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The Metamorphosis of Finitude

An Essay on Birth and Resurrection

Emmanuel Falque

Publication Year: 2012

This book starts off from a philosophical premise: nobody can be in the world unless they are born into the world. It examines this premise in the light of the theological belief that birth serves, or ought to serve, as a model for understanding what resurrection could signify for us today. After all, the modern Christian needs to find some way of understanding resurrection, and the dogma of the resurrection of the body is vacuous unless we can relate it philosophically to our own world of experience. Nicodemus first posed the question "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" This book reads that problem in the context of contemporary philosophy (particularly the thought of Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Deleuze). A phenomenology of the body born "from below" is seen as a paradigm for a theology of spiritual rebirth, and for rebirth of the body from "on high." The Resurrection changes everything in Christianity--but it is also our own bodies that must be transformed in resurrection, as Christ is transfigured. And the way in which I hope to be resurrected bodily in God, in the future, depends upon the way in which I live bodily today.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

Title Page, Copyright

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Preface to the English Edition

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pp. ix-xi

What runs through all three books is the conviction that the theological truths of the Easter Triduum (the Passion, the Resurrection, and the Eucharist) need to be examined in the light of philosophical experience (agony, birth, and the body). French phenomenology, which has long been important in France, and is perhaps even better...

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Preface: The Beaune Altarpiece, or “The Germination of the Resurrected”

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pp. xiii-xiv

The altarpiece in the Beaune hospice in Burgundy, France, says all that needs to be said, or almost all, on the subject of the “germination of the resurrected.” Art in general, or the painter Rogier Van der Weyden in this case, is able to give us the visual image of a mystery that philosophy and theology can barely represent: the Last Judgement...

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Introduction: To Be Transformed

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pp. 1-9

“Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Cor 15:51–52). To die or to be transformed, or rather for everyone to be transformed whether already dead or not, since only the last trumpet sounds here, is the universal...

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Part I: Précis of Finitude

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pp. 11-14

To propose a “précis of finitude” is not to serve up a new summary in the guise of a compendium of philosophy, as though one were furnishing the results for theology and insisting that it renew itself on that basis. It is rather to propose that the contemporary theologian, like the philosopher, needs to take finitude as the first...

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1. Impassable Immanence

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pp. 15-20

We have no other experience of God but human experience. When I experience God, what sustains me is, at least first of all, God made human. No access opens toward the nonhuman—God, angel, beast, or demon— other than precisely through the human that I am. “We cannot go to other beings without passing through our own...

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2. From Time to Time

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pp. 21-29

Finitude, as I have tried to show (§5), “is not an accident of the ‘immortal’ essence of man, but the foundation of man’s existence.” We need to admit, moreover, and to welcome the notion, that a “précis of finitude” would go so far as to give up taking some kind of eternity for granted. And this is precisely where the shoe pinches—at least...

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3. Is There a Drama of Atheist Humanism?

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pp. 30-40

Atheist humanism in its time was famously stigmatized as a “drama” by one of the great theologians of the twentieth century (Henri de Lubac). This was not simply a conservative reaction—to suggest that would be to misunderstand both the man and his writings—but first of all it was done out of a concern for understanding: “I have tried...

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Part II: Toward a Metamorphosis

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pp. 41-45

Our précis of finitude, seen not so much as the condensation of a doctrine but as of existence itself, has enabled us to arrive at three objectives. (1) Immanence remains impassable for all, including Christians. These latter, requiring first from all methods (of immanence) that they are taken to their limit (§4), and then rejecting any preemption...

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4. Resurrection and the Over-resurrection of the Body

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pp. 47-61

An appeal to metamorphosis—or to the transformation of the self—is by no means restricted solely to Christianity. In fact it is in the work of the sworn enemy of Christianity, Friedrich Nietzsche, that the dispute over metamorphosis offers the most food for thought, at least in relation to the setting up of arguments on both sides of the...

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5. The Resurrection Changes Everything

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pp. 62-80

“The Incarnation changes everything”: The phrase comes not from a theologian but from a philosopher, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Having made, along with Husserl, philosophical incarnation the center and the heart of his thought (“es wird Leib”) and after having himself challenged the above-mentioned “drama of atheist...

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6. The Incorporation of the Human Being

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pp. 81-90

What happens in God, or rather what happened in the act of resurrection— the ordeal of the Father, the apperceptive transposition of the Son and the Holy Spirit as the “meta-morphosis” of the Son by the Father— must also concern us, must even metamorphose us. The resurrection, in fact, has no point for me unless it “puts me in the...

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Part III: Phenomenology of the Resurrection

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pp. 91-94

Cur Deus resurrexit? Why is God resurrected? Or better, why does the Father transfigure our finitude in his Son, who carries it within him? We have already sketched a reply to this question, as far as is possible: (a) The Son suffers the burden of death “quite simply,” and forwards it to the Father without ever breaking his filial relation, even when his...

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7. The World Become Other

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pp. 95-111

The fiction of the other world, or of what Nietzsche thought of as an imaginary backworld (arrière-monde), is one of the by-products of Christianity and sometimes even of theology (in via / in patria). It is a fiction from which it is still difficult today to extricate ourselves. The problem is more obvious in that it was not always like...

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8. From Time to Eternity

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pp. 112-126

It has been said, and has been widely believed, that we cannot but go “from time to time”—Heidegger (see chapter 2). What is true of “birth down here below” remains true always but is, however, only relatively true of “rebirth from on high”—passed through the crux of metamorphosis of God (chapter 5) and of mankind in him...

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9. A Flesh for Rebirth

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pp. 127-148

The “knowing [con-naissance] of God,” rather than the eternal (John 17:3), leads us, then, to ask about our own births—our spiritual birth, of course, but also our bodily birth. I myself can relate to my own birth today (a) through my consciousness (given my difficulty in being born), and (b) through my body (given the impossibility of my not having...

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Conclusion: Waiting for Bodies to Arise

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pp. 149-153

“How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). Nicodemus’s question has been called foolish or “derisory” (derisibilis), because “Christ was speaking of spiritual regeneration, and he [Nicodemus] is objecting in terms of carnal regeneration”...


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pp. 155-190

Index of Names

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pp. 191-193

Further Reading

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pp. 195-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780823246502
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823239207
Print-ISBN-10: 0823239209

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy