Archives For John Caputo


Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)


The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God

By Sarah Coakley

Read an excerpt from this book (via Google Books)


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A Brief Review of

St. Paul among the Philosophers.
Ed. John D. Caputo and Linda Martín Alcoff
Paperback: Indiana University Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Matthew Kaul.

The problem of Paul’s relationship to the Christian tradition is long-standing that has generated particular attention recently with the rise of the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” and the debates this movement has generated. Most notable, perhaps, has been the interchange between Anglican scholar and bishop N.T. Wright and neo-Reformed pastor John Piper. To simplify matters greatly, should Paul be understood as a Jewish theologian who intended not to found a new religion but rather to incorporate Gentiles into Judaism? Or is Paul rather a founder, whose thought represents a break from the Jewish identity in which it was formed, and who provided a theological structure around which the event of Christ’s death and resurrection could be understood?

These questions represent the core of the contemporary discussion, and they have been taken up by philosophers and historians, including many who have no involvement or interest in institutional Christianity. Saint Paul among the Philosophers, a collection of papers first given at a 2005 Syracuse University conference, brings together many of these thinkers for a discussion of Paul’s legacy and the value of his thought today. The value of the collection lies primarily in its clear outlining of the stakes of the debates surrounding Paul, more than any particular solutions its confluence of scholars offer.

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A Brief Review of
Transforming Philosophy and Religion: Love’s Wisdom,
Norman Wirzba and Bruce Ellis Benson, eds.

by Chris Smith.

Transforming Philosophy and Religion: Love’s Wisdom, a new book from Indiana University Press edited by Norman Wirzba and Bruce Ellis Benson, is a fine collection of essays that “call our attention back to the fundamental role that love plays in being wise” (10).  The essays here explore the role of love in philosophy, theology and a host of social issues from justice to gender to bioethics.  Norman Wirzba opens the collection with a compelling argument for the “primacy of love” in philosophy (lit. the love of wisdom).  Consider his poignant conclusion:

“The history of Western culture demonstrates that philosophers have wanted to be rulers far more than they have wanted to be lovers.  Rather than offering ourselves up in a loving response to the world – in ways that would promote mutual flourishing – we have instead sought to bring others within our control.  The result has been the world’s and our own destruction or disfigurement.  More than ever before, what we need is a transformation of philosophical practice so that an affirmation of others in their integrity can take place” (25).


I was pleased to see that a number of these essays engaged Kierkegaard’s works, most notably Amy Laura Hall’s “You’d Better Find Somebody to Love,” which maintains that Kierkegaard’s Works of Love may shed some light on the bioethical quagmires of the present.  Two other excellent pieces were that of John Caputo, who examines the meaning of the biblical concepts of “love” and “law” in the present age of postmodernity, and that of Tyler Roberts, who addresses the question of whether Christianity embodies Slavoj Zizek’s notion of a “militant love.” 

            However, the best piece in this collection is Edward Mooney’s “Love, This Lenient Interpreter,” in which he examines the possibility of a hermeneutic that is characterized primarily by love.  Taking as an example, two recent studies of Kierkegaard’s life and works, Mooney contrasts these two works to illuminate the importance of how we read a text (love vs. suspicion or mistrust).  This piece is one that should be read and discussed early on in the academic career of any aspiring philosopher or theologian in the Church.

            Taken together, these essays in Transforming Philosophy and Religion offer a resounding affirmation of St. Paul’s proclamations about the emptiness of knowledge without love (I Corinthians 13).  Given its contributors (esp. Caputo and Wirzba) and the topics that they engage (e.g., Paul, Zizek, etc.), it will be of particular interest to the aspiring theologians of the emerging church.

Transforming Philosophy and Religion: Love’s Wisdom,
Norman Wirzba and Bruce Ellis Benson, eds.

Paperback: Indiana UP, 2008.
Buy now:   [ Amazon ]


Scot McKnight reviews
Rob Bell’s Jesus Wants to Save Christians


“The most important thing that will come of Rob Bell’s newest book, Jesus Wants to Save Christians, is that Christians will be given an approach to reading the Bible that both makes sense of the Bible and makes sense of the world in which the earliest Christians lived. I’ll sum it up with five “E”s. But I will stake a claim on this: this is Rob Bell’s best book to date.

If you’ve read any of Rob’s books or heard him speak, what do you think are his most importance insights and contributions?

 First, Rob suggests the “first” book in the Bible — and here he is not talking about the first book in pages — is Exodus and the big idea of that book, the “Exodus,” is the Bible’s own presentation of what God is up to in this world: hearing the cry of the oppressed and liberating them through an “exodus.” He traces this theme through the whole Bible, and of course he finds important echoes in the opening of each Gospel: the way made straight for the Lord. This image from Isa 40 is the new exodus theme of Isaiah.

 Second, those who are liberated, because they are fallen sinners, turn their situation into power and oppression and become once again like Egypt (another “e”). Egypt stands for bricks and power and money and oppression and turning away from God. Rob, swiping a generative idea of Walter Brueggemann’s (The Prophetic Imagination), sees the return to Egypt or the rise of Egypt in Israel in Solomon’s aggrandizing of power and money and military might. So, Egypt dwells in each of us and it is the prospect that fidelity alone can avoid.     … “


Read the full review:

Rob Bell.
Jesus Wants to Save Christians.

Hardcover. Zondervan. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Amazon ]

The Internet Review of Books reviews
John Caputo’s What Would Jesus Deconstruct?.

” … Caputo admits, “We cannot know what Jesus would do in such an entirely different world as ours,” but he does propose that “he would deconstruct a very great deal of what people do in the name of Jesus, starting with the people who wield this question like a hammer to beat their enemies. My hypothesis is that the first thing that Jesus would deconstruct is WWJD itself, the whole ‘industry,’ the whole commercial operation of spiritual and very real money-making Christian capitalists.”


We are “haunted,” Caputo says, “by the unnerving prospect that one day Jesus will drop by, unannounced.” And yet he does drop by, is always arriving, or in deconstructionist terms, “always already arriving”:

From time to time the figure of Jesus, or fragments of his figure, appear here or there in individual lives, showing up sometimes in people who burn with a prophetic passion, sometimes in people of inordinate compassion and forgiveness. When this happens, we are likely to mistake such people as mad or weak, which in a sense they are—mad with the folly of the cross, weak with the weakness of God.”

Read the full review:

What Would Jesus De-Construct?
John Caputo
Paperback. Baker Academic. 2007.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $16] [ Amazon ]

The Clarion Review overviews

the fiction and “Christian Humanism”
of Flannery O’Connor.

“… O’Connor’s iconographic fiction was drawn out by the challenges to Christian orthodoxy that she felt compelled to answer. And “Parker’s Back” in particular helps us to understand where and on what grounds she parts company with the fundamentalist religion of the South—a religion that on various occasions O’Connor said she otherwise stood beside as a Roman Catholic in opposition to the secular mind. Ironically, modern fundamentalism doesn’t take the Incarnation seriously enough. It limits the limitless God to the written word and denies his presence in the physical creation. Sarah Ruth completely fails to detect God’s presence in the drama that unfolds around her. She is unable to see the image of God in her husband and does not comprehend his participation in the suffering of Christ and redemptive victory on the cross. Could this be because she is a Christian gnostic? O’Connor leaves Sarah Ruth no better off in relation to God and humanity than the secular people she abhors.

On another occasion, Flannery O’Connor penned these words about her art which crystallize in her characteristically homely way her remarkable incarnational and humanistic vision of life. ‘Fiction,’ she said, ‘is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction. It’s not a grand enough job for you.’ Now that is a lesson not limited to writing but applicable to the whole of living.”


Read the full review:

The Complete Stories of
Flannery O’Connor

Paperback. Noonday Press. 1971.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $15 ] [ Amazon ]