(De) Constructing the (Non)Being of God: A Trinitarian Critique of Postmodern A/Theology
Keith Putt, B.
Nielsen, Niels C.
Doctor of Philosophy
Langdon Gilkey maintained in 1969 that theological language was in "ferment" over whether "God" could be expressed in language. He argued that "radical theology," specifically the kenotic christology in Altizer's "death of God" theology, best represented that ferment. Some twenty-five years later, in the postmodern context of the 199's, whether one can speak of God and, if so, how remain prominent issues for philosophers of religion and theologians. One of the most provocative contemporary approaches to these questions continues to focus on the "death of God." Mark Taylor's a/theology attempts to "do" theology after the divine demise by thinking the end of theology without ending theological thinking. Taylor's primary thesis, predicated upon his reading of Jacques Derrida's deconstructive philosophy, is that God gives way to the sacred and the sacred may be encountered only within the "divine milieu" of writing. God is dead, the self is dead, history has no structure, and language cannot be totalized in books; consequently, theology must be errant and textually disseminative. Unfortunately, Taylor's a/theology as a hermeneutic of the "death of God" fails to leave God's existence undecidable and also fails to address substantively the ethical implications of postmodernism. The radical hermeneutics of John Caputo offers a significant supplement to Taylor's thought and a critical reconstruction of alternative postmodern models for God. Caputo's "armed neutrality" concerning the being of God and his insistence on the inescapability of ethical obligation allow for a deconstruction of ontotheology and the reconstruction of a "biblical" paradigm of a suffering God. Caputo's focus on the ethico-religious dynamic of alterity and difference suggests a postmodern christology, since he believes that Jesus exemplifies the poetics of obligation that seeks to heal wounded flesh. Yet, scripture presents Jesus as the revelation of a suffering, heterophilic God. Contaminating Caputo's poetics of obligation with Jürgen Moltmann's theology of the crucified God results in the repetition of a "biblical" theopassional theology that accepts the undecidability inherent within history and language, but which, through fear and trembling, acknowledges that God loves alterity and difference and desires that human beings do also.