ...

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10. Facts, Fictions, and Faith: What is Really Real after All?

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pp. 197-222

Having thus redescribed “objectivity” as a way to think about the world in which we live as if we were dead or never born, let us now take a careful look at the words that have sparked the current critique of continental philosophy—Meillassoux’s critique of “correlation” and “fideism,” in that order. This criticism has been set in motion by the theological turn, ...

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11. A Nihilism of Grace: Life, Death, and Resurrection

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pp. 223-245

I return now to the hard hypothesis, that life is a passing feature of the universe, an interim phenomenon, not an ultimate or permanent part of the cosmic furnishings. An ineluctable fate lies in store for us—terrestrial, solar, galactic, and universal death in entropic disintegration, that ...

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12. The Grace of the World

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pp. 246-263

So we come to stand on the ground of a certain materialism but of an odd sort, the groundless ground of a certain religious materialism. Likewise we stand on the ground of a certain religion, but it too is an odd sort of religion, a religion without religion,1 with a weak theology not a strong, a theology of insistence not existence, of “perhaps” not of an ...


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pp. 265-300


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pp. 301-307

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About the Author

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p. 308-308

John D. Caputo is Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion Emeritus at Syracuse University and the David R. Cook Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Villanova University. He is author of The Weakness of God (IUP, 2006), which won the American Academy of Religion’s Award for ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780253010100
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253010018

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion